I am greatly enjoying your book entitled "Liberalism and its Discontents."
I just would like to share one insight on the subject of drugs, however.
You mention the right to use "drugs" in connection with Libertarians, as if to at least partially disparage (or at least question) the supposed importance of that right. But I would ask you to consider that the very category of "drugs" (meaning "psychoactive substances of which politicians disapprove") is a 20th-century invention and that this "right to drugs" takes on a very different light for those of us who define "drugs" as "godsend plant medicine," as many people do who are familiar with the promise of the many psychoactive plant medicines that Drug Warriors have decided to demonize a priori by focusing myopically on their potential to harm.
For the word "drugs," as most people use it today, is just a pejorative Christian Science epithet for "psychoactive botanicals." As such, the topic of "drugs" provides a very fraught example to use in attempting to illustrate the extremes of political thought that hover around the core ideas of liberalism. You suggest the right to use drugs may be an illiberal demand, but is it really such a non-liberal thing to consider that human beings have a right to the plant medicine that grows at their very feet, a right that everyone took for granted until 1914 and the Harrison Narcotics Act took the unprecedented step of criminalizing a plant?
One need not be a Libertarian to decry the fact that the DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated Thomas Jefferson's poppy plants, thereby showing their disdain for the natural law upon which Jefferson founded America. For as John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise on Government, human beings have a natural right to the use of the land "and all that lies therein."
While you may think of irresponsible hedonism when the politicized word "drugs" is mentioned, I personally think of the Vedic religion which was inspired by the use of psychoactive soma. I think of Marcus Aurelius stoically meditating with the help of opium and of Plato getting his views of the afterlife from the psychedelic Eleusinian mysteries. I think of HG Wells and Jules Verne enjoying how coca wine helped them focus and write great stories. But most of all, I think of the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, rolling in his grave as the DEA stomped onto his estate in 1987 to confiscate his poppy plants.
In sum, I think that it's very illiberal indeed for a government to tell its people that they no longer have a right to the plants and fungi that grow at their very feet. That's why I would respectfully take exception to your use of the topic of "drugs" to allude to potentially dubious rights viz. what liberalism could justifiably call for.
Otherwise greatly enjoying your book. I had to speak up on this one subject, however, since I've spent 40+ years of life addicted to Big Pharma meds for want of the far less addictive godsends that my government continues to withhold from me to this very day in the name of the war on the hypocritically defined category called "drugs," which includes neither alcohol nor tobacco, which respectively kill half a million Americans a year, nor the Big Pharma antidepressants upon which 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent for life. That's a medical dystopia so large that it is invisible to the American Drug Warrior. Indeed, far from demonizing THOSE expensive drugs, most Americans believe it is a moral duty to take them.
Thanks for your time!
May 21, 2022
Sorry, I couldn't stop myself. I had to send Francis a second email after reading still further in his book.
A couple further notes, please, Francis.
Like almost all non-fictional authors today, you write as though the Drug War does not exist, implying that it has no effect on the subjects you cover. Yet the Drug War has denied human beings the right to the plant medicine that grows around us. And that amounts to a war on religion -- indeed a war on the very FOUNTAINHEAD of religion -- because it criminalizes the kinds of psychoactive medicines that inspired the VEDIC-HINDU religion, the kind of psychoactive medicines which, at Eleusis, gave Plato insights about the afterlife, the kind of psychoactive medicines that have been used by South American and Mesoamerican religions time out of mind.
Moreover, what could be more important to the subject of your book than the fact that the US government controls (via the unprecedented criminalization of plants) how and how much a person can think and feel???
This is how ingrained the Drug War has become, giving teddy bears to kids for renouncing godsend medicines: it has brainwashed us into thinking that it is normal to criminalize mother nature -- that it is a natural baseline from which we can provide analyses of behavior and customs without flagging said criminalization as the distorting factor that it is. And so America's best magazines publish naive stories about the search for a cure for depression, always dutifully ignoring the fact that we have outlawed a priori hundreds of medicines that could be responsibly used for that purpose.
Re: black oppression: It is the Drug War that is causing deaths in the black community. Over 800 blacks died last year in Chicago alone from gunfire, which as Ann Heather Thompson wrote (in 2014 in The Atlantic) would not be happening without substance prohibition, which incentivizes the poor and uneducated to deal "drugs."
