Prohibition

Ken Burns: Prohibition, Drug Laws, & Unintended Consequences

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"Slavery was our worst idea," says legendary documentarian Ken Burns. "I'm not sure that Prohibition was second, but it's really up there."

Burns talks to Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie about his new PBS film, an in-depth look at one of the most controversial episodes in U.S. history. "The Noble Experiment," notes Burns, left a legacy of organized crime, moral hypocrisy, single-issue politics, and unintended consequences from which we're still recovering.

About 13 minutes. Shot by Jim Epstein, Anthony Fisher, and Meredith Bragg, who also edited the piece.

Come back to tomorrow for another sit-down with Burns and a discussion of his ardent support for public funding of the arts, the breakdown of mass audiences, and whether his self-description of being a "Yellow Dog Democrat" affects his creative work.

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194 responses to “Ken Burns: Prohibition, Drug Laws, & Unintended Consequences

  1. “Slavery was our worst idea,” says legendary documentarian Ken Burns.

    Slavery was our idea? Does he mean humanity or America?

    1. Because it wasn’t an American idea.

      1. Yes, the idea of slavery did not first appear in America, but was practiced in many parts of the world for thousands of years.

        However, it was the worst idea from the rest of the world that America adopted and practiced. I think that is fair to say and likely what he meant.

        I think Ken Burns understands we are not the first or only nation in history to practice slavery. I certainly don’t agree with all of his political positions, but I think you are being just a little oversensitive regarding this statement.

        1. I watched a Jazz documentary by him, the “racism” theme was a large part of it. I have heard quotes from him that makes me think he is a “Blame America first” type of person. There are many people who believe slavery was strickly an American idea. Questioning his statement on America’s role in slavery is within reason.

          1. I can’t say I’ve ever met an even moderately educated individual that thought slavery was strictly an American idea, though, I have not met Ken Burns.

        2. We are not the first to practice prohibition, either

      2. Correct, and America and the West have rejected it. In much of the world it is still practiced. In fact, there are more people as chattel slaves today than at any time in history.

        1. We have wage slaves in this country. And many more in line.

        2. incorrect

    2. Look at Burns’ self-description as Yellow Dog Dem and it is clear he means us, as in the US, the place that – according to the left – has invented EVERY bad thing. Like many, Burns suffers from presentist thinking, applying 2011 morality and thinking to events that happened hundreds of years ago.

      He ignores that even the Founders knew that slavery had to end; there was plenty of debate over what to do with the slaves – free them, send them back to Africa, or what? He conveniently ignores that the Africans sold into bondage were SOLD BY OTHER AFRICANS and that, in many cases, those sold were the lucky ones. The others were either killed outright or enslaved by conquering tribes.

      This sort of navel-gazing disguised as high art is its own form of moral hypocrisy and the never-ending effort to view the past through the prism of the center, which cannot be done. One more self-important leftist attempting to camouflage ideology under cover of documentary.

      1. And he looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.

        1. That’s why I wasn’t proud of this shithole cracker-ass country until MY MAN Barack got elected and put me in charge of dietary policy.

          1. Yes, and you have more ass than a donkey farm, girlfriend. Ya might wanna count those carbs a little more closely there, First Lady. And stick to that “healthy diet” better than that rich, decadent food is sticking to your bones.

            1. “More ass than a donkey farm”

              Noyce! I’ve been looking for a description – now I have it.

              Tnanks, Groovus!

            2. HEY! Like me, she’s just the messenger. Her lifestyle is irrelevant to the truthiness of the message.

            3. Fuck yo white ass….Secret Service took us all downtown to score some Arugula!

              1. WTF? You got the poor fuckers on the Secret Service paying for your shit now?

    3. Who cares whether it was our original idea or not, it was still a bad idea.

      If you become a burgler, you could say it was your worst idea even though you weren’t the first guy in history to try it.

      How’s this- adopting slavery as an official policy ingrained in the constitution was a bad idea.

      1. “How’s this- adopting slavery as an official policy ingrained in the constitution was a bad idea.”

        Yep, except there probably wouldn’t be a Constitution absent that compromise.
        At the time, slavery was quite common and the anti-slavery folks didn’t have a lot of support.

        1. The “compromise” was meant to curb the power of the slave-holding south, not vindicate or condone slavery.

          1. To YUP on his “slave holding south” bs. When Lincoln “freed” the slaves with his “emancipation” he freed ONLY THE SLAVES in the Confederate States. Many of the northern states still had slaves and “return slave laws” and were totally against Lincoln. Go do a little research before you blow your mouth off hotdog.

            1. You don’t know dick. The Northern States did not have “return slave laws”. The Fugitive Slave Laws were Federal Laws passed by the Slave Power to make the good White Northerners do what they told them to do.

        2. The anti-slavery folks actually had plenty of support. The moral abolitionists had no support. The South had no support. That’s why the 3/5ths compromise was passed. To give the South a disproportionately greater voice in the Federal government where they wielded said power to infringe on the civil liberties of White Northerners. Booyah! Turn off the Military Channel and read a book.

      2. you cannot adopt the Constitution in present-day terms. The original document prohibited blacks and women from voting, too. Doesn’t make the whole document bad; just shows it had flaws which even the Founders foresaw since the document allows for amendments.

        1. It was also written, with the Founders incredible foresight, to purposefully make it difficult to pass amendments to negate their biggest fear: direct democracy destroying the constitutional republic.

