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Psychedelics and Social Policy

  Why LSD Should Be Legalized

    E. J. Mishan

        Chapter 5 of Pornography, Psychedelics & Technology, Essays on the Limits to Freedom
        by E. J. Mishan. London: George Allen & Unwin, ©1980 E.J. Mishan

[Note: The first section of this essay, "Psychedelic Drugs and Their Properties", is somewhat outdated and contains a few minor inaccuracies. More complete information on this topic is available in other documents available in The Psychedelic Library. It is included here for purposes of continuity with the more important sections that follow.]

Psychedelic Drugs and Their Properties

    I use the term 'psychedelic drugs' to classify those which have the ability to produce alterations in perception and consciousness without also producing disorientation. The most familiar of these drugs are three well-known hallucinogenic drugs: LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), mescalin and psilocybin. No deaths from direct toxicity of these drugs have been reported. They are believed to be nonaddictive, and to that extent at least it is arguable that a general case for their legalisation is stronger than a case for such addictive drugs as heroin and other opium-based drugs, cocaine or the more recently produced synthetic, methadone. LSD was originally extracted from ergot (a fungus of rye or wheat) and was first produced in Switzerland as a synthetic in 1938. In its pure form it is a crystalline solid. Mescalin in its pure form is the main psychoactive ingredient of the peyote 'button'—the dried crown of the spineless cactus peyote, found in Mexico and western parts of North America.[1] Like LSD, mescalin today can be manufactured synthetically, but it is incomparably more costly to do so. Psilocybin is the effective ingredient of psilocybic mushrooms, affectionately known as 'magic mushrooms', of which there is a large variety growing wild in many parts of the world.[2] Mushroom gatherers are expected to be fairly knowledgeable about local varieties, however, or to carry with them a reliable manual, as many species are also poisonous.
    A 'normal' dose of any of these drugs produces in the subject an abnormal state of mind over a period of a few hours—a state referred to by aficionados as 'a trip'. An LSD or mescalin trip lasts for about six to ten hours, although in some circumstances it can last for considerably longer. A psilocybic trip, reputed to be more visual than the LSD or mescalin trip, is somewhat mellower and usually lasts for about three to six hours. Provided that they are taken orally, which is usual, each of these drugs takes effect within about a half-hour to an hour. The intensity of the reaction reaches a peak in about an hour or so from its taking effect; it maintains its potency for a period of one to three hours and gradually, very gradually, wears off.
    Where these psychedelic drugs are taken in their natural form, as they were originally and still are in many areas of the world, there can be little cause for anxiety. Morning glory seeds contain lysergic acid amide—an alkaloid derivative, which is very similar to, and about one-tenth as potent as, LSD. South American Indians have long been aware of the morning glory's special powers, and the seeds were used extensively by these civilisations several hundred years ago. Peyote buttons were used as an hallucinogenic sacrament by Mexican Indians long before Europeans arrived there. During the time of the Spanish conquest, worship of the gods through ritual consumption of this plant was widely practiced by the Aztecs and other Indian communities, who also used it for healing purposes and for foretelling the future. Similarly, psilocybic mushrooms were also used by the Aztecs for centuries and in religious rites 3,000 years ago by a number of Central American Indian tribes.[3]
    Anything from three to six buttons of the peyote plant is a normal dose for an adult, although in their ceremonies American Indians are said to eat up to thirty at a time. They are far from palatable, however, and can induce nausea and vomiting, which fact makes them safe to leave about in the presence of infants. As for psilocybic mushrooms, an average dose ranges from 1 to 5 grams dry weight or from 10 to 50 grams fresh, that is, anything between one and twenty mushrooms, depending upon the variety and size. Like the peyote buttons, the psilocybic mushrooms are simply chewed and swallowed, preferably on an empty stomach, although it is also common to make a brew out of them, which can then be sweetened to combat their bitter and acrid taste.
    The individual's reaction depends upon his age, weight and physical and mental condition, also upon his personality, mood, expectations and prior knowledge of the drug and upon the environment in which it is taken. If, say, a manic depressive takes the drug, especially in a tense or uncongenial situation, he is not likely to have a pleasant trip. A healthy person taking the same drug in familiar surroundings, initially perhaps with friends and, say, with soft music playing, is very likely to have an enjoyable experience.[4] However, if the normal dose is exceeded by a significant amount, the sensations are more likely to become nightmarish, at least for those with little experience of the drug in question. The prevalent belief, however, is that there is no critical dose beyond which any of these drugs, acting directly on the body, is fatal.[5]
    The economics of their production makes LSD by far the most commonly used of the hallucinogens. Of the 'mescalin' and 'psilocybin' sold on the streets, only about one in fifty samples of the stuff submitted to street drug laboratories turns out to be authentic. Most of this ersatz mescalin and psilocybin is really LSD or a mixture of LSD and PCP (phenocyclidine, an animal tranquilliser),[6] although sometimes it is a mixture of LSD and amphetamine. Even the magic mushrooms sold on the streets are far more likely to be ordinary mushrooms topped with a dose of LSD, for, as measured by psychoreactive effect, LSD is far and away the cheapest hallucinogen that is producible.
    LSD, which is today almost always synthetic, comes in a variety of forms. When used in psychoanalytic treatment it is usually diluted with water. In the forms made available by the black market it is mixed with inert matter as a filler and occasionally adulterated ('cut') with other drugs. Because it is so cheap to produce, however, the chances are that LSD sold on the street is wholly or almost wholly LSD, although sometimes it turns out to be aspirin or some other useless substance. Unless it is secured in a form that separates the doses—such as a strip of plastic-seeming material divided into equal squares, or as a 'microdot' or 'polka-dot' on paper, or as separate pieces of 'window pane' (small squares of gelatin sheet) or 'blotter' (small squares of paper)—it is easy to take an overdose. After all, a normal adult dose of LSD averages between 50 and 200 micrograms (200 micrograms being one-five-thousandth part of a gram), which is minuscule. Thus, a teaspoonful of LSD is enough drug for between 50,000 strong trips and 200,000 weak trips. It is obvious, then, that very many times a normal dose can be put into a small cube of sugar. Since from time to time accounts of the adverse psychological effects produced by accidental overdoses of LSD are played up by the media, [7] it is unnecessary to expatiate on the possible dangers of misusing the drug. It is, however, reasonable to maintain that it is the act of illegalization itself that should be held responsible for the 'bad trips' resulting from too high a dosage or for the occasional ingestion of such poisonous or dangerous matter as PCP. Were these drugs legalized, the consumer could both ascertain the purity of the product and buy it in a more convenient form. LSD, for instance, could be so diluted with water that a half-tumblerful or more of liquid would have to be taken in order to consume 100 micrograms of it. In order to reduce further the risk of small children's mistaking it for water, a bitter flavour could be imparted to the mixture.
    There are a number of pretty obvious reasons why the psychedelic cult is less popular than that of cannabis ('pot'). Compared with pot hallucinogens are less available, costlier and harder to identify and generally carry far harsher penalties on discovery. No less important is the fact that, compared with a pot trip, an hallucinogenic trip can be quite exhausting, and it is certainly far more time consuming. In addition, it is easier, especially for a beginner, to have a bad trip by taking too large a dose of LSD than it is to have a bad trip with pot. Finally, while the traffic in these drugs remains illegal, it is virtually impossible for the layman to assess the quality of the psychedelic drug and, in the case of LSD, to determine the dosage without actually consuming it in the form offered and taking his chance.
    Whereas it is commonly conjectured that at least half of the US population between the ages of 15 and 50 have at some time in their lives taken pot, and whereas estimates of those smoking regularly vary between 13 million and 30 million, the figures for the consumers of psychedelic drugs, although uncertain, are not likely to be more than a fraction of such numbers. The Sunday Times[8] has quoted the findings of a 1973 survey, which concluded that about 600,000 persons in Britain had taken LSD at least once. On this basis a comparable figure for the United States would be about 3 million. Since they do these things so much better in the United States than in Britain, however, this 3 million figure should be regarded as extremely conservative, and in any case it would apply to LSD alone.