Perhaps this is the result of scholars ignoring the natural law upon which Jefferson founded the country. As long as we hold that certain rights are inalienable, we can always have a right to the plant medicine that grows at our feet -- but once we consider that doctrine "old hat," we hand a blank check to Congress to control how we think and feel, by denying us the medicines that could change our minds for the better, end school shootings and help us avoid nuclear armageddon.
If these claims seem astounding to you, I recommend the documentary "One Nation," showing how the use of the drug Ecstasy brought together all races and ethnicities and religions in complete harmony during the British rave scene -- until Drug Warriors criminalized the drug, at which point the dance floor exploded into alcohol-stoked violence.
AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm not going to send Francis any more emails, since it's probable that I've already plucked his last nerve with the two that I've copied for you above. I'm still recovering from the scolding that I received from Rick Strassman (author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule) a few years ago after he took me to task for writing him an unsolicited email of what turned out to be an inappropriate length, according to some unspoken length standard of which I had been blissfully ignorant until then. That said, I do have one more observation for Francis should he turn out to be one of those rare remarkable authors who are not threatened by well-intended criticism and who (more remarkably still) is curious about what further I might have to say in defense of my contrarian thesis.
Speaking of which, my additional beef is this: In "Liberalism and its Discontents," Francis writes that America has forsaken religion as a guide for our policies in political life -- and yet once again he reckons without the Drug War. What is the Drug War after all but the establishment of the drug-hating Christian Science religion with respect to psychoactive medicine? I would further argue that America has a kind of negative religion, in which one is holy to the extent that they renounce their right to the psychoactive plant medicine of mother nature. Despite modern liberalism's "Rawlsian" aversion to judging people for their own ways of being in the world, modern society is very judgmental indeed about the kinds of plant medicines of which one avails oneself. The intolerance in this quarter is so huge -- involving the expulsion from the American work force for Christian Science heretics who are found to have availed themselves of Mother Nature -- that this craze for a hypocritical "drug-free" state has all the emotional and psychological hallmarks of a religion, and a very intolerant one at that.
In this sense, the Drug War is like the last bastion of intolerance, the last crusade wherein "good" Americans can still demonize "the other" with a good conscience and impugn that other in the immoderate language of their choice -- even calling that other a "scumbag" if they wish -- thus finally getting relief from the constant requirement to be PC toward every other lifestyle group in the entire world. Drug "users" can now bear the brunt of all our pent-up self-righteous fury that we've diverted from all other targets in the name of modern tolerance. Just as the zombie craze gives Americans the moral license to maim and kill again like in the good old days, the Drug War craze gives Americans the moral cover they need to be old-school absolutists and intolerant despots toward their fellows as in the days of yore. It's as if the whole surviving sense of morality in modern America has been reduced to the one litmus test of drug use. Are they good people? Answer: Yes, providing that they have renounced their right to the plant medicine that grows at their very feet.
May 29, 2022
I love Francis' sharp analysis about the excesses of the right and the left viz classic liberalism, but every time he mentions drugs, I feel like some sadistic schoolmarm has just dragged her long fingernails over a nearby chalkboard. Why? Because he always approaches the subject from the point-of-view of a dyed-in-the-wool Drug Warrior. I feared as much given that he's written a whole book about modern culture without one mention of America's disgraceful Drug War, and that he is therefore reckoning without his host.
Case in point: Francis cites the "Defund the Police" movement as an example of where the left has gone too far. And why does he think this? Because, he says, the very neighborhoods that are calling for this defunding are rife with drug crime and violence and therefore need the police to fix things.
Hello? Francis, it was the police who created the armed and violent inner-city gangs in the first place by enforcing substance prohibition, just as surely as the enforcement of liquor prohibition created the American Mafia out of whole cloth. To say that the police are needed to help control this situation is like saying that an arsonist needs to come back to the scene of his crime to put out the fire that he himself has started.
This is so typical of liberals, I'm afraid -- and indeed Francis' position here seems to match that of the clueless Bill Clinton on this topic: they completely underestimate the role that the police-prosecuted Drug War plays in creating the violence that we see in inner cities. Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar and yet he has failed to learn anything from the history of American liquor prohibition. Once we recognize the obvious, that the inner-city violence was caused by the Drug War itself, we can understand the reluctance of city denizens to solve the problem of violence by relying on the very police who caused the violence in the first place, namely by enforcing an unscientific drugs policy that incentivized the super-profitable sale of banned substances and the purchase of the requisite massive armory to protect that huge and risky investment against competition and the cops.
It never occurs to liberals like Francis and Bill that the problem here is created by prohibition itself and that what's required is education, not criminalization. The fact is, we can stop the violence overnight if we take the necessary steps to remove the enormous financial incentives that the Drug War has placed before the poor and poorly educated, kind of like a lure that was custom-made for racist politicians so that they can reel their political opposition (mainly minorities) into the nation's overcrowded prisons. The full list of steps necessary to end these incentives is beyond the scope of my current argument, but it would start with the re-legalization of all psychoactive medicine, particularly the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet, which the government never had the right to outlaw in the first place, given the fact that America was founded on natural law. For as John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise on Government:
"The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being."
Given to men, not to governments.
Let us know what you think. Send your comments to me, Brian Quass, at email@example.com. Thanks! Please be sure to mention the title of the essay to which you are responding.
*"Without the War on Drugs, the level of gun violence that plagues so many poor inner-city neighborhoods today simply would not exist." -- Heather Ann Thompson, The Atlantic, 2014.
The above numbers may represent undercounts since some of these totals were compiled in late 2021.
The news media just doesn't get it -- or doesn't want to get it. Most stories about the deaths of blacks in inner cities never mention the drug war, as if the fact that prohibition led to armed gangs had nothing to do with the skyrocketing gun deaths that they're reporting on today. For a case in point, check out the article by Micaela A Watts in CommercialAppeal with the headline: "Following 346 homicides in Memphis in 2021, officials consider what's driving the violence."
Yes, that's a real poser, Micaela. The city fathers must really be scratching their heads!
The author notes three major theories for the violence, all of which have nothing to do with the drug war: "Lack of conflict resolution skills," a lack of "fair wages," and (get this) poor mental health.
Looks like the city officials failed to ask themselves why city residents were armed to the teeth in the first place. Hello? That was due to the drugs warriors' substance prohibition which incentivized the poor and poorly educated young people to get into the fantastically profitable business of selling drugs!!!
Substance prohibition created drug gangs and cartels just as surely as liquor prohibition created the Mafia.
Yes, drug warrior, YOU are responsible for these deaths. You! It's a natural result of your ban on medical godsends, some of which have inspired entire religions and have the potential for treating (if not curing) such diverse conditions as Alzheimer's, autism, and depression.
Drug War Victim of the Day
killed in Prince Georges County, Maryland on August 15, 2022
Southeast Washington DC remains a no-go zone, even for UPS drivers, as this latest shooting incident points out, which is 1 in 6 shootings that have taken place in the last week, two of them fatal. If this were happening in Hollywood, California, it would be a scandal. But movie stars are people, and victims of the drug war, especially when poor and black, are what Noam Chomsky calls 'unpeople.'
Yes, even the director of "Bamboozled" is bamboozled about drugs. He agrees with the drug warrior lie that there are psychoactive substances in nature that have no positive uses whatsoever, in any place, any time, any context. This superstitious way of thinking has forced me to go without godsend medicine my entire life. Thanks, Spike. Why do you want people to become drug-hating Christian Scientists, exactly? These things that you call "drugs" have inspired entire religions. The conservatives are laughing as they rush to the polls to elect fascists, because they have bamboozled Spike Lee himself to sign off on the drug war which brings death and incarceration to inner city blacks. Throw away that "just say no" teddy bear with which you were bribed in childhood, Spike, and open your eyes.
Mangual is the author of 'Cities got deadlier in 2020: What's behind the spike in homicides?' in which he never once mentioned the drug war!
Here's my letter to his website:
Hi, Rafael. Just wanted to suggest that you start holding the drug war responsible for inner-city violence -- since substance prohibition incentivized 'dealing' in poor neighborhoods and the guns soon followed. Because no one mentions this 64,000-pound Gorilla, Trump is able to blame the deaths on Democrats, so that, rather than ending the violence-causing drug war, he can begin executing the blacks that drug warriors were previously happy with merely incarcerating.
The Secret World: A History of Intelligence.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
All warfare is based on deception, said Sun Tzu. Yes, but what is all deception based on? A mistrust of one's fellows. And how do you combat that, Chris? With empathogens like MDMA and psilocybin.
London: East India Publishing Company, 2021.
Pious drug warriors have usually thought of Marcus Aurelius as the perfect replacement for bad evil drugs -- but Marcus had his cake and ate it too. He philosophized under the influence of opium (but don't tell the kids!)
Alice in Wonderland: The Original 1865 Edition With Complete Illustrations By Sir John Tenniel.
