The Ugliness of Strawmen

I was talking to a teetotaler some time ago about Prohibition and the reasons it was rescinded in the early 30s. Most of us have a decent understanding about the amendment to our Constitution to abolish the eighteenth–the cure for alcohol abuse was worse than the disease. I won’t bore everyone with a litany of social ills that arose from the attempt to stop people from over indulgence: the record is pretty well known.

But my friend correctly noted that Prohibition did in fact have some of the desired effects–consumption overall did drop by half, public drunkenness did plummet, alcohol related diseases dropped, and some of the secondary social problems (such as work accidents, family issues, etc) decreased. In his view, the true measure of the effects of Prohibition has been misstated because of a bias towards a freedom to drink. In his view, Prohibition worked and should not have been abolished. As you can imagine, he looks upon drug laws in a positive light as well.

Now I personally see most drug laws (criminalization of drug use) to be detrimental. Don’t get me wrong on this–easy access to drugs has it’s downside; I’m no Pollyanna libertarian on this one, but in the balance I think decriminalization would be a positive (please note that decriminaliztion isn’t the same as legally selling heroin to 6 year-olds on the school grounds).

In the course of our talk he became upset with my view and told me that the 10,000 deaths due to DUI drivers was blood on my hands.

“Blood on your hands…”

And there ended the conversation.

Unfortunately his reaction to an opposing view is the default one today–I can’t have a calm discussion with someone whose view is different from mine without being slandered in the worst sorts of ways.

Think I’ll go watch an old Bill Buckley program.

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