UPDATED! Did Libertarianism Kill Philip Seymour Hoffman? Conservative Ben Shapiro Thinks So at NRO


UPDATED (12 NOON): Scroll to bottom for reply by Ben Shapiro.

Who killed Philip Seymour Hoffman? 'Twasn't heroin, 'twas libertarianism.

So speaketh conservative writer Ben Shapiro, editor-at-large at Breitbart.com and a Harvard law grad who proudly works his association to that damnable liberal crucible into just about everything he writes. Writing at National Review Online, Shapiro argues

Philip Seymour Hoffman['s] self-inflicted death is yet another hallmark of the broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood, enabling rather than preventing the loss of some of its greatest talents. Libertarianism becomes libertinism without a cultural force pushing back against the penchant for sin; Hollywood has no such cultural force. In fact, the Hollywood demand is for more self-abasement, less spirituality, less principle, less standards.

No one knows what sort of demons plagued Seymour Hoffman. But without a sound moral structure around those in Hollywood who have every financial and talent advantage, the path to destruction is far too easy.

The whole thing here.

Shapiro's implication that libertarianism is the root cause of Hoffman's overdose isn't simply churlish and uninformed by anything resembling knowledge of Hoffman's life, thoughts, or circumstances of death (though it is that). It is plainly nonsensical.

What does libertarianism mean in this context? The freedom to walk the streets of Manhattan and buy black-market junk? A political philosophy or self-identifying phrase espoused by the likes of such Studio 54 habitues as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and, on occasion National Review's own William F. Buckley? Sure, whatever.

If Shapiro thought about it for a minute rather than calling up his outrage macro in Word, he might ask what sort of drug policy might lead to better outcomes. Generally speaking, people have enough trouble admitting substance-abuse problems without also having to admit that they are criminals too. Maybe legalizing or decriminalizing drugs would lead to an environment in which abuse would be minimized along with the ill effects of the black markets spawned by prohibition. That's something another conservative Harvard law grad, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can grant is at least worth discussing (see video below).

UPDATE! Ben Shapiro responds via email:

Enjoyed your critique…

Although I think it's a misreading of my perspective. The point I was making regarding libertarianism was not that the war on drugs is the solution to drug use (as you know, I have openly endorsed marijuana decriminalization). The point was not to blame libertarianism either. It was to blame the false libertarianism of Hollywood, which is actually libertine. Libertarianism requires personal responsibility, as well as cultural institutions dedicated to encouraging virtuous behavior. Hollywood's left requires neither, and encourages drug use in ways both open and implied.

As Jacob Sullum noted yesterday, despite all sorts of reports about heroin use "soaring," the plain fact is that it isn't, either in "Hollywood" (a state of mind that covers all of the United States, as Hoffman died in his New York City apartment) or anywhere else in the United States.

Watch Reason TV's interview with Ted Cruz on Obama and Drug Policy. More details, vids with Cruz here.