Hunting Unicorns Part Eleventy Billion

My favorite new way of mocking libertarians is to call their fads “unicorn hunting.” It’s stupid and childish, but what the hell. I saw this being passed around by libertarian cranks on twitter and it got my attention because I’m on my way to Gloucester right now. I’m on the road as this thing gets posted – literally.

Gloucester, Massachusetts is quintessentially New England. A seacoast town that survives on its working class ethic and seasonal tourism, it has come face-to-face with an epidemic that many cities just like it increasingly contend with: death by heroin overdose. Unfortunately, Gloucester isn’t alone in dealing with a tragic increase in fatalities caused by dangerous opioids.

Data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that there were 16,235 deaths as a result of prescription opioids, and an additional 8,257 due to heroin during 2013, the last time period for which this information is available. In the same year, there were a total of 43,982 drug overdose related deaths. In Massachusetts alone, at least 1,000 people died of as a result of opioid abuse in 2014.

What sets Gloucester apart from other cities working to combat the same trend however, is its police department’s unprecedented approach to the intersection of law enforcement and drug addiction. Fed up with learning of yet another heroin overdose in his hometown this past winter, Gloucester’s police chief Leonard Campanello decided to take a new approach.

The latest bout of bad news inspired him to log in to the official Gloucester Police Department’s Facebook page and lay out a policy that has since created a ripple effect across the country. In early March, he posted the following:

“Since January of this year, we have responded to dozens of opiate related overdoses and, unfortunately, the City has seen 4 deaths in this time that are heroin related. While we have been successful in our use of nasal Narcan and have saved lives, 4 deaths is 4 too many. The dangers of heroin and opiate use are notorious. We do a lot to collaborate in awareness, prevention, and treatment and will continue to look for new ways to rid our streets of this poison.

As a police department, let me again make our policy clear:

If you are not involved in opiates or heroin, help us. Inform yourself, call us when you see activity, volunteer. You can make a difference.

If you are a user of opiates or heroin, let us help you. We know you do not want this addiction. We have resources here in the City that can and will make a difference in your life. Do not become a statistic.

If you are a dealer of heroin, opiates or any other poison…We are coming for you. We will find you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent possible. You will pay the price for making money off the misery of others. It’s not a matter of “if” we find you, it’s a matter of “when.” You’ve gotten your warning. Get out of our City.

Chief Campanello.”

Libertarians are very fond of finding examples they like from demographically exceptional areas and then pretending they can be applied to a highly diverse country of 300 million people. Gloucester Mass is a town of 30,000 that is 92% white according to the census. All the kids on the high school basketball team are white so that 92% is an estimate. The only black guy I’ve ever seen there was with me visiting friends.

Gloucester is also boxed in by the very wealthy Manchester-by-the Sea and the modestly well off Rockport. The kinds of problems these towns have with drugs can certainly be addressed with creative solutions that cost a lot of money. You have strong families, high employment and the sort of population prepared to work together to solve community problems.

West Baltimore, in contrast, is full of fatherless children, universal unemployment and the sort of population that thinks it proper to shoot a guy because he’s wearing the wrong sneakers. Telling the dealers to go to another town works in SWPL-ville. In the ghetto, the dealers order the cops around. Gloucester’s problem is a community problem. West Baltimore’s problem is a containment problem.

I think the libertarians are probably mostly right about drug prohibition. Throwing people in jail for weed is stupid, but we don’t do anywhere near as much of it as claimed. Guys in the can for weed pleaded down from bigger charges. Still, it is a waste of resources to throw potheads in jail. When you move onto things like meth and heroine, the libertarian argument starts to sound naïve.

Then there is the demographic problem. Compton California was a mess before crack cocaine. Take away the crack and those boys in the hood are not becoming stock brokers. They will find some other criminal activity. Down deep, libertarians, just like liberals, believe man is infinitely malleable. Just like liberals, no amount of contrary experience will change their minds.

12 thoughts on “Hunting Unicorns Part Eleventy Billion

  1. “Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal,” Washington Post, 6/5/2015, and many other such reports, but I guess Portugal is “demographically exceptional” to those who want to maintain drug criminality for the “bad” drugs.

    Some years ago a Canadian study also said decriminalizing heroin reduced OD deaths (don’t recall, may have been about Portugal), and a couple of news reports of OD deaths the result of friends dumping an OD’ing buddy for fear of being charged with drug crimes.

    Then we have the stories of large numbers of Vietnam Vets returning after heavy & very pure heroin usage only to kick the habit on their own.

    Kinda sounds like the Libertarians, Milton Friedman, U MI Econ Prof MJ Perry and many other non-libertarians are right about decriminalizing all drugs.

    • I find suspect all these stats on ODs and related alcohol/drug fatalities.
      I looked with some detail at one of the Canadian heroin OD studies and it was grossly manipulated. Things like studying ODs at the “approved injection site” while ignoring the increased ODs outside of that facility. Alcohol “related” accidents typically include passengers or crash victims that also had imbibed alcohol and the driver or drivers may not have had alcohol.
      But you must trust science or you are a denier.

  2. I just don’t know. Dealing with addiction is a never-ending story. There’s no easy answer and anyone who has actually dealt with an addict understands that the addiction continues until the addict hits bottom or some such, and decides they want a different kind of life. Libertarians want to hew to an Ideal Person Living in Ultimate Liberty, but to a lot of people, liberty simply means using as much drugs as possible. What do you do with a person like that? The social costs are great. Prohibition doesn’t work. Legalization brings a myriad of problems. Long story, short: no easy answers. Maybe never an answer at all.

  3. Actually, legalizing marihuana edibles is a mistake. It takes about a half hour before you come onto it. Because it’s food, people tend to eat more, because they don’t think it’s having an effect. That doesn’t happen when it’s smoked.

    And I am skeptical about those stats. WA state had a terrible rollout. They had the Liquor Control Board handle it. Voters had just gotten rid of the Liquor aboard and allowed alcohol to be sold in regular stores. Perfect folks to handle legalization, right? Some counties still don’t allow pot to be sold. It could take years to sort it out.

  4. The very idea that heroin users are jonesing to get off the drug is just ridiculous. Both science and addicts themselves have told me that heroin is is far less challenging to withdraw from than speed in any form. They use it because they love it. Charlie Parker gave up his lifelong habit when he lost his reliable dealer. In other words, he didn’t want to OD. He OD’d five years later on alcohol.

    Many people can maintain for a lifetime on heroin, as Winston Churchill or Paul Newman did on alcohol, but no one can maintain on speed.

    And if 1906 never happened, maybe the gene pool would have been shaped differently, and for the better.

  5. Public apology for the multiple posts. Seems there’s a tick in the system I don’t understand. Emailed Z-man about it. Hopefully, it won’t happen again.

  6. Also called unintended consequences, what goes around comes around, sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind….

  7. Also called unintended consequences, what goes around comes around, sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.

  8. The few I’ve known who were involved with drugs were bored. Empty. Had no inner life. No there there. They needed external stimulation like television. Mostly they just seemed to want to get out of their so-called lives. To escape into another place. Or just to numbness.

    No law enforcement agency can fix that.

  9. You may have heard that Washington State also legalized recreational marijuana, although Colorada gets the most publicity. The statistics were recently released: marijuana-related auto crash fatalities are up 50% since legalization, well-above alcohol-related. Reality bites.

    • Also called unintended consequences, what goes around comes around, sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind….

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