June 14, 2001
The Great Debate
"We must also recognize
that evil can use absolute liberty. I myself would have a different point of view
with respect to the right of Socrates to drink hemlock, which
I sustain in how much and how wise it would be to permit 12-year-old
adolescents to be able to acquire alcoholic beverages."
- U.S. Ambassador
to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow
"How you, O Athenians,
have been affected
by my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that they almost made
me forget who I was, so persuasively did they speak; and yet
they have hardly uttered a word of truth
"They are headed
by Meletus, that good man and true lover of his country, as he
calls himself. Against these, too, I must try to make a defense:,
Let their affidavit be read: it contains something of this kind:
It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth;
and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other
new divinities of his own. Such is the charge; and now let us
examine the particular counts. He says that I am a doer of evil,
and corrupt the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus
is a doer of evil, in that he pretends to be in earnest when
he is only in jest, and is so eager to bring men to trial from
a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he really
never had the smallest interest..."
- Plato (quoting
Socrates at Trial)
"The Apology of Socrates"
Professors Francisco Gil-White,
Isbell and Attorney Mike McIntyre
Narco News 2001
is astonishing that the first argument
and first "fact" cited by Ambassador Davidow in his
argument against drug legalization, in his fifth paragraph, is
so completely wrong. Almost every educated person in the western
world knows that Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking
hemlock for his conviction of the crime of "corrupting the
youth" of Athens. Almost every educated person in the western
world also knows that Socrates, one of the greatest teachers
in human history, was not a corrupter of the young, but taught
the importance of using reason to challenge the prevailing myths
advanced by the state.
The Ambassador stands in the same long
line as the Athenian jury, seeking to demean, and if necessary
destroy, those who use reason to challenge the status quo falsehoods
held by the majority.
If you visualize the degree of knowledge
and concern for accuracy of someone, fifty or one hundred years
from now, who argued that in the America of 2001, a Timothy McVeigh
had a right to inject lethal drugs, you can appreciate the extent
of the Ambassador's veracity today.
One can wonder at the subconscious meaning
of Mr. Davidow's blunder. Perhaps he understands the dishonest,
"corrupt" nature of his entire argument, for he casually
links the lethal drinking of hemlock to the use of alcoholic
beverages by 12-year old adolescents. For a U.S. Ambassador,
presumably someone whose understanding of the world extends beyond
the shores of the United States to Europe, for example, to make
such a claim is laughable. Spend a week in Italy or France and
one understands how ludicrous it is to paint the acquisition
of alcohol by 12-year olds as the ultimate social nightmare of
a corrupted youth.
In almost every French and Italian home,
wine is on the table at lunch and dinner, and available to, and
offered to, adolescents. The culture teaches moderation in the
use of alcohol. Binge drinking of alcohol among teenagers and
young adults is practically unknown.
By contrast, in America today, a 21-year
old minimum age for drinking, accompanied by a zero tolerance
hysteria, threatens parents with child abuse if they offer their
adolescents wine with dinner. Indeed for an adult to offer alcohol
to person under 21 can lead to a charge of corrupting the morals
of a minor (fortunately no longer a capital offense in America).
A consequence is that alcohol consumption is learned almost
outside the cultural controls of family, moderation and responsibility.
More than one in three American high school
students, fed a propaganda diet of abstinence, engages in binge
drinking (the consumption of at least five "drinks"
at one time) every month. Prohibition-bred young Americans learn
to drink furtively, dishonestly, rapidly, excessively, without
moderation -- and with disastrous consequences in pregnancy,
sexually transmitted disease, violence and accident. American
college students are obsessed with getting drunk, and the prohibition
they have been taught is the primary reason for that obsession.
The example of other cultures makes clear that the simple availability
of alcohol is not the primary problem.
Mr. Davidow's dishonest misuse of data
in other respects does no honor to his teachers or his speechwriters.
Writing of the notorious needle park in Zurich, for example,
he dishonestly omits the rationales for both opening and closing
the needle park, and dishonestly omits the events subsequent
to that experiment. The Swiss wanted to minimize the disease
of injection drug use and street disorder of the illegal market
by experimentally centralizing the market. It was never an experiment
in legalization, for drug selling remained completely in the
hands of criminals. Simply creating a zone of tolerance of the
prohibited drug trade in a central city park was not the way
to achieve the goals, so a different experiment was attempted.
Subsequently, the national government experimented with providing
heroin inexpensively and directly to hard-core heroin users to
see if the spread of HIV declined, if employment increased, and
if criminal acts decreased among the heroin users in the program.
They found such a system of regulated distribution produced
such consequences, and are continuing the experiment. An analogy
might be to compare the prostitution zones in typical U.S. cities
-- with muggings, sordid and violent exploitation of prostitutes,
and corruption of police -- to the prostitution situation in
the State of Nevada with licensed brothels, inspection by physicians,
taxation, and without violence.
American national attitudes about alcohol,
drugs and youth have been divorced from history, science and
common sense for decades. And the decades-old pattern of American
bureaucrats uttering falsehoods in support of national policy
likewise remains unbroken.
Eric E. Sterling, Esquire
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
1225 Eye Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
that one abstract concept (evil) can
"use" another abstract concept (absolute liberty) does
not constitute a valid argument by the stretch of anyone's imagination.