          Unfortunately, since the Founders presumed that the Constitution and our representative republic could only work within the context of a moral society (read: observation of the rule of law dependent on individual responsibility) they did not factor in prevention of what even the least prescient amoungst them recognized: the possible rise and proliferation of the entitlement mindset.

          1. That’s the most self-serving pile of horseshit I’ve read all morning.

            1. Burns applies a special brand of incoherent logic in most of that interview.

              That states have demonstrated the ability to deal with with drunk driving laws independently should give people more confidence they can to the same with cannabis, not more uncertainty.

              The 18th Amendment was adopted to take POTUS & the states out of the equation. The Volstead Act would not have survived Constitutional challenge on its face.

        2. The Constitution prevented Blacks and women from voting?

          Cite?

          1. are you serious? Why in the world do you think the 15th and 19th Amendments were necessary?

            1. Are you serious?
              Women were voting in many states before passage of the 19th amendment. The constitution had left suffrage issues up to the states.

              1. Correct pgt. You beat me to it. States had jurisdiction and authority over who voted and who didn’t in elections. Remember wareagle, the federal government was a product of the states, not the other way around. Even today, states manage their own voting systems according to their states’ laws and constitutions unless void by federal law.

                It should be also noted there is no Constitutional right to vote in a Presidential election.

                1. I know about the presidential election part. Just saying…the original document precluded some folks from participating in the process.

                  1. No it didn’t. Cite or STFU.

                  2. I side with the founders original intent of only landowners being able to vote. They knew you had to have “some skin in the game” to keep it on the straight and narrow. Looking back, seems they knew what they were talking about.

                2. So are women not covered by our given natural and inalienable rights? Why did they have to wait for the States to grant them the right to vote? Why could a State even deny them a right to vote if after all, natural rights are not limited by gender or hue? It just seems hypocritical to have individual rights buffs talk about how it was the State’s choice to grant this right.

              2. sort of speaks to the original point then, doesn’t it, that women were not given the right to vote in the Constitution as initially drawn.

                1. Nobody was given the right to vote in the Constitution as initially drawn. All it promised in that regard was a “republican form of government”.

                2. “Not given the “right” and “prevented from” are two entirely different things.

                  1. Note to self, when proven wrong, wareagle will obfuscate, move the goalpoasts, and generally act like a dissembling asshole rather than simply say “oops, I guess i was wrong”…

                  2. “Not given the “right” and “prevented from” are two entirely different things.
                    ———————-
                    maybe after this, we can figure out what the definition of “is” is. What bullshit. The Constitution is a clear document – the rights listed are the rights granted; those NOT listed are not granted.

                    Quibble all you want whether “not given” and “prevented” are equivalent, but the net effect is the same.

                    1. Absolutely false. The rights not listed are granted (by the creator) see the enumerated powers, and all other rights are granted to the states, and the people respectively. The Constitution limited the power of the federal government, not the citizens

                3. See pgt above – the Constitution didn’t ‘give’ anyone the right to vote.

              3. The problem wasn’t the Utah men having their wives exercise their right to vote like their husbands told them to. The problem was the states where the rights of women were being denied. Which brings me to my next point. Why aren’t their any women libertarians on this forum?

        3. I”m not saying it is bad (even though it is not perfect). I read the OP as saying that saying slavery was a bad idea wasn’t correct because we didn’t originate slavery. My only point is that it was still a bad idea even itf it wasn’t our original idea.

          I’m aware of some of the politics involved with it as a compromise. But you have to admit that as a political point, advocating and condoning an immoral institution casts a shadow over the document.

          1. but it was not universally seen as immoral at the time of the founding, and in fact, the institution had been in place for some time prior. Documents reflect the reality in which they are drawn. I don’t think it’s accurate to call every signatory an advocate of slavery; many knew it had to end at some point.

            1. If they knew it was going to end then the South has to be the stupidest group of people ever to walk the face of the earth. Why on earth would they secede and start a fucking war which would kill half a million for an institution that was going to end soon assole? The reason is that it was fucking profitable, it was sanctioned by their view of Christianity and supported by pseudo-science. It was an economic, moral and scientific good. And the South planned to spread the institution to the whole Western Hemisphere because life was good for the white man and they believed that all whites should benefit from the institution. The reason the North was so pissed was because the South was wielding the power of the federal government to infringe on their personal liberties of white Northerners all in the name of protecting slavery. State’s rights my ass.

    4. “Slavery was our worst idea,” says legendary documentarian Ken Burns. “I’m not sure that Prohibition was second, but it’s really right up there.”

      Silly me. I thought the “our” referred to the Burns documentary crew.

      1. And “idea” meant the idea of choosing them as subject matter? So he’s self-effacing, lots of them are.

    5. I think he means, it was the worst idea the US implemented into law. He mentioned Prohibition in that context, and prohibition of alcohol wasn’t invented by the US either.

  2. I am paraphrasing a bit “Prohibition is a good thing in that it gives us pause.”

    What the fuck? Where has this dumbass been in the last 20 years. Nothing has fucking stopped the feds or the state from passing additional criminal statutes.

    1. The seen and the unseen. You don’t know what horrors might’ve been entered into had it not been for this pause.

      1. Horseshit, Robert. Applying that logic is tantamount to accepting proof of a negative as proof.

        Accordingly, the infamous tautology, “Jobs saved or created”, the ultimate in duplicitous verbal wizardry, would then have to be accepted as not only true, but sound policy as well.

        What you do there, by employing that thinking, is validate the Marxist, socialist and collectivist ideas of TEAM BLUE, and quite a few of TEAM RED as well, by suggesting that “doing something is better than doing nothing.”

