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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

The Ultimate Gateway Drug

by Carl S. Milsted, Jr.

Last fall I did a three-part series on the economics of the War on Drugs. I showed how completely outlawing hard drugs was a doomed project, but the government could beneficially prosecute hard drug abusers, forcing them into rehab and/or punishment.

It would be nice, however, if we could reduce excessive hard-drug usage preemptively, before abuse reaches levels justifying prosecution. If we could reduce the urge to do hard drugs, we could reduce hard drug use and abuse without creating a police state.

Such a project is feasible. Currently, little is being done to curb the biggest drug epidemic of all: the epidemic of soft drugs, those respectable drugs commonly ingested multiple times a day, drugs routinely pushed onto our children.

I’m referring, of course, to drug-like foods: chocolate, caffeine, sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, dyes, artificial flavors, charred meats, toasted cereals, fine ground flours, deep fried crunchies, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

If you haven’t seen Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me, rent it! The film is hilarious, profound, and surprisingly fair. It points to solutions to drug abuse, poor schools, high crime, and out-of-control medical costs.

And no, I do not endorse outlawing junk foods or suing McDonald’s. I believe in personal freedom and despise attempts at ex post facto law via litigation. (I would, however, support a reasonable tax on partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to make them comparably priced with butter and tropical oils.)

I do endorse getting the government out of the business of soft drug pushing. Public school meals should be healthy: no cakes, cookies, ice cream, tater tots, soft drinks, chocolate milk or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Serve healthy meals with low glycemic index carbs and the kids will be able to concentrate during algebra class.

We should apply the same principle to prisons, mental institutions, and public hospitals. What we spend extra on food we get back in reduced crime, drug abuse and medical bills.

Finally, the government could apply this principle to Food Stamps. Food stamps should be redeemable for unprocessed foods only: produce, meat, milk, dried beans and grains. If you don’t have a job, you have time to cook. If you want processed foods, pay for them—and the resulting medical bills—yourself.

And this is just what the government could do to fight drug abuse. We could do more as individuals, families, churches, charities and businesses. Highly processed foods are recreational drugs; treat them with respect accordingly.

This is not a call for abstention or Spartan lifestyles, however. This is a manifesto for increasing overall pleasure. Real food, lightly processed, has its own pleasures: subtle tastes, calm alertness, inner tranquility, and improved health. On top of this foundation we can derive real pleasures from moderate drug use. A single glass of wine in the evening provides a sufficient buzz if you are relaxed to start with. A single cup of coffee provides rocket power – if you have been caffeine free for several days. A couple of fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies—with real sugar, butter and vanilla—provide more pleasure than an entire bag of store bought cookies.

Optimum drug use is not abuse.

Carl Milsted is a senior editor for The Free Liberal.

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