Those who believe single-name musical celebrities have nothing to say about public policy that's worth hearing may be surprised by a new Drug Policy Alliance video in which the most articulate (and libertarian) testimonial comes from Sting:
The war on drugs represents an extraordinary violation of human rights...It is time to step out of our comfort zones and begin to tell the truth about drugs and our failed drug policies....I support the Drug Policy Alliance because I believe in the right to sovereignty over one's own mind and body.
A rainforest-saving rock star condemning drug prohibition and endorsing an organization funded by leftish billionaire George Soros was an irresistible target for Bill O'Reilly. Last night the professionally indignant populist, whose passionate support for the war on drugs has not driven him to learn much of anything about it, mocked Sting with assistance from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. O'Reilly, who apparently has not read John Stuart Mill, began by using his favorite drug-related factoid to rebut Sting's support for individual autonomy:
O'Reilly: You know what galls me about this? Sting [affecting an effete British accent]: "We have sovereignty over our own bodies." Seventy percent of child abuse and neglect in this country is substance abuse driven, most of it narcotics.
Kelly: Exactly right. They actually say it could be even higher than that. It could be as much as 80 percent.
O'Reilly: You know, what do you have to say about that, Sting? How about the rain forest, putting that aside and looking at child abuse once in a while? Ooh.
Far be it from me to contradict what "they" say, but O'Reilly and Kelly seem to have pulled these numbers out of their asses. According to Childabuse.com, "Among confirmed cases of child maltreatment, 40% involve the use of alcohol or other drugs." According to Childhelp USA, "Nearly one-half of substantiated cases of child neglect and abuse are associated with parental alcohol or drug abuse." According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Substance abuse may be a contributing factor for between one-third and two-thirds of maltreated children in the child welfare system." Furthermore, these estimates refer to "substance abuse" generally, the vast majority of it involving alcohol, not "narcotics." Finally, the causal interpretation of these associations remains controversial, so O'Reilly's assumption that more drug use means more child abuse is unsubstantiated.
More fun with fake numbers:
O'Reilly: The reason we have a war on drugs is to protect people from people who get intoxicated and do terrible, terrible things. We have alcohol, that's legal. You don’t compound the problem.
Kelly: But cocaine is not the same thing as alcohol. [You have a] 75 percent addiction rate on people who try cocaine and 10 percent on alcohol.
A 1994 study (PDF), based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey, estimated that 17 percent of cocaine users qualify for a diagnosis of "substance dependence" at some point in their lives, suggesting that Kelly is off by a factor of more than four. The same data indicate a lifetime addiction rate of 15 percent for alcohol. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also indicate that addiction rates for alcohol and cocaine are similar.
So much for the substantive part of the discussion. Here Kelly and O'Reilly explain why we should not listen to what Sting has to say about the war on drugs:
Kelly: There he sits in his little ivory tower. He's not even an American, first of all, so save your opinions about our domestic policy for your own domestic policy. And, you know, when he's not working on his tantric sex, apparently he's thinking about American drug policy.
O'Reilly: But that clears your mind, doesn't it?
Kelly: I'll defer to Sting on that. But he sits over there in his ivory tower—this guy has got more money than God—he's not going to be affected by it if, you know, the streets are filled with drug addicts.
O'Reilly: But he wants to get stoned.
In short, although we have no idea what we're talking about when we discuss drug policy, we are more reliable than Sting, because he's a rich, pointy-headed, sex-obsessed, drug-addled foreigner. Am I the only one who thinks that people like O'Reilly and Kelly are inadvertently making the case against the war on drugs?
Here is the DPA promo:
Here is O'Reilly and Kelly's response:
And here is my most recent drug policy "debate" with O'Reilly: