Afternoon Ethics Provocations, 9/6/2022: The Angry Edition

Close calls: I recently stumbled upon some polling from the period preceding World War II regarding the American public’s position on whether the U.S. should fight Germany. Here’s the most depressing of the surveys:

Another set of figures, from Gallup, are a bit better. These old survey results lead to the following notes:

  • What would the world be like today if Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor, and Hitler had not preemptively declared war on the U.S.? The attack might be one of the best examples I know of how a terrible event can lead to an objectively beneficial outcome: moral luck exemplified.
  • Karine Jean-Pierre, who speaks for the White House, said last week that “when you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then, you know, that is extreme.”
  • You know: polls.

1. I did not know this, and I’m now sorry I do. But not especially surprised: a Pew survey from 2019 revealed that the “U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.” I see no reason for the data to have improved in three years, do you? And, of course, the reason this terrible condition exists is for the reason discussed frequently here: an elimination of crucial ethical norms because the society decided that it was more important not to shame or stigmatize irresponsible and damaging conduct than to minimize it. The consequences flowing from this failure in maintaining ethical standards is wide-ranging, disastrous, and too extensive to analyze here.2. Here’s another one: In “How Weed Became the New OxyContin,” Leighton Woodhouse writes for Tablet:

In 2012, Colorado legalized marijuana. In the decade since, 18 other states have followed suit. As billions of dollars have flowed into the new above-ground industry of smokable, edible, and drinkable cannabis-based products, the drug has been transformed into something unrecognizable to anyone who grew up around marijuana pre-legalization. Addiction medicine doctors and relatives of addicts say it has become a hardcore drug, like cocaine or methamphetamines. Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality. And yet it’s been marketed as a kind of elixir and sold like candy for grown-ups….If you’re over 30 years old and you used to smoke weed when you were a teenager, the strongest you were smoking was probably 20% THC. Today, teenagers are “dabbing” a product that’s three, four, or five times stronger, and are often doing so multiple times a day. At that level of potency, the impact of the drug on a user’s brain belongs to an entirely different category of risk than smoking a joint or taking a bong rip of even an intensively bred marijuana flower. It’s highly addictive, and over time, there’s a significant chance it can drive you insane.

Read it all. I’m often accused of being angry, but very few of the issues I cover here make me genuinely angry, despite the tone of my often deliberately provocative prose. This, however, does make me angry. The effects of legalizing pot were completely predictable and inevitably societally destructive, yet an selfish, arrogant coalition of aging hippies, wealthy hedonists, irresponsible celebrities, blind libertarians and craven politicians let it happen anyway, with miserable consequences yet to be fully felt. I figured this out the first time I watched, as a college student, an intelligent, articulate, interesting room mate become a babbling idiot after a joint, and gradually spend more time in that worthless state than in the one nature gave him.

3. This one gets a “Casablanca”…

What a surprise:

Shalomyah Bowers, the leader of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation,  stands accused by BLM members of stealing more than $10 million in donations from the organization for personal use, according to a lawsuit filed last week. The suit refers to him as a “rogue administrator, a middle man turned usurper” who siphoned contributions to the nonprofit activist group to use as a “personal piggy bank.” He joins Patrisse Cullers and others who authored this BLM scandal that broke earlier this year. I will repeat my assessment of Black Lives Matter from April, 2021:

“BLM skipped the initial stages of Eric Hoffer’s famous observation that every cause becomes a business, and eventually deteriorates into a racket, and went straight to racket.”

It was always a racket, from the very start, but the new media treated the organization like the nation’s savior.

I guess the cultural and political carnage caused by Black Lives Matter makes me angry too…



7 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Provocations, 9/6/2022: The Angry Edition

  1. On 2;

    You might become less angry if you read better sources. Seriously…. Tablet? How do you even find that?

    I don’t feel like I need to read much further past “Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality.” That’s not true. It is *literally* impossible to overdose on marijuana. You could eat an entire flat of edibles… And sure, that wouldn’t be fun… But a bad trip isn’t an overdose. I can’t tell whether this is someone playing really fast and loose with terminology, or if Woodhouse is just a boomer writing how they think the world works, because none of the material facts are cited. There is only a single link in the first 9 paragraphs and it’s to someone’s podcast.

    The entire article misses the forest through the trees…. It’s entirety hyperfocused on 90% dabs and 40% THC strains, while glossing over the fact that almost all cannabis products sold out of dispensaries have less than a 15% THC content. And while, sure, the average THC% of cannabis products has tripled over the last 20 years, that’s a dosage issue. You’re not supposed to eat dab wax. You could have taken the exact same amount of THC years ago by smoking three times as much. It’s like…. wanting to ban alcohol because Everclear or isopropyl exists. The existence of alcoholics, abusers and idiots are not good reasons to ban products.

    It’s infuriating…. This conversation is like discussing firearms with Democrats: They barely know the shootey end of the gun from the grippy end, but they sure have some strong opinions about them.

    • That’s actually a pretty good analogy in some ways.

      And yeah, I think a lot of that article’s problem is careless hyperbole and words like “suicidality.” In fact, I regret using that article at all for the point. It’s pretty bad.