    In the 1950s and 1960s LSD came into prominence as an aid in psychoanalysis and in therapy for alcoholism, for drug addiction and for depression in terminal cancer patients—indeed, for a range of mental disorders also. Although it showed promise in some clinical applications, research was curtailed by legislation when LSD became popular (about the mid 1960s) as a recreational drug. Hence, the therapeutic effects of LSD are still largely unknown. On the other hand, a word or two about the possible ill effects of the drug would be useful, if only to correct the popular misconceptions resulting from the carefree extravagances of press reports. As observed in the short monograph Chemical Survival put out by the Institute of Chemical Survival, which is possibly the largest research organization of this kind in the world: 'The amount of misinformation on the illegal drugs is overwhelming.' With few exceptions the popular press provides accounts calculated to scare the public. We have all heard somewhere about the person who took LSD, thought he had wings and jumped out of a window to his death. It could have happened; but then, thousands each year fare no better under the influence of other drugs, above all alcohol. Of all drug overdoses, 50-60 per cent involve alcohol, and it is responsible for about half of the fatalities in automobile accidents.
    The plain fact is that the statistical evidence of the long-term effects of these three hallucinogens on body and mental health is too slight to warrant generalization, and what there is does not support the view that they are in any way adverse. [9] As distinct from narcotics, they are not addictive. No one has alleged, either, that hallucinogens can be significantly associated with physical defects.
    Indeed, in the June 1973 issue of California Medicine the Californian Medical Association listed eleven drugs in order of their deleterious effects on human organs. The worst in this respect was alcohol, which can boast 10 million addicts in the United States, followed by tobacco, amphetamines, solvents, barbiturates, heroin and other narcotics, cocaine, hallucinogens, hashish, marijuana and caffeine, in that order.[10] Despite the panic in the late 1960s about possible damage to chromosomes, the fear that LSD can produce mutagenic effects has proved groundless. [11] In sum, there is apparently no hard evidence to bear out the view that, when taken in moderate doses by people without severe personality problems, it has any long-term ill effect on the mind or body. [12] True, so long as LSD remains illegal there is always the possible danger of a beginner's unwittingly taking a large dose of it and becoming terrified by the nightmare sensations, but it must not be supposed that the effect of the drug increases in proportion to the dose and that I gram of L SD has 10,000 times as intense an effect as 100 micrograms, which is a light dose. No matter how much LSD is taken, the body cannot apparently absorb more than about 500 micrograms, which for some people is not too heavy a dose.
    The hallucinogenic experience can be clinically described as follows: 'Common initial reactions include muscular relaxation and dilation of the pupils, and distortions of space and time perceptions may occur. If the dose is large enough, effects can include visual and auditory distortions and hallucinations.' Such descriptions are sometimes amplified to include 'sensations of weightlessness, depersonalization, unprovoked emotional discharges and introspective experiences' .
    However, such clinical descriptions fall far short of conveying an impression of the psychedelic experience to a person who has not taken any of the hallucinogens. For more personal and colourful descriptions the reader can turn to a number of popular accounts, among which the best known are those of Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary and, more recently and in more narrative didactive strain, the volumes written by Carlos Castaneda. [13] Obviously, elements of interpretation and personal faith enter heavily into such writings; but then, the personal details of what is usually an intense experience are difficult to describe objectively.
    Generalizing, as I intend, from the impressions of a sample of eleven Californians interviewed during the autumn of 1977 (of which five were students, the remainder being professional men and women) [14] supported by casual conversations with about a dozen students in Florida during the spring of 1978, may be suspect. It can hardly be a random sample, and the experiences related varied between these people and, for the same person, between one trip and another. Nevertheless, the informal account below accords broadly with the more formal descriptions of the psychedelic experience found in the professional journals. It will therefore serve to convey to the uninitiated reader some idea of the range and nature of the feelings that the interviewees experienced while under the influence of these three hallucinogens. Some of their impressions are summarised below; others that are particularly relevant to the fourth section, 'The Character of Society', are reserved for later.
    First, I shall make a number of points in order to correct popular misapprehensions:
    (1) Although there is a sense of melting or dissolving when small doses are taken, there is no smooth euphoric sensation. Indeed, for normal or strong doses a person can have quite tense or 'gritty' feelings, especially around the peak of the experience. (2) It is possible to take small doses and trip 'lightly' for a few successive days without getting tired. However, tolerance builds up quickly, and after the third day or so the dose has to be increased to obtain the same effect. (This tolerance disappears, however, soon after the person stops taking the drug.) (3) The more philosophic and mystical reflections tend to come well after the peak, when the subject is in a calmer state of mind.
    There was general agreement in the group that, in going into the trip, the environment initially takes on an echoey quality and that the world becomes more vivid and vibrant. If the dose is large, space appears warped and perhaps wavy, as it may be seen through moving water or through a prism, and the shape of quite ordinary objects can be invested with the greatest curiosity and anticipation. Sometimes time passes unnoticed or seems to be suspended. There can be surges of primitive or bacchanalian feelings and often, in the later phases, mystical feelings.
    Some of the group spoke of an occasional pang of impatience as their thoughts turned inwards and as they became aware of their follies and rationalizations, and they were afflicted by a sorrowful desire to strip off accumulated layers of self-deception in order to feel clean and to lay bare some essential truth. This is not surprising, for it is common knowledge among those who study the drugs that subjects tend to feel that their minds have been opened by the psychedelic experience to great truths, although by the time the effects have worn off these great truths do not seem quite so mind boggling as they did at the peak of the experience.
    Although a few in the group asserted that in fact they never experienced any actual hallucination—that is to say, they did not have visions or hear voices—they agreed that their powers of imagery and association were singularly enhanced. Sometimes long-forgotten incidents, which could be deeply moving or seemingly inconsequential, would come bubbling into consciousness.
    The alleged 'mind-expanding' effect of these drugs is clearly not intellectual or analytic. Under the drug a person can be borne along by a tumultuous medley of associations and emotions and may inadvertently surrender to impulses of overpowering sorrow, yearning, fear, joy or love. On occasion a person might scribble feverishly, in rather disjointed calligraphy, in an attempt to record the ebullition of fantasy and emotion.
    To the psychoanalyst administering the drug it appears as though the portals of the unconscious are sliding open and the patient in consequence acquires a depth of awareness and an agility of association beyond his powers in the normal state. True, opinions on the efficacy of the psychoanalytic method are still divided. Yet, the claims made for its efficacy in helping some patients to resolve their personality problems cannot be entirely discounted.
    After my taking the liberty of interpreting the experience of others it seems proper to offer the reader a brief but 'more structured' account of the matter. I shall end this section, then, by quoting from pages 7-8 of J. Axton's monograph A Conscientious Guide to Hallucinogens, in which he follows Debold's scheme [15] in distinguishing five types of hallucinogenic experience:
A psychotic experience is described as being characterized by panic, paranoid distrust, confusion, isolation and/or extreme depression. The term is . . . usually reserved for trips that get dangerously out of control.
  In a psychodynamic experience, sub-conscious material is brought to the surface. This is the type of experience usually sought when hallucinogens are used in therapy.
  A cognitive experience is characterized by what appears to be astonishingly lucid thought. Subjectively, the mind seems able to see things from new perspectives, and to see interrelationships or many levels or dimensions of thought simultaneously. It is questionable whether this insight is real or only seems so.
  An aesthetic experience is described as one in which the sensory aspects of the experience dominate. The psychedelic drugs' effects on perception and sensation are perhaps the most publicized aspects of their actions... Fascinating changes in perception and sensation do often occur, but the degree of frequency of such changes may be somewhat exaggerated.
  A mystical experience is sometimes compared to the states sought in Transcendental Meditation, Zen, and other religious disciplines, although many people (especially practitioners of religious disciplines) feel that the hallucinogenic experience is a poor substitute. The experience is described principally as a 'loss of ego' or a loss of sense of self, so that the concept of 'I' loses its meaning a feeling of 'all is one'. This feeling is often accompanied by overwhelming joy from what is felt to be deep, religious, often irrational or paradoxical insight into the nature of the universe.
  A psychedelic experience, of course, rarely fits neatly into any of these categories. It is more likely to include aspects of all five. Exactly which aspects depends again upon the dosage and the individual user. A few effects, like intensified emotion, some visual distortion, and a degree of depersonalization are reported with most psychedelic experience. That the specific type of experience often seems so clear-cut may be the result of the drug's tendencies to produce a sort of mental tunnel vision—all types may result from bio-chemical actions, but whichever aspect of the experience may attract or captivate the mind is the one that predominates at any particular time.


