Wash Post Prohibitions

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Reader Baylen Linnekin–full disclosure: he's a Web guy for the Drug Policy Alliance–calls attention to two recent pieces in the Wash Post that deal with alcoholism. What's interesting about both stories is that they essentially take place in a world where moderate drinking doesn't exist. [Update: Jacob Sullum analyzes one of them in some detail below.]

Both stories strongly suggest that you're either dry or all wet–a Manichean view that is both mistaken and pervasive when it comes to American policies on all intoxicants.

The first is about the new hagiographic bio of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson by Susan Cheever–full disclosure: daughter of famous writer/drunk who now lives on mostly as a punchline in Seinfeld reruns.

The second is a column in which education writer Jay Mathews lays into parents who allow any underage drinking. Full disclosure: He touts his own extreme sobriety as a badge of honor.

Here's a Reason piece worth reading in this context:

"After the Crash," by Stanton Peele, which looks at alternative treatment regimens to the abstinence-based AA.

Peele's Web site is worth spending a couple of hours at. And here's a memorable interview he gave to Suck back in 2000, when the nation was still getting over the last-minute revelation that George W. Bush had lied about his drunk-driving record.

NEXT: A Dry Recitation of the Facts

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  1. Sullum’s article is incisive, as usual.

    But a correction: I don’t think Dubya ever lied about his drunk driving arrest. If I recall correctly, he just skillfully avoided making any concrete statements about his past drug and alcohol use, until the evidence came out.

  2. DWI, drunk driving, dui, and a license to drink.

    Copyright: 1987-2005 ? Bruce Alm.

    The answer to the problem of drunk driving, etc. could be this; a permit for the purchase and consumption of alcohol beverages.

    This would not only be a major assault on the problem of drunk driving, but would also have an effect on virtually all other crimes such as these;
    murder, rape, assault, burglary, robbery, suicide, vandalism, wife beating, child beating, child molestation, the spread of aids, college binge drinking, animal cruelty, etc., the list is endless.
    If this proposition was made law, there could be a major reduction in all these areas of concern, even though the emphasis concerning alcohol abuse seems to be drunk driving in particular.

    There could also be many other positive results;

    families healed, better work performance, booze money spent on products that would help the economy (we’ve all heard of the guy who spends half his check in the bar on payday,) would spare many health problems, etc.

    This new law could go something like this:

    Any person found guilty of any crime where drinking was a factor would lose the right to purchase and/or consume alcohol beverages.

    For a first misdemeanor, a three year revocation. a second misdemeanor, a ten year revocation. a third misdemeanor, a lifetime revocation. Any felony crime, an automatic lifetime revocation.
    Anyone caught drinking alcohol without a permit would receive a possible $1000 fine and/or jail sentence. those who would supply alcohol to people without a drinking permit (and possibly make money at it,) would also lose his/her right to purchase alcohol beverages.

    What wife or husband would buy an alcoholic spouse a bottle?

    What friend would give a problem drinker a drink at the possible cost of a thousand bucks and the loss of their own privilege? This could be a total discouragement to these would-be pushers.

    This permit doesn’t seem as though it would be a problem to put into effect. It could simply be a large X, or whatever, on the back of any drivers license in any state, to show who has been revoked, and cannot purchase alcohol.

    Most people of drinking age have a driver’s license, but one area that might be a problem could be New York City, where many people don’t drive.

    This problem could be resolved, however, by a license-type I.D. specifically for the purchase of alcohol beverages. Most, if not all states have these already for the purpose of identification.
    This could be a small price to pay for the saved lives of thousands of Americans each and every year.

    After this, it would simply be a matter of drinking establishments checking I.D.s at the time of purchase.
    In the case of crowded bars, they could simply check I.D.s at the door, as they do now.

    Would this be a violation of rights?

    There can be no argument here since they already check I.D.s of people who look as though they may not be old enough to drink.

    This could be a good saying, “If a person who doesn’t know how to drive shouldn’t have a license to drive, a person who doesn’t know how to drink shouldn’t have a license to drink.”

    Here are some other pluses to this idea:

    A good percentage of people in correctional institutions are there because of alcohol related offences . Because of this, court, penal, and law enforcement costs could drop dramatically.

    The need for A.A., ALANON, MADD, SADD, etc., could be greatly diminished as well.

    What the alcoholic fears most, is the temptation to have that first drink, usually a spur of the moment type thing. Without the ability to do this, he/she is fairly safe. To start drinking again would almost have to be planned in advance. and to maintain steady drinking would be extremely difficult, in most cases.

    Even though A.A. members as a group don’t become involved in political movements, it seems as individuals, they would all be in favor of a situation like this. Any person who wants to quit drinking, even if never having been in trouble with the law, could simply turn in their license for the non-drinking type.

    A woman from MAAD, on the NBC TODAY show, said “One out of every ten Americans has a drinking problem, and that 10% consumes 60% of all alcohol beverages sold in the U.S..”

    If this is true, there could be financial problems for breweries, liquor stores, bars, rehab centers, etc., as well as lawyers, massive amounts of tax revenue ‘down the drain,’ and so on.

    But it doesn’t seem as though anyone would have a valid argument against a proposal such as this for financial reasons. To do so would be morally wrong, and could be likened to a drug-pusher attitude.

    Even with the problems this new law could present, it still could, in one sense, be considered the simple solution to the number one drug problem in the U.S. and elsewhere. Alcoholism.

    P.S.

    What ever happened to the skid row drunk?

    http://www.geocities.com/dwi_dui/index.html

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