        1. Do you think this is the worst of all possible worlds, then? If not, then what has kept it from being worse?

          1. Gee, Robert, why don’t you just ask me “Can an all-powerful deity create a rock that it cannot lift?”

            You are positing I would know all possible outcomes, which is impossible.

            Also, please avoid vague and subjective terms of “worst” and “worse.”

            To answer your question, honestly, I don’t know if this is the best or worst based on my perception of how those metrics apply today versus that period of time. However, history has shown that prohibition has almost always ended up with the opposite intended effect of policy.

            1. Then the fact that you’ve seen what history has shown is lending your weight against its repetition. What was so hard to understand about that?

              1. It wasn’t Robert. It was your slightly esoteric line of questioning that elicited an admitted pedantic answer.

                Now, just because you and I, and most of the consistent posters on the board understand this simple concept, it is quite dangerous to assume that others, like Ken Burns here as an excellent example, understand the same ramifications of “we must do something, even if it is more disastrous and rife with (supposedly) unintended consequences.”

                And then hand wringing and loss of liberty ensues…

      2. You don’t know what horrors might’ve been entered into had it not been for this pause.
        ——————————
        straight for climate alarmist playbook. Maybe that should be on Burns’ list, too, under the guise of “even if we’re wrong, wouldn’t this still be a good thing?”.

        1. Do you believe there was no such “pause”, then? It does seem that the rate of US Constitutional amendments has slowed since the 21st.

          1. unfortunately, the elected and judicial classes have devised workarounds to amendments. It’s not like the reach and power of govt have lessened.

            1. In particular, the deliberate ceding of congressional power to the executive branch and its ever growing heads of a hydriac bureaucracy outside the reach of the Constitution.

              The Judicial Branch was doomed when John Marshall sodomized the Constitution with his gavel of setting precedent as the standard bearer of case law.

              1. unfortunately, the elected and judicial classes have devised workarounds to amendments. It’s not like the reacharound power of govt have lessened.

                That flows much better.

              2. I liked the John Marshall decision. It’s gotta end somewhere.

            2. I guess I should have made my point a little better. True we haven’t very many amendments to the US constitution. But the idea that congressmen “pause” when considering whether to tell others what to do or how they should live their lives is laughable.

              1. Did you think he meant members of Congress?

  3. Third worst idea, designated hitter.

    1. Nope.
      Withholding.

    2. 4th worst idea, the BCS.

      But…

      5th worst idea, college playoff. So, fuck life.

    3. worst idea? Kickoffs from the 35

      1. You mean moving them back from the 40, or moving them forward from the 30? How about when they kicked off from midfield (the 55)?

        1. the only 55 is in Canada. You meant that, right?

          1. Canadian football still has 110 yds. between the goal lines. It was shortened to 100 yds. in USAn football a century ago. They used to kick off from midfield.

            1. when did the American version have a 110-yard field? As best I know, it’s always been 100 yards between end zones and midfield would be the 50.

              1. 1874
                The rules of a hybrid game of English rugby devised by the University of McGill were first used in the United States in a game at Boston between McGill and Harvard. On May 14, Harvard won 3-0 using Harvard rules. The next day, the teams tied 0-0 while playing Canadian rules. Harvard liked the new game so much they introduced it into the Ivy League. Both U.S. and Canadian football evolved from these games.

                http://www.cfl.ca/page/his_timeline_1870

              2. It was 110 yards from goal line to goal line until either 1910 or 1912 (I keep getting those mixed up, so I wrote “a century”), 1912 I think. At that time end zones were introduced too. The reduction of the field of play by 10 yards length was to accommodate the extra 20 yards imposed by the addition of end zones, which otherwise would not have been possible in some stadiums.

        2. Kickoffs from the 25 would be best.

          1. The WFL announced they’d be kicking off from the 20, but it was the 30 when they started playing.

      2. this

    4. Worst idea? Deity.

    5. 6th worst idea talking to cops: http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…..8z7NC5sgik

    6. I never got why morons like you want to watch pitchers hit.

  4. It’s interesting that he conflates murder, theft and pedophilia – all criminal acts by one individual against another in a non-consensual manner – with “acts” such as smoking and drug use that are consensual.

    He also ‘backs up’ his thesis that 2nd hand smoke is statistically dangerous with a personal anecdote that has no basis in research.

    His assertion that “society” has to do something about the problem of alcohol abuse, while simultaneously admitting that such abuse has existed throughout the continuum of human progress and civilization is pretty shocking in it’s self contradiction.

    Add to that the fact that it’s the do somethings that brought about the grotesque unintended consequences by pushing prohibition in the first place and it begins to seem that Burns, while an impressive documentarian technically, hasn’t thought through his subject matter.

    1. “Burns, while an impressive documentarian technically,…”
      Not sure that he isn’t a more subtle Michael Moore.

      1. His Civil War was pretty impressive, in that his research and detail brought alive, at least to me, a tangible understanding of the character and spirit of the common fighting men in that conflict.

        I’m still blown away by the advanced capabilities of communication through simple letters home by men who probably had little formal education, and were less traveled.

        I’d say he’s technically brilliant, while Moore relies heavily on others to make him look good. I’d personally stay away from that kind of comparison.

        1. The other thing is that Moore is damn funny. OTOH, maybe this guy doesn’t try to be, and would if he did.

          1. Moore needs the comedy, otherwise you might look too closely.

            1. No doubt…..my cover was almost blown when the children from the orphanage started going missing.

              1. I didn’t see much humor in Moore – mainly sarcasm.

                Ken Burns is actually a good documentarian, and there’s strong evidence for it in the fact that others imitate him. You will say that they’re trying to cash in by imitating his methods, but his popularity is (unlike that of certain artists) linked to his skills in doing a good series.