Social and Economic Considerations

    The most paternalistic bureaucrat would hesitate to interfere with the customary use of hallucinogenic drugs wherever they have a part to play within a traditional culture, as they do, for instance, in the religious ceremonies of various Indian communities in the Americas. In such a context the hallucinogenic drugs are organic and are taken in the form of cactus buttons, or mushrooms or brews made therefrom. Because the consumption of the drugs is part of a collective ritual experience, the amounts taken, the age of the participants and the ritual occasions are all subject to strict regulations.
    The situation is quite otherwise in a non-traditional society, especially an increasingly permissive society—one in which, moreover, though probably as a direct consequence of the legal ban on their sale, hallucinogens are more commonly synthetic, easier to adulterate and more difficult to identify and measure. The questions to be examined are: (1) whether the commonly voiced apprehensions about the use of these drugs are warranted; and (2) how much weight should be attached to the risks involved in their use in a social decision to control them. I shall consider in turn the libertarian and conservative responses to the question.

    The somewhat facile libertarian dictum that a man should be free to act as he wishes, provided that his actions do not interfere with the freedom of others, takes us at once to the heart of the matter. As the libertarian sees it, the sort of personal freedom that should be sanctioned by the dictum would include the individual's choice of food, drink and clothing (provided that it does not offend the accepted canons of decency). It would include his choice of religious and political affiliation and his freedom to join any group, club or association (provided that its aims are not constitutionally subversive). It would also include the right to travel where he pleases, to divert himself at any place of entertainment, to undertake any lawful enterprise and to voice any opinion (provided that his language is not libelous, blasphemous or scurrilous).[16] The consistent libertarian cannot, then, deny a man the right to engage in any activity that may endanger his own health and, as a corollary, therefore, to consume any drug that he pleases entirely at his own risk.
    The proviso about the effect of man's action upon others is, of course, crucial, and it is not necessary to establish a direct causal link at the individual level between the use of a good by one person and the adverse effects on others in order to persuade the good libertarian to qualify the individual's freedom to produce it or use it. For instance, if there is clear evidence that the production or consumption of the item entails a high likelihood of harm to others, controls on its manufacture or use may have to be contemplated.[17] However, no one has seriously claimed that the consumption of psychedelic drugs creates significant 'spillover effects', to use the economic jargon. Certainly, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is far more productive of violence towards others than the consumption of any of the psychedelic drugs in question. What is more, since the drinking of liquor is also a social activity, frequently engaged in at other people's homes or at pubs—in contrast to the taking of hallucinogens, which in the main is an intensely private experience—the incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol is likely to be incomparably higher than that of driving under the influence of an hallucinogenic drug.
    In general, however, the undeniable proposition that some people might abuse a liberty by acting irresponsibly cannot of itself constitute an exception to the libertarian presumption in favour of individual freedom. For there is scarcely a human activity that does not carry this sort of risk. The only deterrent to the possibility of irresponsible action countenanced by the libertarian is that sanctioned by the common law, under which a man can be charged only with willful attempts to hurt others or for attempts to do so under the influence of liquor or other drugs he willfully chooses to consume. [18]
    The term 'victimless crime' is an apt one used by libertarians to describe those activities which, giving satisfaction to one or more persons without inflicting any hardship on third parties, have nonetheless been made legal offences by the state for the greater good of society. Until recently physical intimacies between consenting adult homosexuals were such a crime. For that matter, incest between consenting adults is still a victimless crime (if we ignore the possible genetic consequences)—a fact that serves to remind us that not all seemingly victimless crimes are without significant effects on society at large—a subject we turn to in the following section.
    Confining ourselves to psychedelic drugs, the libertarian will always concede the right of the citizen to have access to all the available information. With the usual provision about safeguards for minors, the decision whether or not to take his chances with them should be left to his discretion alone. Although, to repeat, legislation designed to promote or require the dilution of such concentrated synthetics as LSD (so that, say, a tumblerful or so would amount to about an average dose) and to list any other ingredients would go far to make the occasional massive overdose—of which so much is made by the press—virtually impossible, any group or agency, either private or public, should be free to engage in research on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs and on improving them in various ways and to disseminate its findings to the public. And although some liberal thinkers might wish to intercede also for the right to advertise these drugs, I myself would not favour commercial advertising of drugs any more than I would favour commercial advertising generally.[19]
    Before moving on, however, there are three considerations that the libertarian case for legalising hallucinogenic drugs cannot evade. The first turns on pragmatic and economic factors; the other two arise respectively from the existence of the family and of the welfare state.

    With respect to the first consideration, the libertarian, especially in the United States, has voiced his opposition to the frequent withdrawal by government agencies of drugs and food additives from the market. He has affirmed his belief that, no matter how suspect the drug might be or how dangerous to health it is believed to be, there is no prima facie case for depriving people of the choice of risk taking. There is a case, he says, only for making information accessible, even when the information that is currently available is slight and uncertain, since the individual has a right to be treated as a responsible person. Admittedly, not all adults can be counted upon to act responsibly all the time, nor do they invariably know their own interests best. But, so the argument goes, the manifest solicitude of the welfare state to protect the citizen from his own follies ought to be strenuously resisted. According to the libertarian, it is better to act on the assumption that each person knows his own interest best than to act on any other principle.
    Nevertheless, living as we do during a period of rapid innovation, when each year hundreds of new chemical drugs, additives, synthetics, fertilizers, pesticides and accessories appear on the market, the difficulty even for an alert and energetic public of obtaining information about the short and long run consequences of each of the many new items can hardly be exaggerated.
    More often than not, by the time some of the longer run consequences of a particular item have come to light and it is regarded by some specialists as either suspect or pernicious, strong commercial scientific and bureaucratic interests have come into being. Much the same hapless pattern of events occurs with respect to a diversity of modern production processes, projects or consumer gadgets; by the time the scale of production or use has reached a stage at which the adverse consequences are widespread and have become a major nuisance, conflicts have already built up between, on the one hand, the immediate interests of producers and consumers and, on the other, the victims of the side effects of the items in question. These repeated examples of social folly are, of course, the unavoidable outcome of that presumption in favour of scientific and industrial progress—a heritage of the last 200 years—operating in an age still intoxicated by the pace of change and blinded by visions of goodies yet to come. This presumption is sustained today by a faith that the dangers and damage resulting from the applications of science will themselves be remedied by further applications of science—hopefully in time, and assuming that the damage is not irreversible.
    So long as this implicit presumption in favour of change continues to guide our destinies, things get done that, had they been deliberated and investigated at leisure prior to commitment, might with great advantage have been left undone. If, for instance, the debate on the future alternative sources of energy had taken place in Britain prior to the building of nuclear reactors and prior, therefore, to the virtual commitment of the Establishment, including that of large numbers of top British scientists and engineers, such a debate would have been more searching, more balanced and more fruitful. However, pressing on, as we do, in feverish haste we continue to create ever more social conflicts and ever greater hazards, which. as I have indicated elsewhere, [20] entail increased government control and increased government power over the citizen.
    Under these improvident conditions the unyielding libertarian might still insist that each person be allowed to buy any product or service on the free market entirely at his own risk, guided only by the existing information—which term would include the possible absence of any dependable information and even the presence of what transpired to be misleading information or misinformation. However, if this policy were adopted for, say, food additives and drugs, the consequences should give us pause. The sudden discovery by a government agency or by an independent group that a food additive or drug currently in common use carried a high carcinogenic or mutagenic risk would call for an immediate decision by all concerned. And it is by no means certain that a predominantly libertarian public would disapprove of an immediate ban on the sale of the item in question, at least for the time being. The alternative course of disseminating this crucial information by all available means could not be accomplished overnight. By the time the news of this discovery had filtered down to all segments of the population some additional and irreversible damage would have been done that could have been avoided by imposing, instead, an immediate ban on the sale of the item.
    The familiar psychedelic drugs, however, do not fall within this category of new chemicals or additives coming on to the market each year. Although, in view of their illegality, they are not as familiar in the West today as liquor and tobacco products, information about them is readily available for the interested layman.[21]
    Moreover, not only has their ritual consumption been a feature of other civilizations, but in addition they have been in use throughout the modern world long enough for both the medical profession and the interested public to appreciate that there are no clearly discernible adverse affects on the health of normal persons—provided, always that they are not taken in immoderate doses. Yet, even if it were established beyond reasonable doubt that regular recourse to hallucinogens could have effects on health that were as bad as, or worse than, those of regular recourse to alcohol, there would now be time enough, prior to permissive legislation, to acquaint the public at large with everything known—and, of course, everything not yet known—about them, so enabling each person to use his own discretion in the matter.
    The other two considerations arise because of the penumbra of uncertainty about the kind of effects on others that are to count in the libertarian scheme of things. The first consideration, which follows at once, bears on the nature and incidence of third-party effects, whereas the second addresses itself to institutional complexities.
    Broadly speaking, these incidental third-party or 'spillover' effects are of two kinds. On the one hand, there are those direct and tangible effects of, say, person A on other people, such as his disturbing the peace of a quiet village by shooting birds in the surrounding woods. On the other, there are the indirect or reactive effects of person A's actions on others, such as the indignation of the village elders on learning that Mr. A has taken to reading prurient novels. The libertarian regards the incidence only of the former (the direct effects on others) as pertinent in any case to be made against the unchecked liberty of the action of the citizen, never the latter (the reactive effects on others).
    These direct effects themselves, however, can be split into four categories, each of which could elicit a distinct response from the libertarian:

  (1) those arising from the use of items specifically designed to injure others;
  (2) those arising from the use of goods designed for peaceful pursuits, the legitimate production or use of which nonetheless inflicts tangible damage on the health or amenity of others damage that it is costly for the victim to avoid;
  (3) those arising from the use of items, such as drugs, that induce an abnormal state of mind under which a person is more likely to injure another than he would be in a normal state; and
  (4) those arising from the use of items that neither affect the health or amenity of others nor induce an abnormal state of mind in the user, but can yet be put to mischief.

    The libertarian position, as I interpret it, would be to impose strict controls on the purchases of items in the first (1) category. The second (2) category corresponds with the economist's definition of 'spillovers' or side effects. And current notions of economic efficiency tend to prescribe some reduction of the peccant activity, always provided that information and administrative costs are not too high. However, in so far as the libertarian would repudiate the idea of extending opportunities for gain or pleasure to some groups at the cost of suffering by innocent parties, the economist's 'optimal' solutions might also be repudiated. A case for controls in the name of justice may have a stronger appeal than a case in terms of economic efficiency alone.
    The fourth (4) category of effects poses no problem for the libertarian. If a grown man wishes to risk his neck climbing the Alps or swimming in a stormy sea, this is his own business. Nor would the libertarian agree to any controls on the sale of kitchen knives, chisels, hammers, pokers or any of a large number of utensils that can easily be and sometimes are used to maim or murder another person. Everyday life would be intolerable, or perhaps impossible, if the sale of every object or substance that could conceivably be used, either accidentally or deliberately, to injure another were to be banned or controlled. In connection with this fourth category, then, it is not only the libertarian who would accept the principle that adults should be treated as responsible beings, even though, in the event, a number of them are sure to behave in an irresponsible and sometimes criminal manner.
    The interesting category is, of course, the third (3), which includes drugs that induce abnormal states of mind under which a person is more likely to injure others than he would in a normal state. This is where the libertarian nails his colours to the mast. As distinct from the paternalistic view, the mere fact that the consumer of the drug incurs a risk to his own health does not of itself constitute a reason for banning it or controlling its sale. Nor does the fact alone that, in taking the drug, some risk to the safety of others cannot be wholly avoided. After all, as just indicated in connection with the fourth category, some risk of danger to others is incurred in making available to the consumer any number of quite innocent household goods.
    Unavoidably, then, the critical determinant is the degree of incidence or likelihood of injury to innocent parties. The libertarian distinguishes himself in requiring that, in any allegation of high or intolerable risk, the burden of proof be placed on those who favour controls. Apparently, the incidence of injury to others resulting from the sale of alcoholic drinks to the public is regarded by society as a tolerable price to pay for the right of a person to buy them freely on the market. There is, of course, no reason to suppose that the existing degree of risk associated with the consumption of alcohol is the critical norm. If the trend over the next few years were to reveal some increase in violence while under the influence of alcohol, it is doubtful whether its sale would be made illegal. Be that as it may, my contention is that the incidence of injury to others resulting from the legalized sale of hallucinogenic drugs is likely to be far lower than that arising from the sale of alcoholic drinks. But whether or not I can persuade my fellow citizens of this contention of mine, no libertarian society should contemplate banning the sale of these hallucinogens unless the evidence had established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the incidence of injury to others resulting from their consumption was significantly higher than that resulting from, say, the consumption of alcohol.

    We turn now to the second consideration: the obstacles to clear thinking on this and related issues arising from the role of the family and the rise of the welfare state respectively.
    Should a man choose to drink so heartily of alcoholic beverages as to become incapable of regular employment, the effect of his drinking on third parties need not result in disorderly conduct or violence. But it can drastically reduce the material well-being of his immediate and dependent family. This is, of course, not the only risk to which members of his immediate family are exposed as a result of the freedom exercised by the chief provider. The material comfort of his family is prone to a variety of risks, some arising from the choices of his occupation or locality and others from any of a number of sports or hobbies in which he chooses to engage.
    Yet, recognition of these risks has never been regarded as consideration enough in the eyes of the libertarian to warrant any curbing of a family man's liberty to drink or smoke or to choose his own occupation, hobbies and sports, no matter how dangerous. Indeed, accepting the family as the organic cell from which all civilisations are built, the freedom to choose is more appropriately conferred on the family as an internally organised social unit, leaving the individual members of it to arrive in their own way at the family decisions—and in doing so to prevail on one another and, in the manner shaped by the existing culture, to display restraint and take heed of the morrow.
    The greater are such risks in any condition of society, the more incumbent it is upon men and women, in conjunction with their parents and relations, to exercise prudence in their choice of marriage partners. And although the rise of affluence and the spread of the welfare state have gone far to make modern marriages the product more of impulses than of forethought, the offspring of an improvident couple are not entirely helpless. For by the same token the welfare state, stepping into the social breach that it fosters—a diminished sense of parental responsibility, a reduction in the intervention of relations and friends and a diminution in the pressure once exerted by the local church and the local community—also sets limits to the amount of deprivation and abuse that children may suffer at the hands of their parents.
    In general, the fact that young children are for years wholly within the power of their parents and the fact also that child abuses do sometimes occur have not yet altered the expedient presumption in all civilisations that parents are more fitted to rear their offspring than any other body—at least until, in any particular case, the contrary has been shown. It follows that the mere possibility that the liberty vouchsafed to parents to spend as they please may be used so unwisely as seriously to endanger the health or welfare of their children has never been held by society to warrant imposition, at the outset, of restraints on the pattern of family expenditure.[22]
    The incidental risk to minors from keeping hallucinogens in the home is no different from the risks of storing alcoholic preparations or, for that matter, scores of other drugs or substances which, if swallowed by an infant, could prove fatal. Sensible parents place such products well out of reach of infants. [23] For older children parents have to rely—as with liquor and tobacco—to a large extent upon good example, upon the atmosphere in the home and upon the influence of the school and community environment.

