Just Say ‘No’ to New Forms of Prohibition
These are weird times (aren’t they all?), but I’ve lived long enough to see a resurgence of atrocious ideas that I thought had been debunked years ago. Apparently, humanity can only learn lessons for a short time before a new generation needs to re-learn them. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Ronald Reagan said. Perhaps he wasn’t exaggerating.
For instance, the Cold War was a backdrop to my formative years with the collapse of communism marking a great advance in the freedom and prosperity of vast swaths of humanity. Despite the gulags, oppression and deprivation, many left-wing thinkers now spend their days—with full belies and from the comfort of their suburban homes—raging against the evils of American capitalism. Just check your Twitter feed.
Likewise, right-wing provocateurs have crept out from under their rocks. I can’t fathom how anyone can fall prey to fascistic and bigoted philosophies these days. I also can’t understand how some self-styled “conservatives” can champion Hungary’s authoritarian leader as a model. There’s nothing new under the sun, I suppose, but I naively thought such illiberalism had largely gone away.
The revanchist idea that has really left me flummoxed, however, involves Prohibition. Some serious thinkers have surveyed the American landscape and decided that America’s key problem is we don’t have enough laws regulating personal behavior. They see vice everywhere—and perhaps they’re right on that point. Instead of engaging the culture, they turn to the tried-and-failed method of empowering the government.
In a recent Atlantic column criticizing the legalization of online gambling and marijuana, physician Matthew Loftus argues that these moves embrace the idealistic idea that “responsible, independent adults (should) be able to make decisions for themselves about how they spend their money or use their body.” He believes we overlook the degree to which “our habits … are just as often inexplicably self-destructive as they are reasonable.”
His solution is to pass laws requiring that “gambling should take place in casinos, not on smartphones, and marijuana should be used only under a healthcare provider’s supervision.” He even offers a nuanced defense of the Eighteenth Amendment’s alcohol Prohibition, which he credits with reducing alcohol-related illnesses and domestic violence. We should structure our laws to provide “guardrails to help people from driving off cliffs of vice,” he adds.
Debates about virtue and vice have been around since the dawn of humanity. I’m no personal fan of online gambling or any form of gambling, for that matter, nor do I have any particular interest in cannabis. But, as Jacob Sullum noted in a Reason column debunking Loftus’ arguments, only 1 percent of the nation’s gamblers have severe gambling probl
Article from Latest