Links to Consider, 9/7
Freddie deBoer on online life; Timothy Taylor on Social Security; Ruy Teixera on jumping ship; Free Black Thought on back-to-school DEI; Leighton Woodhouse on today's marijuana
we’re faced with several different kinds of terror. The first is that we might be just one more face among all of them. The second is that they might perceive us in a way different than we perceive ourselves. And so the intelligibility urge is the desire to be easily digestible to others, to have clear boundaries and associations that enable others to clock us quickly and assign us to a tribe.
I say that the smart phone mashed together the intimate world and the remote world. It used to be that you interacted with one set of people—friends, family members, co-workers—and were dimly aware of others. Now, you may feel connected to people you have never been near who you admire or loathe. And you may be only dimly aware of your friends, family, and co-workers—think of this the next time you observe two people who are otherwise sitting “together” engaged with their phones.
By 2034, if nothing happens until then, Social Security beneficiaries would be facing a permanent drop of about 21% in their benefit checks. The gap to make up the difference would be about 1.2% of GDP for every year into the future. What is likely to happen?
…a plausible prediction for 2034 is that Social Security will be “fixed” by turning to general fund tax revenues–rather than the payroll tax–as a source of funding.
If the age of eligibility for Social Security had been indexed to average longevity from the very beginning, the program would never have gotten into trouble.
Ruy Teixera has some unkind words for the Center for American Progress, the hard-left think tank he just left.
Like a lot of older and whiter veterans of liberal think-tanks and foundations, he also says he’s exhausted by the internal agita. “It’s just cloud cuckoo land,” he says. “The fact that nobody is willing to call bullshit, it just freaks me out.”
It’s my prior that when a big name leaves an organization, the real story has a lot more to do with personalities than with philosophical differences. No doubt there are philosophical differences that played a role here. But if that were all of it, I think that the tone of his remarks would have been less harsh.
The editors at Free Black Thought have assembled a quite comprehensive set of ideas and resources for parents who want to raise intellectual objections to racially divisive school curricula.
We at FBT are confident that a better world is possible. We are also quite certain that the existing DEI industry does not have the practical or conceptual resources to help us create it. We hope that the alternatives to DEI that we’ve presented here inspire you. We truly believe that we can heal the wounds inflicted on our society by bigotry past and present, so long as we focus on and affirm what we all share as Americans and as human beings, created equal. Our children are depending on us to do so.
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.
In this century, libertarians have had very few victories to brag about. They take pride in marijuana legalization, and they want to see more individual freedom to take drugs.
But in reality, a lot of people harm themselves with alcohol and drugs. And the results are not pretty for libertarians. Some of the substance abusers harm others, by committing crimes or by driving while impaired. And we live in a compassionate society, so that tax dollars go to aid the substance abusers.
I don’t believe that returning to a prohibition regime for drugs and alcohol is the answer. Arthur Brooks’ latest book From Strength to Strength makes an offhand reference to an OECD study that he says indicates that drinking rises with education level and socioeconomic status. That seems fixable. In terms of cultural attitudes, I don’t see the case for treating alcohol and cannabis as high status goods.
The article on cannabis is populated by recovery center entrepreneurs, a particularly parasitic crowd. Propaganda is in their business model. The truth is they help almost no one except the judges who are looking for alternatives to jail sentences.
That said, legalization in the US is a disaster wrapped in a deception. The recreational/medical distinction is a legalistic slight of hand to ease cannabis into mainstream acceptance. One glance at the regulations faced by cannabis entrepreneurs should be enough to disabuse anyone of the notion that it represents a libertarian victory. An over-regulated market designed for big business which has decided the only way to compete with a sophisticated legacy market is to develop a "malt-liquor" category for cannabis by manufacturing flowers with astronomical percentages of THC for enhanced "recreation". And the continued success of the black market is guaranteed to endure because the government has constructed unsurmountable barriers to enter the legal market. Cannabis is a kind of microcosm of what's wrong with the entire US economy -- hamstrung by regulations that incentivize bad actors. And it's so complicated that solutions seem like a dream.
It is an odd but undeniable truth that cannabis has always been low and high status at the same time. The poor use it for escape and the well to do use it to enhance well being and facilitate associative thought patterns.
In either case, as long as it is kept away from brains that are developing, it is innocuous and all the fuss about it is a testament to a society's immaturity. (I include the artificial spiking of flowers by big cannabis in the category of making a fuss.) The libertarian victory will arrive when it's announced that possession, cultivation, sale and consumption is legal. Full stop. Also, the best treatment for alcohol abuse, which is deadly and harmful to others, is monitored cannabis use, which is neither.
The key fact supported by the Woodhouse article is that with cannabis, the dose makes the poison. Which shouldn't be surprising, because that's true of almost every other known drug and drug-like behavior. I'd add that "set and setting" makes a difference that complements the dosage difference. The effects of a glass of wine with family dinner and a whole bottle swigged alone are qualitatively different; so too is the poker game with friends qualitatively different from the evening spent at a video poker machine. We'd expect increasing loneliness and alienation to exacerbate the bad effects of cannabis just as it does alcohol, gambling, etc, but Woodhouse makes no attempt to control for that.
Given all that, is there a regulatory regime that respects people's individual bodily and mental autonomy, doesn't create excessive barriers to legal drug market entry, but puts harm-reducing speedbumps on the road to overdosing? Taxes proportional to dose and concentration-- so e.g. a big bottle of vodka would get a tax nonlinearly higher than a can of beer-- might be one path; so might packaging mandates. Cass Sunstein "nudge" types should want to address this kind of mechanism-design problem.