    Finally, in connection with the third consideration we have to face the situation created by the growth of the welfare state. The resident in Britain who chooses to drink heavily, to smoke heavily or regularly to consume any unhealthy drugs, or alternatively to indulge in any of a number of strenuous sports, not only risks damaging his health; he subjects the British taxpayer also to additional risks. Given the institution of the welfare state, therefore, the decisions of a large number of people to do any of the above-mentioned things, plus many others, undeniably increase the tax burden on the remaining members of society.
    However, these direct effects on the taxpayer do not fall within the second (2) category of 'spillovers' mentioned earlier. They are not 'externalities' as commonly understood by economists; that is, they are not the incidental, although direct, physical effects of one person's legitimate activity on the health or amenity of others. Instead, the economist regards such additional tax burdens as 'pecuniary' effects, in as much as income transfers alone are involved. In other words, no necessary misallocation of resources is implied by additional tax burdens that result from such institutional arrangements; only a redistribution of income as between risk-takers on the one hand and the remainder of the community on the other. [24] It follows that, on economic grounds at least, control by the welfare state on people's chosen activities is unwarranted.
    Yet, this observation by the economist, pertinent though it is, has reference only to economic efficiency. The argument looks quite different when couched in terms of equity. Surely those whose chosen activities tend to result in a greater tax burden being borne by others ought to be made accountable in some way!
    One response to this exclamation is to point out that heavy consumers of tobacco and alcohol do in fact contribute more to the general revenues than do others. There is in principle a calculable level of excise tax on each of these products that would raise a sum that was equal to that necessary to finance the additional medical and other services required by smokers and drinkers. It is not impossible, either, that the existing excise taxes exceed these equitable levels, so that, on balance, the rest of the country benefits from the vices of its minority. On the same argument, of course, the calculable costs to society of any ill effects suffered by consumers of psychedelic drugs can be wholly offset, or more than offset, by an appropriate set of excise taxes.
    Sensible though such tax solutions may appear to be on grounds of equity alone, and capable though they are of meeting this sort of objection, they must not be allowed to detract from the essential issue. The outcome of people's liberty to indulge in their vices, sports or hobbies upon the welfare of others—specifically, that of increasing the tax burden on the latter—cannot be regarded as the necessary consequence of the actions of the former. It is no more than a result contrived by institutional arrangements—which arrangements are, of course, optional for society. Simply by extending the area of 'socialism' or 'welfarism', so far as to make each person in effect a ward of the state, the state is able to ensure that his every action entails a possible financial liability to society at large. This much accomplished, it then becomes true to assert that practically every choice made by the citizen has some effect, plus or minus, on the tax burden of all other citizens—from which proposition it may (improperly) be inferred that, in contradiction to the libertarian dictum, there is in fact no longer any significant area of activity in which a person ought to be free to act as he pleases.
    This alleged vulnerability of the libertarian position cannot be taken seriously. Should a Western government committed to maintaining or expanding the welfare services of the state explicitly adduce the above argument as grounds for extending further the system of constraints on individual choices, the response of the electorate would almost certainly be a decisive repudiation of the welfare state. Certainly no libertarian would ever agree to so constricting a social contract.
    In sum, therefore, if the citizen properly insists that any extension of the welfare state be without prejudice to the freedom of individuals to continue indulging in their chosen vices and recreations (including such 'injurious' drugs as liquor and tobacco) he cannot, with any pretence of consistency, invoke the tax-burden argument in a bid to ban the introduction of psychedelic drugs.


Drug Illegalization and Crime

    In as much as the scope for the exercise of personal freedom is closely connected with respect for the law and proper acknowledgment of legitimate authority, two other considerations bearing on the legislation against the sale of psychedelic drugs impel our attention: a minor one and a major one, in that order.
    For the extreme paternalist, statistical evidence of the ill effects on the health of cigarette smokers would be consideration enough to justify banning the sale of cigarettes. He would deplore not merely the fact that the welfare state legalizes their sale but also, with more justification, the fact that it provides facilities for the promotion of cigarette sales by permitting tobacco firms to spend exorbitant sums on advertising campaigns. The libertarian, who is nonetheless concerned not only with the health of smokers but also with that of non-smokers, would continue to oppose any proposed ban on tobacco sales, although he would be in favour of expanding non-smoking areas in restaurants, theaters, cinemas and other public places. And if, like me, he disapproved generally of commercial advertising, on both economic and social grounds, he might also view cigarette advertising as particularly distasteful. To a large extent the appeal of tobacco advertisements as a whole is not to those already addicted to the habit but to the young and impressionable, who are encouraged to associate it with adult status, with independence, suavity, sex appeal and self-possession. Once the young succumb, the chances of their giving up the habit are small. Unlike psychedelic drugs, the tobacco drug is notoriously addictive. Smokers may switch brands, sometimes in response to advertisements, but for the most part they remain customers for life.
    Although I should not expect all libertarians to go along with a policy of banning all tobacco advertisements and, in addition, with a policy of using equivalent sums to finance a prolonged and intensive antismoking campaign directed particularly towards the young, the opinion is worth entertaining that such policies—more fitting as they are to a self-acclaimed welfare state—would all but eliminate the smoking habit within a generation. However, be this as it may, it is certain that the existing legal position, which permits the tobacco industry lavishly to advertise its products (provided always that the advertisement carries beneath it the standard smudge of government warning), appeals strongly to all connoisseurs of forthright hypocrisy. No one doubts that, welfare or no, the state would be reluctant to part with so lucrative a source of revenue, even though the economist is prone to calculate the real cost to society of effecting this transfer of revenue to the government in terms also of additional deaths from cancer and of bronchial disorders. Apparently, it is a real cost that the welfare state is willing to incur each year in exchange for the tribute exacted from the potential victims—even though it needs no economic sophistication to recognise that, if the existing part of the nation's resources currently engaged in producing for tobacco imports and distributing their products were shifted instead to producing and distributing other things, the same tax revenue could be raised in any of a variety of ways.
    A cynic might well suggest that I ought also to favour a government-supported advertising campaign against the use of psychedelic drugs, even though they are believed to be non-addictive, provided that some ill effects on the health of the users could be established. As it happens, I should not have the slightest objection to such a proposal. Nor, indeed, could any thoughtful libertarian, provided that the advertisements carried no statements that were irreconcilable with the existing evidence. The libertarian stands for freedom of choice, not for the promotion of any good that he happens to favour. He cannot therefore object to the spread of information based on the existing evidence in order to enable the citizen to make a more prudent decision.
    However—and this now brings us to the major consideration—once legal prohibition takes over from persuasion in matters that, according to libertarian doctrine, should remain within the area of individual choice, the inevitable train of effects on society at large can be of decisive importance.
    The economics alone of illegalizing the sale of a good produces far-reaching and undesirable reactions. Any effective rationing of a good of which legal prohibition is the limiting case—invariably leads to the formation of a black market. [25] The extent of the resulting black market depends upon a number of factors, of which only three need detain us here: the national character, the attitude of the public in the particular circumstances, and the specific conditions of demand and supply.
    It is commonly believed, at least in Britain, that the British are a law-abiding people and that black markets are therefore less likely to flourish in Britain than (to make invidious comparisons) in some Mediterranean countries. More important perhaps is the second factor. Thus, over the period of food rationing in Britain, black markets in foodstuffs were least active during the war years. The fact that the bulk of the British population felt that during the war it was wrong not to support the national government's declared policy of equal sharing of the limited supplies of essential foodstuffs acted as a check to the growth of black markets.
    This particular wartime attitude towards rationing foodstuffs cannot, however, prevail in quite different circumstances and for quite different items, especially those loosely associated with vice, such as liquor, drugs, prostitution and gambling facilities, all of which have been or still are prohibited in different countries. For such items the third factor mentioned, namely, the conditions of demand and supply, warrants the closest attention. In general, the more complex is the technology involved in the production of the prohibited item, and the costlier it is to produce and transport, even under lawful conditions, the less profitable it becomes to organise a sizable black market.
    Obviously, none of the prohibited items mentioned above present these difficulties. Psychedelic drugs (in particular LSD), or narcotic drugs for that matter,[26] are in fact relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and to transport in the absence of police harassment.
    The prevailing black market price of any prohibited drug depends, then, upon its existing demand schedule (which does not alter very much from one year to the next), and upon the amounts coming on to the market (which, in contrast, can vary substantially over short periods). Over a longish period, however, the amounts coming on to the market are determined by the efficiency and enterprise of the black market organizers relative to those of the police.
    According to economic analysis, the amounts forthcoming over the long period tend to be such that the resultant black-market price yields pecuniary returns to all concerned in the illegal activity that are sufficient to compensate them for their effort, for their invested capital and, above all, for the risks to which (net of all police bribes) they are necessarily exposed. A strictly economic criterion would therefore depict by far the greater part of such effort, investment and enterprise as a complete waste of capital and human resources, in as much as the illegal distribution to ultimate consumers of a particular drug uses up incomparably more of these resources than would be needed to distribute the same amount legally.
    In addition to this waste of capital and human resources there are other wastes. These are involved in the expanding bureaucracies created to administer the antidrug laws, in court litigation and in lawyers' services. Again, a significant amount of police time and effort has to be shifted from protecting the public from real crime in the endeavour to deter these victimless crimes. Worse, in attempts to further the success of these illegalized drug enterprises many a brutal crime is committed. Thus, the immediate effect of this sort of prohibitive legislation, which creates highly profitable opportunities for criminal organisations, is to make an independent and significant contribution to the total amount of real crime in the community.
    But the evil does not stop there. The extraordinary profits of illegal trafficking in drugs, created by legislation, acts to lure ordinary businessmen into forming connections with existing crime rings. In so far as the opportunities created by drug illegalization enriches criminal organizations, they extend the network of crime, so generating a potential for further police corruption and expanding the power of the underworld at the expense of the community. During the period of liquor prohibition in the United States, to take the classical instance, organised crime received from the American government one of the handsomest perquisites in recorded history—a virtual monopoly of the liquor trade. Crime became the fastest-growing industry in the United States. It may be conjectured that trafficking in narcotics supports less crime today than did the prohibition of liquor, although much more crime than is supported by the traffic in hallucinogens. Whether they are true or not, however, such conjectures do not weaken the case for legalising the sale of psychedelic drugs.