        2. As someone who is interested in military history, I would have preferred it if Ken Burns would have shown some maps with battlefield positions, charges, defensive lines, etc. It would have added weight to the commentary, giving some idea of what areas were hard-pressed and why.

      2. Not to mention – yeah, I guess it was kind of striking at first, making an entire film using nothing but still photographs with naration, but the thing about movies is, they’re supposed to move. They could just as well be slide shows with narration. Incidentally, Ken needs, seriously, to change his hair still. His hair, at his age, has the same appeal as a comb over. As yes, I do wish I had his hair line.

    2. But he’s doing a documentary on prohibition, which nobody else is, so doesn’t that make him probably a lot better than avg.?

      1. doesn’t that make him probably a lot better than avg.?

        Yes. I don’t hate Ken Burns, and I think that overall, he’s one of the best documentarians alive today. I was just commenting that, from this interview at least, he seems

        1) to have a huge blind spot for recognizing the comparisons between prohibition and today’s problems, and

        2) a lack of clarity regarding the subject matter, as evidenced by his own contradictory statements. (see my 10:11)

        1. But I don’t think they’re contradictory. There’s tension between them, as he obviously recognizes, but not contradiction.

          As to a distinction between consensual and non-consensual activity, well, you didn’t ask him about that. He just spoke of activity, period. Do you deny that laws concern activities? His point was that not all activities legislated on concern morality.

          1. See below regarding his contradictions.

            As to a distinction between consensual and non-consensual activity, well, you didn’t ask him about that. He just spoke of activity, period.

            But he mentions them as though they were equal ‘acts’.

            Which is the entire problem.

            By conflating the two, he misses the entire point of the problem of the idea of prohibiting a consensual act – that it is universally ignored and leads to corruption, not a reduction in the activity.

            He’s essentially ignoring the comments of his own interview subject in the documentary – that by banning a consensual act, you make it immensely more popular. The same is not true of Murder, Theft, and Pedophilia.

            1. Don’t you think he deliberately picked those to illustrate his point? Whether it’s consensual or non-consensual, it’s still activity, and laws apply to both classes.

              Besides, if you go over his interview, you’re projecting your ideas onto him if you think he asserts the problem as prohibition of consensual acts. He doesn’t think that, so there’s no contradiction there to catch him in.

              1. Don’t you think he deliberately picked those to illustrate his point?

                Talk about ‘projecting your ideas onto him’.

                If he doesn’t think the problem is prohibiting consensual acts, then what, exactly, was the problem? And how do you explain his selection of Pete Hamil as “one of the main voices” in his documentary?

                That is exactly Hamil’s point: That prohibition of consensual acts results in an increase in their occurrence, along with corruption.

                Do you work for the guy?

                1. Not only do I not work for the guy, I find his product kind of a drag. But he could give every promoter lessons in how to be interviewed!

                  As to what the problem was, didn’t he make that clear enough? It prohibited what the great majority of people did, and it was generally unpleasant all-round; that’s no great insight, which is why he doesn’t spend long on it.

                  He selected Pete Hamill because he’s Pete Hamill, and probably came fairly cheap.

                  1. didn’t he make that clear enough?
                    Obviously not.

                    It prohibited what the great majority of people did, and it was generally unpleasant all-round

                    Another contradiction – either there aren’t enough people using drugs to cause worry (a sub-culture), or they’re so popular that they have to be prohibited.

                    Both arguments fail to support prohibition, based on Burns’ own allusions to “political campaigns that metastasize into the most horrible unintended consequences including the creation of organized crime…”

                    He selected Pete Hamill because he’s Pete Hamill, and probably came fairly cheap.

                    What?

                    1. Another contradiction – either there aren’t enough people using drugs to cause worry (a sub-culture), or they’re so popular that they have to be prohibited.

                      Where do you get that from? It may be a tension, not a contradiction, but it’s not in anything I wrote or that the interviewee said.

                      He selected Pete Hamill because he’s Pete Hamill, and probably came fairly cheap.

                      What?

                      Well, who would you have gotten who would’ve gotten respect from the audience but not cut too much into your profit? A washed-up NY Post columnist who can talk is great and probably comes cheap, and it’s a no-brainer to select a newspaperman to narrate material about booze.

                    2. A washed-up NY Post columnist who can talk is great and probably comes cheap, and it’s a no-brainer to select a newspaperman to narrate material about booze.

                      Your personal attack on Hamil still says absolutely nothing as to the contradictions Burns makes in his comparison of the drug war and prohibition.

                      Confronted with a refutation of your assertion, you pretend that Burns only included it in his documentary because it was ‘cheap’.

                      You’re a piece of work.

                    3. Then why do you think he cast Pete Hamill? Who would you have cast?

            2. From what I recall from listening once, what he highlights is not the problem of prohibiting consensual acts, but of prohibiting popular ones. He brings that up as a distinction from the narcotics laws, and that’s an astute point.

              1. See my analogy to the wheel.

              2. what he highlights is not the problem of prohibiting consensual acts, but of prohibiting popular ones.

                So we need to prohibit the consensual act of drug use because of, why? If it isn’t prohibited, it might become popular?

                Isn’t that the argument?

                1. He never said “we” needed to prohibit any of these things. But isn’t it obvious that the fewer people want to do something, the less effect of and less opposition to its prohibition there will be?

