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But What About The Children?

June 23, 2010
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Two nights ago, I actually watched Bill O’Reilly argue about the War on Drugs with Ethan Nadelmann, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance on the O’Reilly Factor.  Yes, a) I watched a cable news channel and b) I watched Bill O’Reilly.  Rush’s Ted Baxter, like his fellow Foxketeer Sean Hannity, is a Drug Warrior who is staunchly opposed to ending drug legalization even though prohibition costs truckloads of taxpayer money annually and doesn’t, you know, work.

What’s his reason?  From what I gathered watching the program, he thinks that people who use drugs are more likely to abuse children, and thus legalizing drugs would only make it easier for people to get a holt of drugs and go on abusing children.  Therefore, “society should condemn them” or something and drugs should continue to be illegal.  He based this assumption on the assessment by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that “70 percent of abused and neglected children in the USA have alcohol- or drug-involved parents”, and that’s the statistic for which no Free Drugs proponent can answer.

Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum picks apart the CASA analysis, especially its utter negligence with respect to causation and correlation:

This mushy estimate throws illegal drugs together with alcohol, conflates use (“substance involvement”) with abuse, treats a mother who drinks because she’s upset about her husband’s abuse of their children the same as an angry drunk who hits his kids, and fails to distinguish between substance abusers who abuse their children because the drugs made them do it (O’Reilly’s interpretation) and drug abusers who abuse their children because the same personality traits and environmental factors contribute to both kinds of anti-social behavior. And O’Reilly is using this number to argue that people can’t be allowed to smoke pot (by far the most popular illegal drug) because it will make them beat their children (or maybe forget to check on them in the tub).

Granted, someone who is drunk or stoned all the time is not likely to be a good parent. But since the vast majority of drinkers and drug users don’t mistreat their children, focusing on the intoxicants, rather than the reasons some people use them to excess, does not make much sense.

When O’Reilly was debating Nadelmann, O’Reilly acknowledged the overwhelming costs and ineffectiveness of drug prohibition, which basically left this questionable 70 percent stat as the only leg upon which he could stand.  When Nadelmann challenged that prohibition doesn’t prevent these alleged drug- and child-abusing parents from getting a holt of drugs, O’Reilly was forced to respond with the feeble “but it makes it easier for parents to get it” argument.  I really wish Nadelmann would have asked him whether or not he had even considered that those parents who choose to abuse drugs might just be the kind of people who would abuse and neglect their children anyway (maybe that’s why they are, you know, the kind of people that choose to abuse drugs).  Hell, maybe Nadelmann could have even asked him just whose responsibility raising those kids is — does the federal safety net really help parenting, or does it just preempt it?

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