    Finally, perhaps most pernicious of all is the fact that recourse to prohibition can have subversive effects on society that are virtually irreversible. By investing an otherwise mutually satisfactory transaction—one having no necessary spillover effects on others—with the trappings of a crime, the state not only tempts citizens first into the newly legislated victimless crime and from there, possibly, into real criminal activity; the resulting legislation also creates ripple effects that spread corruption throughout society. Legislation that appears to many citizens as manifestly arbitrary, unfair or absurd, or as being the expression of rooted prejudice or vested interests, acts over time to bring the whole body of the law itself into contempt, and in doing so to weaken the social order. For such legislation commands no popular respect and is likely to be ignored by many people. [27] And so, moving from one precedent to another, cynicism of the law and of the institutions designed to uphold them spreads among the public. A long-established tradition, that of giving the law 'the benefit of the doubt' wherever its rationale is not clearly evident, and of heeding its provisions notwithstanding, gradually begins to erode; indeed, to give way to the contrary presumption—that all social legislation (whether democratically enacted or otherwise) reflects no more than some combination of highly organised interests and as such constitutes unwarranted intervention. Certainly, among the young it is already widely believed that much of the spate of social legislation today is the product chiefly of contending material interests[28] and that very little of what today emerges from democratic assemblies could withstand searching inquiry and debate to determine whether it truly serves the broad interests of society and accords with acceptable notions of fairness and propriety. Social decay sets in as people increasingly reject the view that social legislation is guided by norms of social justice and melioration, and this social decay becomes irreversible once the spirit of suspicion and rejection spreads towards the canons of the common law and, from there, towards traditional ethical standards. For the result of such corrosive scepticism is increasing recourse by the individual to the dictates of his own conscience, which in these circumstances tends to become dangerously resilient. He will be inclined to favour his own perceived interests, irrespective of the existing laws, whenever he calculates that he has a good chance of escaping detection. According as this sort of 'permissiveness' grows and continued legislation against victimless transactions can only encourage its growth—the need to maintain social order will eventually countenance the surrender to internal security forces of greater powers of surveillance and control, in consequence of which personal freedoms will be further diminished.
    If the validity of the foregoing arguments is conceded, a prima facie case is established that illegalizing the sale of goods—at least those in the third (3) category mentioned in the last section—is detrimental to the social interest. No liberal democratic government should therefore be allowed to introduce or maintain any such prohibiting legislation without presenting powerful arguments in favour of its decision to do so—powerful enough, at all events, to overcome the objections to such enactment advanced so far in the above two sections.