                  1. isn’t it obvious that the fewer people want to do something, the less effect of and less opposition to its prohibition there will be?

                    Apparently not, since prohibition actually passed.

                    Again – if something doesn’t work, and you make a point of highlighting all of the negative unintended consequences that result, it is contradictory to suggest that the same thing continue, along with the monstrous unintended consequences, even if it affects less people.

                    1. yeah, it passed, but only after a century of activism, and didn’t last long. Contrast with narcotics.

                      And he doesn’t suggest that the same thing continue (subjunctive), but that it continues (indicative) because of that reason.

                      OK, smarty pants, why do you think narcotics prohib’n has lasted so much longer than liquor prohib’n? They started at approximately the same time.

                    2. why do you think narcotics prohib’n has lasted so much longer than liquor prohib’n? They started at approximately the same time.

                      Because it happened in several stages. First, specific drug use coincided with immigration from certain geographic regions that corresponded with cultural practices (Coca leaves, MJ, Heroin). The derision of these practices falls completely in line with Burns’ statement regarding the demonization of foreigners – but he seems oblivious to this.

                      As the use spread among the US, drug prohibition laws, working hand in hand with repressive societal practices, became another method to discriminate against minority groups – something you would think might bother Burns, or at least awaken him to the parallels he makes with respect to prohibition’s ‘grand faith’.

                      Finally, in response to the political instability of the 60’s, and against his own study regarding the legalization of MJ, Nixon formed the beginnings of what is now the codified ‘drug war’.

                      At each stage, the corruption has increased, along with the payoff for the illegality.

                      You want more? Go here

                      Same unintended consequences, same failure of reduction in use and profits. Yet, somehow, completely unrelated and, according to you, “not as big a problem”.

                    3. It would be not as big a problem as liquor prohib’n was, were narcotics prohib’n not worldwide. If liquor prohib’n had been worldwide, it would’ve been far greater yet.

                    4. It would be not as big a problem as liquor prohib’n was, were narcotics prohib’n not worldwide.

                      You have no idea what you’re talking about. You agree that drug prohibition is a large worldwide problem, but you’ve taken Burns’ side in this, and you’re going to argue that he’s correct even though you concede the very points that destroy his assertions.

                    5. I think your analysis as to the “why” is way off. The stages you describe were so far apart, they leave it necessary to explain what sustained it between the stages.

                      The reason narcotics prohib’n lasted so long is primarily that narcotics is a much smaller business than liquor, with fewer customers. Secondarily, liquor is not usually considered a drug and hence not thought to be the proper province of doctors, while narcotics are. Finally, liquor is extremely easy to make compared to narcotics, which have to come from specific plants.

                    6. “The reason narcotics prohib’n lasted so long is primarily that narcotics is a much smaller business than liquor”

                      I could be wrong, but I could swear I heard somewhere that marajuana is the largest cash crop in the US. Seems like pretty big business.

                      “Secondarily, liquor is not usually considered a drug and hence not thought to be the proper province of doctors, while narcotics are.”

                      Liquor was available with a doctor’s prescription during prohibition. Alcohol is legally defined as a drug.

                      “Finally, liquor is extremely easy to make compared to narcotics, which have to come from specific plants.”

                      Now, I’m no expert at making alcohol (although there are a few on this board), but I believe that the distilling process is a bit more complicated than growing a plant and drying it out (the marajuana making process). If I had a bit more ambition this morning I’d look up cites, but eh, I think I’ll just assume I’m right and you’re misinformed.

                    7. You can’t use the prohib’n as a price inflator to do meaningful comparisons of business sector. We know that people drink booze a lot more often and more widely than they smoke pot, so liquor is the bigger business.

                      USP alcohol is an official drug and there’s a NF rum, but other than that, alcohol is not “legally defined as a drug”. Liquor was available by prescription, but liquor was mostly thought of, and still is, as a beverage rather than a medicinal article.

                      Distilling is a bit involved, but fermentation occurs when stuff just sits around — lots of stuff, not just particular species.

                    8. I have always wondered about distillation. It takes some expertise to end up with more or less just ethanol and not enough methanol to kill you. Both are produced whenever you ferment and distill plant material. You wanted to buy your liquor from someone who knew what they were doing, which, essentially, means they knew how to eliminate the methanol.

                    9. Assuming you don’t have the apparatus to do real fractional distill’n, you do time fractionation — you throw away the first “cut”, i.e. what first comes off. Also you choose ferments that are lower in methanol to begin with. But that still leaves you a lot of material you can start with.

                    10. tell that to all the amateur chemists cooking meth right now. Unless you are being literal when you say narcotics (opiates) and then yes, they come from only one plant – poppy.

    3. What’s the contradiction? There’ve been problems that have pre-dated humanity, and they existed up to the moment they were gotten rid of, or were reduced. What about the wheel, what about sanitation, what about language?

      1. What about the wheel, what about sanitation, what about language?

        The contradiction is in viewing the use of alcohol as a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’ by others, while citing it’s use throughout history as a statement of it’s legitimacy, thereby dismissing any comparison to drug legalization.

        To use your analogy –
        The Wheel was a solution to the human desire to travel more efficiently, just as the use of alcohol is a hallmark of human society, and may well be proven to have beneficial effects on health.

        The proper analogy would be to have banned the wheel at some point, because some people were riding their chariots too fast, and then, once the ban was overturned, to deride the legalization of flight because mankind hadn’t been traveling through the air for nearly as long or as thoroughly as over the ground.

