March 2019

In June of 2018 I came across the paper A Unique, Stand-alone Second Amendment Implies That Both Heller and Mcdonald Were Wrongly Decided by David Weisberg. I found it more interesting than the corpora analysis Neal Goldfarb was doing in the Language Log post which led me to it, and I decided to email him. I forgot about our exchange until reading another Goldfarb post inspired me to go back to it and then turn it into a blog post. My two emails are after the jump (with the addition of links that I didn’t include then but think would be helpful now), his reply will be added if he grants permission. UPDATE: Permission was granted, and they appear below. (more…)

I decided to read Sam Quinones’ Dreamland after coming across Spotted Toad’s post on it (which links to a review by sociologist Gabriel Rossman that people should read for a better overview than mine). Toad characterizes the epidemic as resembling a free-market economist’s dream, and there’s a passage within the book where Quinones writes something similar, which he has repeated in interviews:

And—this is my bigger point—what we are seeing is the end result of 35 years of exalting the free market, exalting the private sector, exalting the consumer and the individual, despising government, despising the public sector, despising the community assets that the public sector can and should provide. The end result of that is heroin—a drug that turns people into narcissistic, self-absorbed, intensely individualistic hyperconsumers. That is the point.

At the time I started this blog I identified as a libertarian who was particularly incensed by the war on drugs. I wasn’t some hippy who wanted to decriminalize soft drugs like pot because I or people I knew used them recreationally (I’m just a boring beer drinker); I knew that the War on Drugs was primarily waged against the dealers of hard drugs. I had heard arguments that the laws were supplements to laws against crimes with real victims (something I reviewed William Stuntz discussing more recently), but rejected the conclusion that the laws should remain on the books. Over the years I have taken my libertarian leanings in a more meta/decentralist direction and decided that identifying with an ideology like libertarianism doesn’t pay epistemic rent and serves as a motivation to selectively evaluate evidence in a way that a more agnostic identity like consequentialist does not (leaving me free to lean libertarian to the extent that the lessons I learned earlier still hold). And as a consequentialist, it’s hard to look at this huge rise in deaths from overdoses and just shrug it off as the result of the free-will of all those individuals, assign them the responsibility (I won’t say “moral blame” because I gave up belief in objective morality even when I was still a libertarian). I still have too many issues with paternalism to embrace it, but I can see that certain drugs are novel enough for us to lack evolutionary adaptations to them (like certain populations with alcohol), and thus for pessimism to be warranted about free access to them.

All this throat-clearing aside about my own views, I should address the actual contents of the book: (more…)