Bryan Caplan  

Mueller's Theory, Wilkinson's Practice

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I've long remembered this passage from John Mueller's Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery:
For generations (actually, for millenia) homosexuals have been persecuted both in democracies and nondemocracies, and their defining sexual activity has been routinely outlawed.  This tiny minority is still held in open contempt, even disgust, by many members - probably most - of society.  Nevertheless, it has gradually been able to undo a great deal of official persecution in democracies in the space of only a couple of decades.

It is significant that this change took place only after homosexuals came out of the closet and openly organized to advance their interests... [O]nce a minority organizes responsibly to put forward its demands, democratic governments are often remarkably responsive.  And it is quite possible to imagine that other contemptuously dismissed groups whose principal activity has been outlawed - like drug addicts and prostitutes and, increasingly, it seems, cigarette smokers - could obtain similar redress if they organized and worked on it.
I was intrigued, then, to see Will Wilkinson come out of the grass closet:
If we're to begin to roll back our stupid and deadly drug war, the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end, and marijuana is the best place to start. The super-savvy Barack Obama managed to turn a buck by coming out of the cannabis (and cocaine) closet in a bestselling memoir. That's progress. But his admission came with the politicians' caveat of regret. We'll make real progress when solid, upstanding folk come out of the cannabis closet, heads held high.

So here we go. My name is Will Wilkinson. I smoke marijuana, and I like it.

As a guy who's never smoked anything, I don't have a closet to exit.  But I can support Will's brave move.  So here we go:

My name is Bryan Caplan.  I have many friends like Will who smoke marijuana, and I like them.

HT: Alexandre Padilla

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (13 to date)
Zac writes:

This doesn't work for all minorities [], which leads to a problem. Mueller suggests that toleration was a result of organization; I would contend that the converse is true. Only after the majority reaches some threshold of toleration for the minority behavior will minorities who try to organize be taken seriously.

8 writes:

Liberals tried encouraging safe sex, yet out of wedlock birth rates AND abortion rates went up.

Will should settle for smoking weed in the closet, secure in the knowledge that he's perfectly free to do so.

Steve Roth writes:

What Bryan (and Will) said.

My name is Steve Roth. I smoked a lot of marijuana back in the day, with a lot of different people, and I liked it and I still like them.

Zac, I'd modify your comment slightly:

Only after the majority reaches some threshold of toleration for the minority behavior will minorities who try to organize avoid physical coercion by the state, or by others which is tolerated by the state.

Ignas writes:

I can see Obama eventually make steps towards decriminalization of marijuana use. Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic has been advocating this issue in likewise manner.

Interestingly, in the Netherlands a group of paedophiles have organized themselves in a political organization. They use similar arguments for their cause. But it is going to be a while before they will do anything significant beyond inviting outrage and ridicule. I hope so, at least.

Greg Ransom writes:

So, Bryan, why don't you smoke pot?

This is the pertinent question, right?

Snark writes:

This partially explodes the commonly-held belief that only macroeconomists smoke pot and practice voodoo.

Prof. Caplan, the next time you get a headache, it could be that you made Will mad enough to turn your picture upside down.

Matt C writes:

Bryan, why haven't you ever smoked weed? I can understand not trying crack or meth or even acid. But it should be easy to find a friend you trust who smokes marijuana and would get you high.

I would be interested in hearing why you haven't tried it--assuming of course it isn't too personal to discuss.

(I hate smoking pot, myself. It freaks me out. Weird brain I guess. But I'm an outlier here.)

MHodak writes:

I tried smoking once, but didn't inhale.

George writes:

Our last three United States Presidents have smoked marijuana. It's pretty ridiculous that it's not only illegal, but more stringently punished than it was thirty years ago.

At a certain point, a majority of the electorate will be current or former pot smokers, at which point the political stigma of telling the truth about the issue will disappear, and we'll surprisingly quickly see pot legalized (at least as much as alcohol is legal in Pennsylvania).

I don't smoke pot or drop acid, but that's just the result of a stupid offhand promise to my wife, who makes Mormons look like junkies. (Thankfully I didn't include drinking.)

Don't look for crack or meth to be legal anytime soon; first, they're actually addictive and harmful, and second, they take all your time and money, leaving none for political organizations. And LSD's not really popular enough for anybody to care.

P writes:

Has anyone ever noticed in these debate that there's a tendency to proclaim that the drugs the speaker personally has experience with are possible to use responsibly, but "other" "hard" drugs are addictive and harmful, and should be banned.

Some draw the line at crack, some at shrooms, others at weed or alcohol, and Mormons even draw it at coffee.

Since the result seems so subjective, how about we all agree on one rule for all: you're responsible for what you do to yourself, make up your own mind for yourself, and worry about other people's actual actions, not what they "might do" "under the influence".. oooo....

It's not possible to simultaneously respect freedom and be in favor of outlawing any drugs whatsoever.

Kenneth A. Regas writes:

Will - That would be your money flowing across our southern border buy the dope, then back here to buy guns, which go back to kill Mexicans who get in the way of, um, your suppliers. You can tell yourself all day long that since the trade shouldn't be illicit you aren't to blame for what happens because it is. I don't buy it. We are all responsible for the expected consequences of our actions in the context that we take them, not in some ideal alternative universe run to our liking.

Steve Sailer writes:

I am not surprised.

John Fast writes:

My name is John Fast.

I smoked pot over 25 years ago, and didn't enjoy it.

I believe smoking marijuana is harmless, and certainly less evil than voting Statist.

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