New York: Amazon, 2021.
Alice's shroom-powered adventures are a standing reproach to glum-faced drug warriors, who closely resemble the Queen of Hearts, shouting: "Off with their heads, for using godsend medicines of which I disapprove!"
De Quincey, Thomas.
Confessions of an English Opium Eater.
New York: Dover, 1995.
During De Quincey's informed opium use, he "partook" only weekly in order to better enjoy the opera, making his weekday life happier as well, however, thanks to anticipation of use, a benefit of which materialist science takes no account.
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner .
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.
A stark reminder that the world is living under a nuclear sword of Damocles. And why? Because it demonizes all the godsend medicines (like MDMA and shrooms) that could bring humanity together in universal harmony.
The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys .
New York: Park Street Press, 2011.
First-hand accounts of psychological breakthroughs achieved with the guided use of entheogens, suggesting that one-time givens like "character" and "human nature" are far more susceptible to improvement than we thought.
A Disease in the Public Mind: Why We Fought the Civil War.
New York: Da Capo Press, 2014.
The late historian Fleming cites the popular mob-led public "diseases" of Witch-Hunting, Liquor Prohibition, and Communism -- yet says nothing about the Drug War, which was the great disease in the public mind of his own time!!!
Liberalism and Its Discontents.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022.
Great bipartisan insights, BUT... Francis reckons without the drug war, so, like a good drug warrior, he blames all the ills caused by prohibition on the politically created boogieman called "drugs."
The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy.
New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016.
The author seems unaware of the increasingly clear ability of empathogens like MDMA and shrooms to improve the very human nature which grumps like Hobbes portray as being so irrevocably fixed.
Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics.
New York: HarperWave, 2020.
Julie claims that Nixon criminalized psychedelics for health reasons. What? That's not the Nixon I know. He said himself that Leary was enemy #1. He was removing "users" from the voting rolls, not protecting them.
The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell.
New York: Penguin Books, 1970.
Huxley's speculations about perception jibe with modern science, which finds that human beings see what is presumably useful to them, not necessarily what is "really there" in the sensory-rich physical world.
The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead .
New York: University Books, 1964.
Americans have been primed by the drug-war zeitgeist to consider everything Leary writes as nonsense. But he was the first one to announce loudly and clearly that what's really nonsensical is to outlaw plant medicine.
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
New York: Del Rey Books, 1970.
Lovecraft's work is full of opiate imagery that drug warriors want to render impossible for artists to feel: "I would often drift in opiate peace through the valley and the shadowy groves..." (Ex-Oblivione)
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.
Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2009.
Gabriel moralizes "addiction." Addiction, however, is a political term. One can use psychoactive Big Pharma meds every day and be a good patient -- use heroin every day, however, and you're just escaping "inner pain." What?
Maupassant, Guy de.
Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques - Guy de Maupassant: Les classiques du fantastique .
Paris: , 2019.
In "La Horla," Maupassant anticipates Huxley by speculating that our perceptual habits blind us to a world of wonders. Many of today's demonized drugs, it appears, can at least partially open our eyes to that world.
Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution .
New York: Bantam, 1992.
This was the book that reminded me of what I already vaguely knew: that it is tyrannical insanity for a government to outlaw plants. McKenna's philosophical speculations on why we criminalize inspired me to create abolishthedea.com.
Miller, Richard Louis.
Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca Kindle .
New York: Park Street Press, 2017.
Informative interviews with movers-and-shakers in the field, including Rick Doblin, Stanislav Grof, James Fadiman, David Nichols and Robert Whitaker. Packed with eye-opening one-liners about godsend meds.
Out of our Heads.
New York: HiII&Wang,, 2010.
Noe reveals how patients with "locked-in" syndrome have reported being supremely aware of their surroundings during their supposedly brain-dead coma, a fact that puts in question our materialist assumptions about consciousness.
When Plants Dream.
New York: Watkins Publishing, 2019.
I find philosophical problems with most of the books that I read on the subject of psychoactive medicine, but Daniel Pinchbeck is one of the few authors who could teach me a few things on this topic.
Poe, Edgar Allan.
The Essential Poe.
New York: Warbler Classics, 2020.
Because drug warriors never mention the good side of "drugs," we must turn to Poe to learn, for instance, that morphine can bring a surreal appreciation of Mother Nature (see "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains").
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence .
New York: Penguin Books, 2018.
