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.
Author's Follow-up: August 30, 2022
I'm always trying to imagine why folks like Francis keep reckoning without the Drug War: writing books, that is, whose conclusions would vary greatly were America not involved in an anti-scientific war on psychoactive medicine.
After all, there is a prima facie case for thinking that brain-growing empathogens like psylocibin and MDMA (aka ecstasy) could help conditions such as autism and Alzheimer's disease, but almost no one is investigating such therapies because drug law makes it criminal to do so, and even researchers who get waivers have to treat the psychoactive substances that they receive like they were plutonium. That's one way that the DEA tries to protect its job, by implying in every way they can that demonized substances are devil spawn rather than the naturally occurring godsends that some of us consider them to be. And who wants the hassle of supporting controversial research? Answer no one: yet no one in science will point out how science is censored these days, let alone annotate their research papers to explain that the Drug War is standing in the way of scientific progress and the good of humankind, both collectively and singly.
Surely, the first step in solving a problem is to identify it -- yet I have yet to find a scholar who was honest enough about this drug-war censorship to allow that the Drug War actually exists, much less that this war stands in the way of learning and science by teaching us to fear and hate psychoactive substances rather than to understand them.
Historians and scientists of the world unite, to slam the anti-scientific Drug War. Stop ceding to politicians the right to tell the world which plant medicines they are allowed to use. The kinds of meds we're discussing here have inspired entire religions, meaning that to deny them to humanity is to outlaw the very fountainhead of the religious impulse itself.
So, goodbye to freedom of religion in America: that's only for materialists. But my moral duty is to follow the Platonic imperative of "Know Yourself." I personally believe that the self and consciousness is deeply "rooted" in the physical world (word tellingly suggested by sprouting shrooms) and that naturally occurring medicines help me explore that world and learn more about the big picture of life in the universe. When the materialist tells me that I cannot undertake such studies, he is claiming that my religion is false and demanding that I live my life by HIS belief system: namely, atheism and a desire for ever-increasing efficiency rather than self-actualization.
September 14, 2022
Just one more thing before this page devolves into a full-blown blog. What is the definition of "drugs" as that word is used today?
Drugs: substances for which there is no reasonable use, in any dose, at any time, for any one, anywhere, ever.
But there are no such substances of that kind, Francis! Even the deadly Botox has positive uses, and not just cosmetically but in fighting conditions like spastic dysphonia. That's why the Drug War is anti-scientific, for it forces scientists to ignore a host of medicines whose potential uses are legion! To their shame, most scientists comply because I have yet to see an article in esteemed journals like Science News or Scientific American in which the author is truthful and points out that their conclusions and even their lines of research were limited and dictated by the Drug War ideology of substance demonization.
You can see this problem everywhere, in books and articles. Just look for a title like, "The real causes of depression," or "Examining the causes of addiction." I can guarantee you that the authors will dogmatically ignore the role that psychoactive medicines could have played in leading them to very different conclusions than the ones that they end up with.
Author's Follow-up: January 20, 2023
William James was a Liberal, yet his view of human potential and of life in general was deeply influenced by his use of nitrous oxide. The outlawing of such substances is therefore a direct assault on liberalism and the search for truth itself.
No Drug War Keychains The key to ending the Drug War is to spread the word about the fact that it is Anti-American, unscientific and anti-minority (for starters)
Monticello Betrayed Thomas Jefferson By demonizing plant medicine, the Drug War overthrew the Natural Law upon which Jefferson founded America -- and brazenly confiscated the Founding Father's poppy plants in 1987, in a symbolic coup against Jeffersonian freedoms.
The Drug War Censors Science Scientists: It's time to wake up to the fact that you are censored by the drug war. Drive the point home with these bumper stickers.
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.
A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.
The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)
If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.
PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley.
Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company