The Character of Society

    The more conservative doctrine that the individual should have all freedom short of that which endangers society is suggestive but too vague to commend itself to libertarians. Since such a statement can always be given a paternalistic twist, the modern libertarian obviously prefers that the excepting provision have reference to the freedom or interests of other individuals, allowing that these can be satisfactorily articulated. Yet, the interests of society, conceived as a community or folk bound by common conventions, values and beliefs—as distinct, that is, from a group of freely interacting individuals each in pursuit of his own aims—cannot be ignored in any assessment of the comprehensive effects of proposed institutional rearrangements.
    Indeed, a man would be a narrow and pathetic creature were he to restrict his thoughts and energy simply to considerations bearing directly upon his own material ambitions or pursuit of pleasures. Unless he is a recluse or is uncommonly insensitive, his welfare is affected by the natural and social environment in which he is immersed. So far as the ordinary citizen is concerned, a change in any feature of this social heritage exerts some influence on his sense of well-being. Many of the so-called prejudices of the public can be sensibly interpreted as a legitimate concern of people about the kind of society in which they and their children are to live. Such prejudices have their value as a counterweight to the idealized vision of an 'open' or 'pluralist' society—one in which each person treads his own path, does 'his own thing', reconstructs his own conscience or joins freely with some others for common gain or pleasure, with little or no concern for the resulting character or the evolution of the community as a whole.
    It may be inferred, then, that the conservative's concern with such postwar developments as porno-permissiveness, homosexual liberation and the trend towards unisex does not arise necessarily from personal disapprobation of the pornographic or homosexual indulgence of particular individuals or groups. Rather, it arises from sober consideration—especially among those who believe free societies to be fragile social organisms—of the consequences of the unchecked indulgence of such developments upon the kind of society in which they and their children have to live.
    Allowing, then, a concern for the character of society as a whole to be a legitimate interest of the individual, the case for individual freedom in any particular cannot rest on the observation alone that the exercise of such freedom has no direct and apparent effect on third parties. There has also to be a prior and a collective decision about whether the activity in question is to be subject only to the discretion of the individual. Clearly, such a collective decision is least effective when it is the outcome of a highly controversial debate and most effective when it has been writ so long into the forms and conventions of society that the good citizen has no desire to act in a way that would offend against it.
    However, once a consensus on manners and morals begins to fracture, there is nothing for it but to translate a conscious and often controversial collective decision into legislation, which decision can be costly and troublesome to enforce in an increasingly divisive society. Whether controversial or not, this sort of debate cannot be avoided simply by adopting the libertarian dictum that each person be free to choose, when, as seen by the conservative, the essence of the debate is to determine whether or not it is to the social advantage to relegate the choice in question to the individual, allowing him to exercise it through the market mechanism.
    In such a debate, moreover, it should be borne in mind that the dynamic expansion of industry and commerce over the last two centuries has been fostered by the general presumption in favour of change, which, alas, is the reverse of the guiding principle to which the true conservative has recourse. For such a person, institutions and conventions that have survived within a viable, although admittedly imperfect, society are not lightly to be abandoned. Also, bearing in mind that radical changes in institutions, conventions or morals may gather a momentum that is difficult to check and take a direction that is impossible to reverse, it is but common prudence that the burden of proof should rest heavily upon the proponents of the innovation and that no time-hallowed institution should be dismembered, or new institution introduced, without the most cogent argument and convincing evidence.
    Accepting the appeal of this conservative maxim, I have stated elsewhere[29] that a case in favour of porno-permissiveness (or of homosexual liberation) has never been seriously argued by its advocates. They have built their case entirely on libertarian premises, and even on these limited premises their arguments have not been singularly successful. [30]
    In my 1972 Encounter article I have alleged that the character of such 'liberationist' movements today is indeed to be interpreted as a radical departure from our customary attitudes towards sexual conventions, for, although erotic display and homosexual practices can be traced back to antiquity, the quality, the scale and the pace of diffusion today differ in such degree as to make these intercivilisation comparisons invalid. Indeed, such postwar developments in the affluent West as sexual permissiveness and homosexual liberation and, come to that, the more militant forms of feminist liberation also pose, for the first time in human history, a growing threat to the institution of the family.
    How does the proposal to legalise the sale of psychedelic drugs fare by conservative principles? I shall not, as I might, dwell on the fact that they have been extensively used in earlier societies for religious and medicinal purposes. I am willing to grant that, measured over a shortish period of recent history, their legislation in Western countries may be regarded as something of an innovation, the social advantages for which have then to be argued.
    The facts in the case—the properties of the drugs, the psychedelic experience, the effects on the health of the consumer and the possible risk to third parties—have already been described, in so far as I have been able to discover them. I now touch briefly, first, on the likely extent of their usage before, secondly, appraising their influence on the character of society, which—if the appraisal is correct—also throws light on the antagonism of the Establishment to the idea of legalising psychedelic drugs.
    Bearing in mind that the normal psychedelic 'trip' takes up the best part of a day or night, that it is not animating, euphoric or soothing (in a simple physical way) and that it can be pretty exhausting, it is doubtful whether the consumption of the psychedelic drugs in question, if legally permitted, would ever achieve the popularity of alcohol or even the current popularity of marijuana. Few people can manage as many as two or three 'trips' a week for any length of time. (Among the students to whom I spoke who had ready access to LSD, the choice ranged between one and three trips a month, and the higher figure obtained only during vacations or when the pressure of study was slack.) Generally speaking, such drugs are likely to continue to appeal more to the professional and middle classes than to the working classes, more to intellectuals and scientists than to practical men and engineers, and more to introverts than to extroverts.
    Even were their use to become as popular as alcoholic beverages, however, they could hardly weaken society in any direct way. It cannot be supposed, for instance, that the defence of the nation against external aggression depends today upon the vigilance, the competence and the willingness of the ordinary citizen to take up arms at a moment's notice in defence of his country. External defence has become a highly professional activity, the effectiveness of which, moreover, has come to depend increasingly less upon physical stamina and courage and increasingly more upon scientific and technological research.
    As for the question of their possible influence on the quality of life and the character of society, reflection suggests that at this particular phase in our postindustrial civilization it can hardly be other than benign. As indicated earlier, the sensations experienced, and the activities engaged in, under the influence of psychedelic drugs vary as between one person and another and between one occasion and another. Hours may be spent in contemplating a beach or meadow, in listening to music, in strolling up a hill or in swimming or surfing. Those having the inclination take inspiration, sometimes joyous, sometimes fearsome, and work feverishly—writing, sketching, painting or sculpting—in the attempt to give form to insistent but volatile images.
    More important then these diverse reactions, however, is the experience common to all aficionados. Those accustomed to any of these three hallucinogens are agreed that the hallucinogenic world, as it first takes shape, is also somewhat eerie and mystical. They are apt to feel that they are in contact with a new dimension of reality—one richer in impulse and awareness. To the anthropologist the experience would seem to have atavistic echoes. By the psychoanalyst the experience is interpreted as a perceptual groping of the individual within the recesses of his unconscious mind, which under the drug tend to open up.
    Be this as it may, one of the recurring feelings under the hallucinogenic influence is of the paltriness of worldly things—the weary irrelevance of material ambition. All aficionados testify to a sense, during some phase of the psychedelic experience, of transmigration into a mysterious pulsating universe and, at the same time, to a feeling of closeness or 'oneness' with that universe. Indeed, in contemplating the universe under the drug influence, the real or 'normal' world often takes on an outlandish quality, in which man in a machine age, spurred by sharp schedules, toils ever upwards, in vain seeking a plateau. But there is no resting place; whether success or failure meets his enterprise, it is sufficient excuse for pushing on. In the real world a man may still believe that, in the end, he is the master of the machine. In the hallucinogenic world he feels certain that already he is its slave.
    We need not resolve the question here. It is enough to recognise that modem life can be felt and reinterpreted from a radically different perspective—not necessarily a false one. There are other seeming advantages also. The ability simply to release repressed and unsuspected emotions, to surrender impulsively to them and to wonder at their potency is not only a worthwhile experience in itself. It also acts as a counterweight to the trend towards the increasing automation and impersonality of modern life which constricts the direct flow of sympathy and feeling between people.
    In a word, then, the psychedelic experience, although it may sometimes be frightening, animates and agitates the deeper parts of our being, reviving essential parts of our nature that have atrophied under the heavy impress of our civilisation. True, the enduring effect on each individual may not be strong. But the effect is in the right direction and it can be strengthened by common recognition and communication.

    Why, therefore, is the Establishment reluctant to legalise the sale of hallucinogens? It has been suggested that the liquor industry is opposed to such legislation simply because it believes that the sale of its products would suffer.[31] Although it would not be easy to adduce convincing evidence for this belief, I would not dismiss it as entirely fanciful. What would be fanciful would be to regard it as the greater part of the explanation.
    The explanation that I advance, although difficult to substantiate by statistical methods, is more comprehensive. I have suggested elsewhere[32] that the modern permissive society is to be conceived as providential development by means of which an innovative economy, continuously under institutional pressure to expand, may be kept going. After all, a continuing expansion of industry as a whole depends for its success upon a continuing enlargement of the consuming public's appetite—else the public would be unable to engorge the burgeoning variety and volume of goods produced. A traditional society does not serve, nor does a discriminating one. Promiscuity is the attribute needed—promiscuity coupled with insatiability. And this ideal buying public is, of course, that which is emerging. For a permissive society in which 'anything goes' is ipso facto also a society in which anything sells.[33]
    Although I have suggested that, if their sale were legalized, the popularity of these psychedelic drugs would be limited, their widespread use—which, I think, is feared—could indeed prove a threat to the continued expansion of modern industry. If new opportunities were extended to individuals for strange and exhilarating explorations into the mysterious universe and the mysterious self, the markets for media entertainment, for package tourism and for all the modern accessories of commercial hedonism would surely diminish. And if the popularity of such psychedelic drugs were to have any perceptible and enduring effects, they would certainly involve the curtailing of economic growth. For they do tend to shift the individual's interest from the search for ways of keeping up with the machine toward the search for meaning and purpose.
    It is awkward enough for modern governments and bureaucrats perpetually under attack today for doing too little and interfering too much—to cope with the conflicting pressures exerted by the unabashed self-seeking of organised labour and organised management, by parvenu minorities inventing new rights and by idealistic groups of preservationists, ecologists and environmentalists. The prospect of having to endure, in addition, a minority group of psychedelic devotees, articulating their contempt for the ethos and insatiability of modern society by which big business and big government rationalist their expanding power, is not an attractive one.