Pollan has yet to realize that the very term "drugs" is just a modern pejorative epithet for "plant medicine of which botanically clueless politicians disapprove. "
Reynolds, David S..
Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville .
New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Exhaustively researched account of the 19th-century zeitgeist, and yet the word "drugs" (as defined, or rather derided, by today's drug warrior) is never even used. Last century's boogieman was liquor, it seems, not "drugs."
Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences Hardcover.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
The psychedelic experience was once characterized as pharmacologically induced madness. Richards shows how the properly guided experience can lead to sanity instead -- and a way of life that is not self-destructive.
Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898 .
Connecticut: Praeger, 2000.
The war took place 16 years before anti-Chinese Drug Warriors criminalized the poppy plant, and yet opium is only mentioned with regard to a group of unimaginative volunteers who smoked some and "couldn't see the point."
Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered.
New York: Arlington House, 1967.
Burke was a conservative in a sense, but he would not recognize America's Republican party of today. He would surely have seen that prohibition causes all the problems we ascribe to "drugs," and then some.
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.
New York: Penguin, 2014.
In 1980, the Air Force nearly blew up Arkansas and irradiated half the country. When Reagan took office the next year, what was his priority? Outlawing plant medicine that could make our species less warlike.
Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. .
New York: Pocket Star, 2006.
On March 7, 1968, a rogue Soviet submarine nearly blew up Pearl Harbor with a thermonuclear bomb. Instead of launching a war on nukes, then-President Nixon launched a war on medicines that could inspire peace, love and understanding.
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler.
New York: RosettaBooks, 2011.
Paraphrase from book: "No one who has not lived for years in a DRUG WAR SOCIETY can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda."
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds.
Back Bay Books: Boston, 2019.
Despite griping about the weight she's put on from taking her daily 'meds,' Slater gives Big Pharma a big fat mulligan for consigning 1 in 4 American women like herself to a lifetime of chemical dependency on SSRI antidepressants.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences .
New York: Park Street Press, 2001.
Rick doubts DMT's therapeutic usefulness, but common sense psychology suggests that any break from full-on introspection would be a treat, notwithstanding materialists who aren't even sure that laughing gas could help the depressed!!!
Ceremonial Chemistry: the ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers.
New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974.
Filled with inconvenient truths that critics ignore rather than refute, including how politicized science tells us a la God: "Eat of the fruit and you shall die," ignoring the fact that education tells us how to eat of that fruit safely.
Our Right to Drugs: The case for a free market.
New York: Praeger, 1992.
Chock-a-block with all-too-rare common sense: "Doctors, lawyers and politicians started the War on Drugs and continue to wage it, and they are its real beneficiaries -- the drug war's ostensible beneficiaries... are its victims."
Tyler, George R..
Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System.
Michigan: Pegasus Books, 2016.
Doesn't mention drugs, but illustrates how drug reform can be stymied by just 3% of the public: namely, those holding stock in Big Pharma, etc., especially when these elites can bribe politicians to retain the status quo.
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America .
New York: Crown, 2010.
Prohibition has facilitated the creation of a psychiatric pill mill upon which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life. Moreover, these pills cause the chemical imbalances that they purport to fix.
Zuboff , Shoshana.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
New York: Public Affairs, 2019.
Surveillance capitalists and drug warriors share the same goal: to keep human beings predictable: one by rendering us more robot-like and the other by denying us the mind-improving blessings of psychoactive medicine
There are an absolute LEGION of online articles and newspaper stories that get it wrong about so-called drugs. Even those in favor of drug law reform have been subject to drug war propaganda from childhood (and they probably have a DARE teddy bear to prove it!) so speak truth to nonsense and comment on the articles that get it wrong.
Bloody disgusting fact: The Drug War brought almost 800 deaths to Chicago in 2021 by incentivizing the hugely profitable sale of psychoactive medicine in poor communities. And now Trump and his fellow fascist drug warriors want to use that violence as an excuse to KILL drug dealers via execution! Any community leaders supporting the drug war are complicit in this genocide. For as Heather Ann Thompson wrote in The Atlantic in 2014: "Without the War on Drugs, the level of gun violence that plagues so many poor inner-city neighborhoods today simply would not exist."
How America can end inner-city homicides overnight in three easy steps:
Re-legalize Mother Nature's plant medicines
Treat substance abuse as a health problem
Buy back inner-city guns at double their purchase price (even triple the price would be a huge bargain in the long run)
This will, of course, be a huge sacrifice for everyday Americans, who do love their drug war, bless them.