Nov 28 discussion - International Drug Policy

Drugs! Who isn’t interested in them? After all, isn’t the meaning of life is the maximization of utility? Because as Aldous Huxley once remarked:

There is for example, in the underneath of lake dwellings of the early Neolithic that have been dug up in Switzerland, we have found poppy-heads, which looks as though people were already using this most ancient and powerful and dangerous of narcotics, even before the days of the rise of agriculture. So that man was apparently a dope-bag addict before he was a farmer, which is a very curious comment on human nature.

Those Neolithic folks sure knew what they were doing. As do squirrels. Why then, do governments go to such great lengths to control such natural tendencies? Is the foundation of civilization the repression of desires? Next thing you’ll tell me governments all fun stuff like sex, and gambling, and… oh. Right.

That’s why we’ll be meeting tomorrow 6pm at the Sovereignty Lounge to discuss this article on the real drug problem™ : The Proliferation of International Control Regimes for Psychoactive Substances. To wet your appetite, here is the crux the question, as put forth by the article:

The Dilemma of Psychoactive Substances for Modern Societies

Societies in the modern world thus face a dilemma concerning psychoactive substances: their sale and consumption is an engine of the economy, but on the other hand heavy use of some, like tobacco or alcohol, produces severe health consequences. Some, like alcohol and other depressants, also affect the consumer’s ability to function in daily living, in terms of physical coordination and of self-control. Although habitual consumption is necessary to the economy of a modern industrial society, the society also needs sobriety – minds clear of strong psychoactive influences – from those in responsible roles such as watching small children, working, or driving a car. Conserving human life as long as possible is also a core value of modern states, making the prevention of early deaths an important policy aim. Solving the dilemma has become a continuing problem of the modern world, particularly where people have escaped abject poverty and are able to afford simple pleasures.

But if you’re not convinced that the real drug problem™ is real, take a look at exhibit 1:


Is this how stable societies are bound to organize themselves? Is it just a temporal trend? For as much as the American empire, Soviet Russia, as Communist China may have their differences, they seem to mostly see eye to eye in regards to drug policy. Are there counterexamples? Interestingly, German drug policy, up to the postwar period, stood in sharp contrast to such trends. Perhaps because of cultural differences. Perhaps because of their foundational foothold in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

In the course of reading up on this stuff I came across this lovely little journal from the Alcohol and Drug History Society which merits a shout out for anyone that’s interested in this stuff - take a moment to peruse their articles list.