        1. Did he say he approved? He’s a historian, he’s describing what people do. Are people not always driven towards trying to make anything and everything better, whether they know how to or not? Sometimes they do make things better, sometimes worse, sometimes just different, sometimes no effect. Sometimes they try to do it by force against other people, sometimes by force against inanimate objects, oftentimes by other means entirely.

          1. no, he’s not DESCRIBING what people did, he is analyzing it and he is doing so by modern standards. It’s professional second-guessing and intellectual junk food.

          2. Weird comment squirrels – 11:01 should be to wareagle @10:58.

            Are people not always driven towards trying to make anything and everything better, whether they know how to or not?

            Not when they study what didn’t work, and make suggestions of repeating the same behavior.

            1. But how about when they don’t?

              1. By looking at prohibition?

              2. His documentary shows that ending prohibition made things better. He then states that prohibition of drug use, while admitting the same problems exist, is A-O-K.

                1. Where did he say that? Seems everyone here but me had the guy talking twice as much as he actually did.

                  What he seemed to imply is that the problems are not as bad, because not as many people want to use narcotics as want to drink liquor. Less problem doesn’t mean all OK.

                  1. No. What he said (not implied) was that there is no corollary of prohibition to the drug war, simply because not as many people use drugs (It’s a sub-culture).

                    But that’s not true.

                    The problems are worse, unless you think thousands of dead Mexicans in the past year from an out of control drug war is A-OK, along with over a million arrested in the US last year for simple possession.

                    If the threat of Mexican national instability by rogue drug cartels at our southern border doesn’t equate to the rise of the same unintended consequence of “organized crime”, then you, like Burns, simply want to ignore the scope of the problem, which is now worldwide.

                    1. What he said (not implied) was that there is no corollary of prohibition to the drug war, simply because not as many people use drugs (It’s a sub-culture).

                      No, what he said was that narcotics prohib’n wasn’t necessarily the best analog today to liquor prohib’n, for that reason. And he may be right about that.

                      The analogy to narcotics prohib’n is close in very concrete terms, but in relational terms I think there probably are policies that are closer to liquor prohib’n in that they seem to rely on a change in the character of humanity in general. I think the civil rights laws may be the closest thing we have today to liquor prohib’n.

                      There were some cx between the origins of liquor and drug policy, but also important differences that are still in play.

                    2. The analogy to narcotics prohib’n is close in very concrete terms, but in relational terms I think there probably are policies that are closer to liquor prohib’n in that they seem to rely on a change in the character of humanity in general. I think the civil rights laws may be the closest thing we have today to liquor prohib’n.

                      Weak. So it’s close, but not close? Humanity’s character is changing?

                      What?

                    3. The civil rights laws are like liquor prohib’n in that they attempt to outlaw a tendency most people have. That is, most people use one characteristic of a person or thing as an indicator of other characteristics of that person or thing — which is the basis of learning but unfortunately also prejudices. Just as most people tend to drink liquor.

                      Humanity’s character may or may not be changing, but certain things that people like to do (or tend to do whether they like to or not) can’t be altered by group will. Just like liquor prohib’n, civil rights laws are being enforced in a more draconian manner as their failure to achieve perfection becomes evident.

                    4. …in that they attempt to outlaw a tendency most people have.

                      The tendency to get high, be it from alcohol or other substances. Your (and Burns’) inability to understand what it is that people are actually doing with the alcohol and drugs exposes the flaw in your thinking. People don’t choose to drink alcohol, they choose to ingest a pleasing substance that gives them a buzz. If alcohol is plentiful, then they’ll ingest that.

                      You won’t stop them from getting high, and trying to put certain substances in a box misses the point of the unintended consequences coming from restricting consensual acts, because people want to perform the act, not choose a certain substance.

                      As for the civil rights nonsense comparison – again please notice the difference between individuals coercing others because of the color of their skin vs. individuals consuming substances of their own will.

                    5. No, people have historically overwhelmingly chosen liquor over other highs. It’s not even close, so I don’t see why you contest this. The closest competition for #2 is among articles that are smoked, and people prefer drinking far more than smoking. Inhaling smoke is hard to get used to, while babies will drink readily.

                      I wasn’t referring to coercion of people because of skin color or other characteristics when I referenced to civil rights laws. I meant the laws that say you have to do business with people you may prefer not to do business with, and then further that if there are statistical differences regarding what groups you do business with, the burden can be shifted to you to even that out even if you had no such preference to begin with.

                    6. I wasn’t referring to coercion of people because of skin color or other characteristics when I referenced to civil rights laws.

                      That’s funny, because the people writing them certainly did.

                    7. The reason the problems are worse is that narcotics prohibition became worldwide, while liquor prohib’n never affected more than a few countries at a time, and not that many countries overall. Now you see it only in some Moslem countries.

                    8. No, the reason it’s worse is that it’s gone on longer, and produced the same (but larger and more widespread) unintended consequences.

                      That is not a reason to dismiss the correlation.

                    9. Wrong. The examples you gave exist only because prohib’n exists in Mexico as well as the USA and the rest of the world.

                    10. And if prohibition were ended in Mexico and America, then the killing and corruption would drop drastically.

                      You are acceding my point: Prohibition of drugs is killing people, spreading corruption, and completely failing to reduce drug use.

                      Just like prohibition of alcohol.

                    11. I never disagreed with that point, which shows you haven’t been paying att’n.

                      Killing and corruption would drop dramatically in Mexico even if every country other than Mexico kept their laws. Mexicans re to blame for their own prohib’ns.

