A big decision
I think social conservatives and libertarians are both missing something when it comes to the drug debate. So-cons don’t understand that you can’t legislate morality. Libertarians don’t understand that removing all regulation will not lead to more freedom. The real danger of drugs is is different and it comes in another form: the video game.
The heart of the problem with drugs is not that drugs are evil, or that they hollow the soul, or that they make people do bad things, or that they force people into theft to support the addiction. The heart of the problem with drugs is connected to the welfare state.
The fear of the welfare state is that it would go to its logical extreme: that people would decide on mass that they don’t need to work. In reality, it never got to its logical end because, (1) there is shame in being a a drain on the system and (2) it is boring and unfulfilling to do nothing. Welfare has never lead to the naysayers worst fears.
There is a new challenge on the horizon: it is hard to get a start in life. It always has been but it is more confusing now that we don’t follow in our fathers’ paths and success requires a longer education and more creativity. Why would anyone go to all that effort, challenge and anguish? How many will give up before finishing?
The real pitfall posed by drugs is that they provide an alternate world. At minimum, they provide sensations and feelings that can substitute for the rewards of parenthood, achievement or success. There are alternate communities available to drug user. There are philosophies and ethics to excuse, or even support the user. Shame, desire to succeed, what the developmental psychologists call “emergence” no longer need to be satisfied.
Welfare satisfies the needs of the body. Drugs substitute the needs of the soul. What stops the descent? The main stop is still emergence (the drive to achieve). There is also an inarticulate sense that there is something wrong with drugs.
Our second new challenge is this. Video games also provide an alternate world. It takes no achievement to participate. If the needs of the belly and the body will not stop you, games provide a way to tune out, to decide that you don’t want to work a job, please a wife, raise a child, exercise, prepare a healthy meal, challenge your brain, help a neighbor, care for an elder, build something or create something.
The threats that drugs pose to society are all there. The difference is that games don’t have the social opprobrium. A person sinking into a life in front of a screen lacks the obvious signpost that something is amiss.