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Feb 4, 2009 6:35 pm

My Radio Interview

I have a shameful secret to reveal. I have always wanted to be a pundit. Here is my first attempt a radio interview I did with Scott Horton on the subject of drug prohibition.

In the comments section Tony Litwinko took issue with my assertion that the drug war is an outgrowth of Progressive Era thought, writing that it ” is a logical fallacy to insist that because prohibition arose during the progressive era it was instituted by progressives. It was not, and Mr. Halderman, as an expert on the era of marijuana use should be able, more than anyone else, to insist on the distinction.

I responded with the following: The most influential drug policy organization in the 1930s was The World Narcotic Defense Association, founded and headed by Richmond P. Hobson. He had won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Spanish-Cuban-American War and parlayed that into an election to Congress from a district in Alabama. While there he authored the 18th Amendment which brought in Alcohol Prohibition, the center piece of the progressive reform movement. Hobson campaigned as a speaker for the Anti-Saloon League making arguments based on scientific grounds not religious ones. He put forth a brief for Prohibition entirely consistent with the basic premise of Progressive Era thought that social problems could be solved in a scientific efficient manner by government experts. The modern day schedule of drugs enacted in 1970 is a classic example of that theory put into practice. Government specialists on drugs decide which are the good ones and which are the bad, then they prohibit the bad ones making everything just fine, simple as that. When the American delegation went to the Hague Convention in 1912, where our government signed a treaty obligating it to create an anti-narcotics organization, the leader was Bishop Brent. Not a right wing figure but an Episcopal churchman. Some of the strongest supporters of draconian drug war measures have been liberal congressmen and Senators, from Hamilton Fish to Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. If drug prohibition is not a progressive policy, why has a congress controlled by Democrats, the presumed inheritors of the progressive legacy, not enacted a bill legalizing marijuana for George Bush to veto? I stand by my statement that drug prohibition is an artifact of the Progressive Era.

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More Comments:

Jule R. Herbert - 10/18/2007

Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, by James H. Timberlake, Havard University Press, 1963, lays out the history of the Anti-Saloon League, et al., and ties it into the progressive movement. Conclusively, I believe.

It was the Progressive Movement, which, both organizationally and ideologically, transformed the Protestant temperance committment into prohibitionism and statism.