                    12. I never disagreed with that point,

                      Please, keep tap dancing.

                      So you never disagreed with the point that the prohibition of drugs produces the same unintended consequences as the prohibition of alcohol. Yet you agree with Burns that the two aren’t comparable because of some vague sample size.

                      At the same time Burns says that the story of prohibition “reveals so much more – this is the story of single issue political campaigns that metastasize with the most horrible unintended consequences, such as creating organized crime, which we wouldn’t have…”.

                      When confronted with a nation level destabilization caused by drug cartels in Mexico that are moving drugs into the US, you spout off nonsense about how that’s Mexico’s fault, even though the US jumped down the President of Mexico’s throat when he even mentioned the legalization of drugs as a stabilizing measure.

                    13. Robert – I think you’ve been making a distinction without a difference. Having said that, I think Burns didn’t want to talk about the WoD because he wasn’t doing a documentary on the WoD, but on Prohibition. I think he didn’t want to draw a line between them because he just wanted to keep the discussion on Prohibition.

                      And I’ll give him this credit, too – he’s a good filmmaker, and I think he’s doing more than just shilling in his interviews. I think he honestly gets wrapped up in the places and times he works on, and that passion comes through.

                    14. Well duh, like I wrote above, promoters of all kinds could take lessons from him on how to be interviewed and stay on your points. And if you mean by he’s not “just shilling” that he’s not a cynic about his own work, I agree, but that’s true of most creative types who get to work largely on what they want rather than being hired hands.

        2. He’s also completely failing to take into account the actual failure of the current drug prohibition.

          So, even using modern standards, he is missing the point.

  5. Think they’ll trying smoking next?
    Fast food?

    1. They already smoke Next, the cigarets. As to smoking fast food, that happens when they leave it in too long.

  6. This goober refuses to admit that the government is fucking us over today, but nice try Gillespie.

    1. Wasn’t it clear to you that the goober “admits” (agrees) that gov’t is fucking people over today — just as people have fucked people over at all places & times? The guy knows how to stay on point, and his point is promoting his product, not telling you what he thinks about other subjects.

      1. Right, on Burns. Stay on topic!

        1. Is that you, Current Anonopussy from the California housing thread?

          1. Current Anonopussy = shut the fuck up or whatever fake name it is using at the moment.

  7. America’s Best Idea(TM) however is the NFL RedZone Channel.

    1. 2nd best idea, Joe Pesci.

      1. satellite radio –

  8. 3rd best idea…chicken and waffles

  9. “Yep, except there probably wouldn’t be a Constitution absent that compromise.
    At the time, slavery was quite common and the anti-slavery folks didn’t have a lot of support.”

    Before the Chonys of the world misunderstand:
    Slavery was *government* function; the government ceded some of its monopoly on coercion to individuals, allowing them to use coercion to enslave others. Nothing here includes anything like a ‘free market’, as is obvious to anyone asking the slaves how they felt about it.
    Further, yes, the Constitution does evolve, fortunately in the case of slavery, to further reduce the power of the government to allow one party to enslave another.
    The Constitution is just a good start; it’s a shame it hasn’t evolved to limit government interference even more.

    1. I don’t know that I’d put it that way — the idea that all coercion originates with the govt is kind of loopy.

      I’d agree that in practice, slavery would be very difficult to maintain in a civilized society without govt assistance, in the form of fugitive slave laws and govt punishment of slave uprisings for instance. But you do have to acknowledge that slavery is older than governments.

      1. But you do have to acknowledge that slavery is older than governments.

        Indeed. Would it also be fair to say that slavery was probably the first form of governance by proxy of dominance? AKA, “Might makes right?”

        1. “Would it also be fair to say that slavery was probably the first form of governance by proxy of dominance? AKA, “Might makes right?””

          Which is, of course, the reason civilizations attempt to limit that dynamic through a government.
          The experiment in doing so is far from success.

        2. I imagine that back at the dawn of humanity there was just sort of amorphous, disorganized, ad hoc coercion that wouldn’t fit into our modern categories. Think the monkeys beating each other up over puddle access in 2001 and then just ignoring each other once the winner had quenched their thirst.

          But yeah, slavery was probably the first lasting form of coercion.

        3. I’m not sure. Marriage might’ve been the 1st.

          1. Same thing. ::rimshot::

    2. Why do you feel it necessary to fit every fact of the world into your “government is evil, and the only evil” worldview? It’s just not interesting.

  10. “I don’t know that I’d put it that way — the idea that all coercion originates with the govt is kind of loopy.”

    I didn’t say coercion “originated” with the government; it’s that we as a population grant the government a monopoly on coercion through such articles as the Constitution.
    Except in the case of slavery, and I can’t think of another.

    1. Some contracts grant essentially coercive powers to one of the parties, allowing for the taking of or at least failing to return the other party’s property on demand.

      1. “Some contracts grant essentially coercive powers to one of the parties, allowing for the taking of or at least failing to return the other party’s property on demand.”

        None do.
        They allow calling in the cops, but if you DIY, you in TROUBLE.

        1. Uh, landlords definitely don’t have to involve the authorities when they keep a security deposit, which is a coercive act. Nor does your bank have to call the police to deduct fees from your account.

          Also repo-ing a car when the owner doesn’t make payments is coercive, no?

          1. if you don’t make payments, you void your contract.

            1. I think you mean breach not void; you still owe the balance of the payments to the lender even if they repo.

              1. Enforcing breach of contract is not coercion.

                1. And here I thought it was liberals who redefined words to make their positions look better.

                  1. If you signed a contract, you voluntarily agreed to all the terms of the contract. If one of those terms is “If you don’t pay, we’ll repo your vehicle”, then repoing the vehicle due to lack of payment is not a coercive act.