Further, Ambassador Davidow fails to illustrate or support what
he means but instead leaps wildly to questioning the "right"
(?) of Socrates to drink hemlock and throws in a red herring
about 12-year-olds buying alcohol--without connecting either
of these examples to evil or absolute liberty. (Is anyone anywhere
proposing that 12-year-olds be allowed to buy alcohol? I think
Of course, as most of us learned in 7th grade history, Socrates
was forced to drink hemlock, a death sentence imposed on him
by the state to punish him for supposedly corrupting the morals
of Athenian youth. Yes, the old man could possibly have escaped
this fate because he had many friends willing to smuggle him
out of Athens. But he would have been exiled, never able to return
home, a fate worse than death for most old people. To characterize
this dilemma as the "right" of Socrates to drink hemlock
is as specious as saying we are "bothered" by the problem
of "confronting" narco-traffickers.
- Lyn Isbell
Professor (ret.) of English and Logical Debate
need not dwell too long on other sections
of Ambassador Davidow's speech, for this priceless nugget contains
everything that matters in terms of his political philosophy
and its application to policy. Let us ask: would Abassador Davidow
favor regulation of the access that 12 year-olds have to fat
and sugar? Would he endorse laws criminalizing the sale of sweets
and junk-food to minors? Would he like to see sugar become a
controlled substance? The answer must be yes, because fat and
sugar, as the epidemic of obesity seizing America clearly shows,
are poisonous in the quantities currently consumed, and they
are having negative health effects of historic proportions. And
they can be addictive. If Mr. Davidow believes in the abstract
principles he defends, he will naturally follow them to this
obvious policy conclusion. But if he were to say that regulating
access to fat and sugar is a ridiculous idea, then he himself
must intuit a fundamental problem with the principles he advances.
They bear some examination.
Assistant Professor, Psychology
University of Pennsylvania
Mike McIntyre Responds:
Davidow, or whoever wrote his speech,
seems to have forgotten the story of the "trial" of
The poison Mr. Davidow suggests that Socrates
exercised a "right" toward, was actually the sentence
conferred upon him, by his government.
Socrates had been accused, by the authorities
of "corrupting the youth."
No doubt he "committed" the
equivalent, of explaining the benefits of marijuana, to an assembly
of school children, in the present-day United States.
The only option Socrates had, was to permit
his followers to take up arms against the government, in his
defense. But, like Jesus over a thousand years later, Socrates
refused to allow his followers revolt against the government
and accepted their punishment; however unjustified.
Does Mr. Davidow suggest that Jesus exercised
his "right" to climb up on the cross?
Perhaps the author was gambling that no
one in Mexico is familiar with the writings of Plato.
Alcohol has been legal in the U.S. for
quite a while and I have yet to hear someone lobby, that we should
allow children access.
I would imagine that long years of government
service, not unlike prison, might give someone a rather dim view
of human nature. He surely knows his sons better than I, and
perhaps since alcohol is legally available, they may have already
raced out and became alcoholics.
The simple fact is, his sons could have
become addicts already, if they so chose.
I have more faith in my children, and
the children of most other people.
I am more concerned that one of them might
"sell, furnish, or give away" a bag of pot to a friend/government
informant, and be imprisoned for a long mandatory sentence in
Like alcohol prohibition in the U.S. proved,
that they are illegal, does in fact cause far greater evil in
a society, than the substance alone.
Gang warfare over turf and profits, countless
murders, poison product, corrupt officials, diminishing civil
rights, wasted resources, a police state for our own "protection"
and all the rest pertaining to alcohol, just disappeared with
the repeal of Prohibition.
Today we have many drinkers, with relatively
few alcoholics and drunk drivers. Most people take the drug responsibly
and cause no harm, except to themselves. And as we well know,
alcohol is by far one of the most dangerous of the recreational
drugs,..... just not when compared to it's prohibition.
- Mike McIntyre
More from Plato
Trial of Socrates:
Publisher's Note: In the words of that great North
American philosopher Yogi Berra, "It's déjà
vu all over again!" It seems that this debate has been
held before. And it's uncanny how the disingenuous perpetrators
of State-sponsored falsehoods give themselves away. In this case,
Davidow, invoking the name of Socrates in gross error (Ambassador-as-product
of the North American school system?), while repeating, almost
identically, the long-discredited argument of Meletus, the accuser
Davidow is our modern-day
And Narco News, like Plato,
now records his words that shall live in infamy.
The following account
by Plato of the trial of his teacher Socrates, and the master's
courtroom debate with the nefarious Meletus, serves as a disturbing
reminder of the cruelty of power
Socrates: Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question
of you. You think a great deal about the improvement of youth?
Yes, I do.
Socrates: Tell the judges, then, who is their improver;
for you must know, as you have taken the pains to discover their
corrupter, and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak,
then, and tell the judges who their improver is; Observe, Meletus,
that you are silent, and have nothing to say. But is not this
rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of what I was
saying, that you have no interest in the matter? Speak up, friend,
and tell us who their improver is.
Socrates: But that, my good sir, is not my meaning. I want
to know who the person is, who, in the first place, knows the
The judges, Socrates, who are present in court.
Socrates: What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are
able to instruct and improve youth?
Certainly they are.
Socrates: What, all of them, or some only and not others?
All of them.
Socrates: By the goddess Hera, that is good news! There
are plenty of improvers, then. And what do you say of the audience,
do they improve them?
Yes, they do.
Socrates: And the senators?
Yes, the senators improve them.
Socrates: But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt
them?, or do they too improve them?
They improve them.
Socrates: Then every Athenian improves and elevates them;
all with the exception of myself; and I alone am their corrupter?
is that what you affirm?
That is what I stoutly affirm.
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