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« SharpKeys | Main | Regression to the Mean »

March 23, 2005

Comments

Jim

Drug use is higher in rich countries because it is a luxury, not a palliative for the challenges of survival. Also producers don't use their own drugs because it cuts into profits. Overt policies may be lax in a country but that doesn't mean the society is tolerant of drug use.

Part of the desire for drugs as opposed to the abilty to afford drugs in AS countries is that the US at least has a Puritanical base to its culture. Puritanism is usually dismissed as repressive, and that is true, but more than that it is obsessive-compulsive. Puritans repress others but they are OC with themselves. Something wicked and irresponsible and self-destructive like drugs is the perfect antidote for that. Drugs may just not appeal to people who are already pretty decadent without them, like the French, and God bless them for it too.

Britain is not Puritanical; that is one of the big differences, aside from all the Germans here in the US, and Australia certainly isn't, so you must be right in saying that it is just diffusion form the US.

Andrew

"Drug use is higher in rich countries because it is a luxury, not a palliative for the challenges of survival."

True - and yet many drugs in the US are disproportionately used by the poor, especially people trapped in inner cities (e.g. crack cocaine). I'm not sure that crack abuse in inner cities is either a luxury or a palliative. It would be neat to see some data relating drug use prevalence and income level within and across countries...

Factory

"Drug use is higher in rich countries because it is a luxury, not a palliative for the challenges of survival."
Erm, only if one considers the effect of law enforcement on the price of drugs do they become a luxury. Most hard drugs are not any more expensive to make than alchohol.

dearieme

How does one get usefully accurate data on the ingestion of illegal substances?

Jim

Andrew,
Factory,

I take you points, but I still think that drug use is basically a luxury. It is is a luxury to be able to miss work because you are too strung out. Drugs take cash, period, and that extra cash is a luxury. In fact drug use makes the struggle for survival harder, not easier to endure.

Poor is a relative term. Poor people who can afford pickup trucks and recreational fishing boats are not poor in the same way that poor people in Haiti or Mexico, for instance, are poor. The worst drug use these days in the US involves crystal methamphetamine and it is in rural areas, where the worst poverty is, by the way. We don't hear much about it and we don't hear any CIA conspiracy theories about it because it's the wrong sort of people whose lives are being ruined, but that is the situation nevertheless.

Drugs come from crops raised on land that is then not devoted to raising food, and that is another luxury. Typically we outsource that cost to other countries, but it is still a cost that has to be paid for.

Factory, you are right; none of this disproves your point that prohibition artificially inflates the price of drugs. The real power behind keeping drugs illegal is the producers and dealers who profit form prohibition. The drug enforcement bureaucracy also has a vested interest in drugs remaining illegal and in having the problem never go away.

The standard for poverty I am using may sound extreme, but that kind of poverty is the norm in a lot of the world.

Finnpundit

Drugs as a luxury, palliative, or scourge? Certainly, but I would stress the cultural acceptance of drugs as indicative of a society's capacity to live, produce, innovate and create on a frenetic basis.

Only in "Anglo-Saxon" countries do I see a pace of innovation and creativity that far outshines that of other countries. China and the Pacific rim countries might be more frenetic in their labor output, but they don't match the A-S countries in innovation and creativity. Continental Old European states, on the other hand, are certainly more concerned with cafe society contemplation, rather than frenetic innovation. And South American countries, Golden Triangle countries of southeast Asia, and other drug exporting (but not drug-using) areas are also known for docile outlooks on life that are completely at odds with cultures that worship energy and frenzy.

As awful as it may sound, drugs will always be a part of a society that is extraordinarily creative and energetic.

Jim

Come to think of it, drug use has been a feature of life in America for a very long time. Raw tobacco is basically a hallucinogen; the Europeans found a way to tone it down. Peyote and jimsonweed use is embedded in various religions.

Finnpundit, the opium problem China experienced is a counterexample. China was at its lowest ebb when that took hold.

Finnpundit

Jim: True, but there's always been quite a lot of debate how that problem started. Some tend to feel the British had a lot to do with it, through the Opium Wars.

There are always exceptions to the rule, when one engages in broad generalizations. I would note, though, that Anglo-Saxon countries seem to favor those drugs that produce frenetic rushes, rather than downers. Perhaps that's why heroin is more favored in Russia: a society clearly still in the doldrums.

Teymour

There is something interesting going on here. In addition to having higher rates of drug use, Anglo-Saxon societies have far higher rates of crimes against persons and property including all of the most violent varieties.

However, the corresponding rates of organized violence, corruption and crime ( directed by the state, political parties, and organized criminals or some combination thereof ) is generally much lower.

This has had implications for the evolution of representative government and of relationships within society dependent on large scale organization not dependent of personal relations.

Perhaps there is a trade off between personal constraints and responsibility as opposed to larger social standards.

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