      But the point is still valid: there is no societal value to encouraging pot use, many societal pathologies, and unlike guns, which have an absolutely essential role in a democracy (and are endorsed by the Bill of Rights), recreational drug use is like legalized gambling: it destroys lives and weakens society. It was reckless and irresponsible to let that particular genie run amuck; it’s out now, and nothing can or will be done.

      I will just wait a little while longer until there is better data and more lives ruined and people hurt (like many in my family and among my groups of friends)before my next futile swipe at the issue. My anger is justified, but again, you’re right: its a waste of time talking about it. This will hold me for a while.

  2. Does the drug cause “overdose, psychosis, suicidality” or are people with mental illnesses from depression to schizophrenia self-medicating? It’s not ideal, but it’s accessible, and probably works for a while. At least masks the symptoms a bit and makes things more tolerable. Until it doesn’t. Then the failure to treat what is wasn’t meant to treat gets blamed on the drug.

    The addiction doctors and families of addicts see the people with problems. For the families, they look at their loved one and he/she doesn’t seem different from anyone else, so their problems must be the fault of the drug. Perhaps the doctors see it the same way. Or perhaps they have a financial motivation in making it sound worse. (Knowing that the Church of Scientology runs a lot of drug rehab places has made me cynical in regards to all of them.)

    I went to Chicago with another woman on a business trip several years ago. She was sure we were going to be the victims of violent crime every time we left the hotel. It’s all she saw on the news and all she knew about Chicago. It’s the same with any drug and addition. You only see the people with a problem, so it seems like that’s all there is. No one is talking about the nice well-dressed, well-mannered professionals who occasionally vape or enjoy an edible because there’s nothing to talk about. It would be like saying, “You know Joan, down the street? She had a glass of wine with dinner last night.”

    • “Does the drug cause “overdose, psychosis, suicidality” or are people with mental illnesses from depression to schizophrenia self-medicating?”

      Great question.

      Back in the ’90s they did a study called the ACE tests (Adverse Childhood Experiences). That study measured certain indicators of childhood trauma (physical/emotional/sexual abuse, physical/emotional neglect, mental illness in household, mother treated violently, incarcerated relative, substance abuse, or divorce) and they compared the prevalence of those markers to negative outcomes in adulthood. With *any* three ACE markers, an adult was 1300% more likely to become addicted to meth. They were also more likely to suffer from things like heart disease (200%) to alcoholism (400%).

      My impression of the results was that a significant portion of the substance abuse issues stemmed from the mental health issues, and the subjects were trying to self medicate. Carrying that forward, does pot cause depression and suicidality, or do depressed or suicidal people gravitate towards drug use? I think there’s evidence that the answer is both in a kind of reinforced, sneaky hate spiral… But the majority of users are just fine.

      What bothers me, I think, most about Jack’s reasoning is that if he were being consistent, he would have been in favor of the New York large sugary sodas ban a few years back. I mean… there is no societal value to encouraging large sugary soda consumption, many societal pathologies associated with it, they don’t have an essential role in a democracy (and are endorsed by the Bill of Rights), large sugary soda consumption is like legalized gambling: it destroys lives and weakens society.

      Seriously… I’m sure. 100% sure. That America’s Coke/Pepsi consumption destroys more lives through obesity and health effects than pot does by orders of magnitude.

      • That’s an interesting comparison, HT. It’s a line drawing issue, essentially. Sugar is a flavoring that makes life more enjoyable and has adverse health effects with over-use. But banning sugar in drinks is the epitome of a slippery slope, both regarding government power over individual liberty and reagrding food policing. If sugar, why not fat? If fat, why not carbs? There is no line, and soon we’re all forced to live on kale. The line between pot and sugar is clear: the drug impairs effective functioning in the work place, undermines productivity, and creates another slippery slope to more harmful drugs. People can still perform jobs requiring high levels of skill and judgment while sipping Cokes. Driving with a Coke isn’t dangerous. Yes, one can incapacitate oneself by all kinds of irresponsible behavior; you seem to be arguing that society’s choice is to restrict all of them, or none of them, and the details shouldn’t matter.

  3. Anytime something is advertised or promoted to cure all of life’s maladies, rest assured you are being bamboozled. The burgeoning CBD stores advertise its beneficial properties that can cure everything from asthma to xenophobia. Now marijuana is being offered as a medical aide is doing the same and will be licensed y the state. That is a mere stepping stone to the marijuana being a societal norm. All the talk about levels of THC being controlled is a pipe dream. The providers will provide what the consumer desires, and that is an ever-increasing high. Reference the fentanyl-laced heroin and cocaine that is being imported and/or produced.

  4. One likely result of the tax revenue windfall is that local/state authorities will figure out ways to become more wasteful with the increased resources. The psychological component is the added revenue is viewed as free money because of its source, not derived from the honest labor of regular citizens.
    I’m sure a lot of beneficial projects will also occur but is the trade-off worth it?

    Dispensaries scattered all over a community sends a bit of an unsavory message to all, especially in small towns, but how do you convince (young) people that legal alcohol is okay but not legal pot?

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