                    1. That’s different from the ‘contractual’ arrangement you have with society and its laws, how? Only minor differences based on the inescapable fact that new humans are born and can’t agree for themselves whether to remain a resident or citizen.

                    2. “That’s different from the ‘contractual’ arrangement you have with society and its laws, how?”

                      Cut your welfare payments, did they, shithead?

          2. “Also repo-ing a car when the owner doesn’t make payments is coercive, no?”

            No.
            Taking possession of *your* property is not coercion.

  11. Oops, missed this:
    “But you do have to acknowledge that slavery is older than governments.”

    Absolutely. As did murder, theft, etc.
    It was precisely in the hopes of reducing those social aberrations that government was enacted.

  12. Cops are already taking blood samples
    http://rctlfy.wordpress.com/20…..sociation/

    1. I’m taking semen samples.

  13. 1) World’s Best Idea (recent) – GoreTex? bagpipe bags

    2) World’s Worst Idea (recent) – aluminum baseball bats. I mean, really, WT Fuck?

    1. Bagpipes? Aww hell no.

  14. “YOURS IS A GAME TOO, PALEACRITA”

    PAIN, I’VE GAINED A NEW HELPFUL LOVE FOR CHILDREN. IT IS THEM THAT SPRING FROM THE MINGLING OF CUM AND PUSSY-JUICE. CAN’T YOU SEE.

    DON’T SEE IT?

    REALLY?

    I’M NOT SURE WHAT THE ANSWER TO THE PAIN IS. THIS ISN’T MY GAME.

    WE’RE ALL TRYING TO SPOUT SOME COLD-BLOODED SHIT AS WE POP ONE ANOTHER IN THE ASS.

    MCDONALD’S COFFEE AND MCFLURRY MAKE FOR A DECENT LATE-NIGHT MEAL.

    MICHAEL BIEHN TAUGHT ME HOW TO LOVE. LINDA HAMILTON TAUGHT ME HOW TO LOVE.

    WE’RE ALL THERE FOR THE SAME REASON.

    GAIN MONEY; SMOKE TOBACCO.

    DEAL WITH IT.

    PALEACRITA

  15. Alcohol is just a tool of capitalists to keep the working man down.

  16. OK cool, but Ken Burns still deserves to be tarred and feathered for relying on stodgy traditionalist wanks like Wynton Marsalis for that jazz doc.

    Bitches Brew is a great album. Fuck the haters.

    1. I enjoyed the first few episodes. Somewhere around 14 hours into the movie, having spent about 5 hours each on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington with still no mention of Miles Davis, I decided it was getting tedious but I figured I needed to finish it. When they got to the last episode and starting shitting on free jazz and fusion, I got pissed. I wasted 20 hours of my life to end up hearing some boring dipshit like Branford Marsalis talking smack about Cecil Taylor. Fuck Ken Burns.

  17. Reason.tv’s worst idea? Putting Ken Burns and his awful bowlcut in a segment. He is NOT a good mouthpiece for liberty.

    1. Who said people on Reason.tv have to be mouthpieces for liberty?

  18. BEST IDEA YET TO BE EFFECTUATED: 3d Porn.

  19. It would have been nice to have burns explain in his documentary why a constitutional amendment was necessary in lieu of only a law passed by congress. There was one statement in the show about why the prohibitionists wanted an amendment, they wanted something stronger than just a law, but it didn’t really address the issue.

  20. We’ll get around to discussing the prohibition era after we’re done being the politics gestapo. I think that Ken Burns fellow might be a lefty! Let’s round him up and demand his papers.

    After all, you learn the most by refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees with you.

  21. Prohibition was a bad idea. Repealing it was a good idea. It would be difficult to argue otherwise convincingly.
    On the other hand……
    Once, when I said something to the effect of the above to my Grandfather, he said; ” You dont understand because you werent there. It was bad. Every third house all over the countryside had the dog-trot or one of the living rooms made into a makeshift bar. Drunks were everywhere and rape, robbery and murder were rampant. Families went broke. Lots of men abandoned their families. After dark you couldnt go anywhere alone. People had just had enough.”

    We were visiting his friend, a local doctor at the time. The doc went to university around the turn of the century and added in ; ” When I was in the dormitory at La. College we took turns getting firewood. We took a mule-drawn wagon down main street to the docks on the red river to buy the wood. If you went near or after dark you had to take someone with you, go down the middle of the street and keep your pistol in your hand. If you didnt some drunk would knock you in the head and take your money.”

    Prohibition was a bad idea. No doubt we have arrived at a better solution, but we should be careful about judging people from the past and the times they lived in.

    1. An interesting point Burns makes is that nearly every major interest group was in favor of prohibition for different reasons.

  22. Oh, come now, no reason to hype the importance of prohibition just because you just made a film about it. And as to our worst idea, I’d say the Civil War, which killed probably close to a million more folks than Prohibition
    was undoubtedly “our worst idea.” It’s effects lasted well over a century, while prohibition was hardly remembered
    20 years after repeal. Rik Burns is definitely one really poor historian.

  23. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

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  26. Ken Burns thinks we should examine the unintended consequences BEFORE we legalize marijuana? How about examining the unintended consequences we have NOW because of the marijuana laws of the last 50+ years, like a huge gang problem in the US and a real “drug war” in Mexico. Thanks for the look back but get with it Ken.

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