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Does Michael Gerson Think Alcohol Should Be Banned? Does He Know That Penguins Can Swim?

By Matthew Yglesias on May 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

"Does Michael Gerson Think Alcohol Should Be Banned? Does He Know That Penguins Can Swim?"

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(cc photo by jrschau)

I suppose you could talk me out of this view, but it seems to me that the costs of full heroin legalization would far exceed the benefits. There’s a lot wrong with America’s current drug policies, but it’s also good that we don’t have heroin ads on Saturday morning cartoons, there’s no Heroin Lobby on the Hill, and you can’t buy heroin at the 7-11. That all seems pretty clear cut to me. But Michael Gerson seems to want to complicate it as a religious (yet ecumenical) concern that appears to imply that beer should also be illegal:

The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean — which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions — families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations — including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.

It was just 12 years ago — though it seems like a political lifetime — that a Republican presidential candidate visited a rural drug treatment center outside Des Moines. Moved by the stories of recovering young addicts, Texas Gov. George W. Bush talked of his own struggles with alcohol. “I’m on a walk. And it’s a never-ending walk as far as I’m concerned. . . . I want you to know that your life’s walk is shared by a lot of other people, even some who wear suits.”

Is the freedom to drink wine like the freedom of fish to live on the land? It seems to me that a few Protestant sects think it is, as does Islam and the Mormon Church. But Jews and Catholics think it’s required to drink wine on some occasions. Religion, I think, is not a good guide to definitive policy conclusions and that’s especially true when you try to make it an ecumenical theocracy. Here is a fish that lives on land and here is a bird that inhabits the ocean.

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