In Summary

    To sum up in a paragraph: although medical opinion is by no means the decisive factor in any enlightened dialogue on the subject, it would be impossible on the existing evidence for an honest government to convince an informed public that regular recourse to these nonaddictive hallucinogens would be as pernicious to health as regular recourse to, say, alcohol or tobacco. However, even if they were as pernicious, the power of the state may never be arbitrarily extended, within a libertarian dispensation, to proscribe those activities which the state pronounces to be injurious to the health of the individual. Nor is it enough to point to possible dangers to minors or to the likelihood of injury to third parties. Hundreds of goods on the market today carry some likelihood of injury to third parties. Thus, only if the degree of risk to which third parties are exposed is exceptionally high and in the case of psychedelic drugs it is (notwithstanding highly coloured press reports) remarkably low—may a case be made for state controls. In all other cases the state can best serve the citizen by spreading information and by legislation designed to maintain standards of purity. As for the effects on modern society as a whole of legalising the psychedelic drugs mentioned, the benefits would include a substantial contribution toward the reduction of existing crime, if only by releasing much-needed police resources currently engaged in preventing victimless crimes for the better protection of the public from real crime. Finally, in our technocratic civilisation, in which adjustment to the machine entails becoming like the machine, the hallucinogenic experience is one way of releasing, for a while, the faltering human spirit trapped inside the machine.[34]


Notes and References

    (1) The San Pedro cactus also contains mescalin. (back)
    (2) Recent research suggests that psilocybin has first to be metabolized to psilocin before it can enter the brain and generate hallucinogenic effects. If true, this would make psilocin, not psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient. (back)
    (3) Mushroom stones and icons excavated in the Mayan sites of Guatemala are said to date back to 1,000 BC. It has been suggested that mushrooms were the earliest hallucinogenic plant to be discovered.
    The European mysteries are less fully explored than their Mexican counterpart; but . . . the pre-Columbian Toadstool-god Tlaloc, represented as a toad with a serpent head-dress, has for thousands of years presided at the communal eating of the hallucinogenic toadstool psilocybe a feast that gives visions of transcendental beauty. Tlaloc's European counterpart, Dionysus, shares too many of his mythical attributes for coincidence: they must be versions of the same deity; though at what period cultural contact took place between the Old World and the New is debatable .
    In my foreword to a revised edition of The Greek Myths, I suggest that a secret Dionysiac mushroom cult was borrowed from the native Pelasgians by the Achaeans of Argos. Dionysus's Centaurs, Satyrs and Maenads, it seems, ritually ate a spotted toadstool called 'flycap' (Amanita muscaria), which gave them enormous muscular strength, erotic power, delirious visions, and the gift of prophecy. Partakers in the Eleusinian, Orphic and other mysteries may also have known the Panaeolus papillionaceus, a small dung-mushroom still used by Portuguese witches, and similar in effect to mescalin. (Robert Graves, The White Goddess, 3rd edn, London: Faber, 1952, reprinted 1971, p. 45)
    See also Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vol. 1, rev. edn (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962). (back)
    (4) Since these drugs tend to magnify the good or bad features of a personality or situation, the unhappier symptoms associated with their consumption—anxiety, panic, paranoia—can often occur in persons with histories of mental disorder. (back)
    (5) It is possible, however, that massive doses of LSD (in the milligram range) can cause a blood-clotting disorder. (back)
    (6) PCP, sometimes called 'angel dust', is commonly regarded as dangerous to humans. (back)
    (7) 'Mission Mind Control'—a television programme that I happened to watch in Texas—revealed some of the methods by which the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Army sought to advance techniques of extracting confessions and of controlling the minds of others. LSD, among other things, was used upon unwitting victims, among them prisoners and hospital patients, as a result of which, it was alleged, a number of deaths occurred. This is hardly surprising, as nearly all the victims shown on the programme were either petty criminals leading a sick and fugitive life in the shadows of the underworld, or mentally disturbed patients, or prisoners held and manipulated within a hostile environment. The doses given were unspecified but presumably large, and they were given repeatedly, often in circumstances of great distress to the victim, and sometimes accompanied by threats and ill-treatment.
    Such a television programme is sure to arouse emotions of abhorrence, fear and anger, which emotions are justified in so far as they are directed against the perpetration of these abuses against helpless persons. The obvious fault with the programmer however, was that, in exploiting sound and visual effects to convey a nightmarish sense of the hallucinogenic experiences suffered by the helpless victims, the impressions of fear and repugnance became associated with the hallucinogenic drug itself.
    The issue was thus obscured. If, say, a quart of whisky could be reduced to the mass of a milligram and unknowingly or forcibly administered to people in the
    circumstances described above, their reactions would hardly be less terrifying. In general, there are thousands of chemicals, both natural and synthetic, that are benign, useful or enjoyable to man when taken within known dosage limits. Beyond such limits they can be painful or toxic. This fact does not, however preclude research and discussion about their proper use and about the safeguards that are necessary to prevent accidents. (back)
    (8) Issue of 5 March 1978. (back)
    (9) The statement in the Sunday Times (5 March 1978) that there is a high risk of acute mental disturbance and hallucination during an LSD trip is equivocal and misleading. It purports to be saying something that is significant, whereas it is in fact saying something that is patently obvious. Clearly, a person cannot be (by definition) in a normal state during a psychedelic trip, but to describe the condition of a person under this sort of trip as being one of 'acute mental disturbance' or as entailing 'a high risk of acute mental disturbance' is a disingenuous use of words to describe the psychedelic experience for which the LSD drug is expressly taken. Such phrases ought, if they are relevant, to be reserved only for the enduring effects on the mental condition of the LSD subject. (back)
    (10) In private correspondence with me, Dr. Bearman, director of health services at San Diego State University, has stated:
    There are few studies which indicate that consumption of LSD is not without some risk. In about 1959 or 1960 Sidney Cohen studied the effect of LSD on volunteers. This was prior to the major publicity involving LSD and probably represented a fairly normal cross-section of college-age youth. He found serious psychiatric problems of 0.2% of people in his experimental group. Another study in New York in 1966-67 showed that over a 12-month period there were 73 admissions to Bellvue Hospital for LSD-induced psychosis. A review of the 63 available charts revealed that all but 11 were released within two days, another five were released after one week, and six remained hospitalized for the entire year.
    Estimates as to the total number of people who used LSD in New York during that time period vary, however. Time magazine, in reporting the above study, estimated 55,000. This would mean an average of long-term psychosis in one out of every 7,000 users of LSD.
    Most of the other studies on LSD seem to wildly exaggerate problems. The chromosome studies do not reveal any effects, and the gametes, while there is some anecdote evidence of birth defects, there is no hard evidence. However, it is advised with most drugs that they be avoided in the first three months of pregnancy.
    In my experiences, most people who have taken LSD have not been deleteriously affected; however, there are some notable exceptions. A few people who have taken 200 or 300 trips seem to me to have some long-term 'disturbances' in their thought processes. On the other hand, there is some evidence of usefulness for LSD in psycho-therapy, treating alcoholics, and criminal rehabilitation. (30 November 1977) (back)
    (11) In private correspondence with me David Smith—medical director of Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San Francisco, California—has written: 'At present, there is no documented evidence that any of the hallucinogenic drugs, including . . . LSD . . . produces genetic damage. Most of the problems that occur with this drug group relate to acute adverse drug reaction to a bad trip' (31 January 1978). (back)
    (12) The occasional 'flashback'—a recurrence of some aspects of a psychedelic trip long after the effect of the drug has worn off—is probably a memory reproduction rather than a chemical reaction. Incidentally, nearly all flashbacks reported have followed a bad psychedelic experience. (back)
    (13) Carlos Castaneda's four volumes (1968-75) all carry a mystical interpretation, in as much as they purport to be an account of events following his submission to the Yaqui shaman, don Juan. (back)
    An excellent appraisal of these writings by Kenneth Minogue, who has viewed them as a manifestation of popular occultism, can be found in Encounter (August 1976).
    (14) Not all the eleven members interviewed (some singly, some in groups of two or three) were equally articulate. I have therefore taken the liberty here and there of trying to capture the spirit of the impressions described to me in my own language. (back)
    (15) R. C. Debold and R. C. Leaf (eds), LSD, Man, and Society (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1967). (back)
    (16) It is hardly necessary to add, in passing, that these conditions limiting the form in which the individual's freedom is exercised were until very recently accepted as part of the common code of conventions that facilitated communication. No liberal would have held them to be onerous. (back)
    (17) However, it is not necessary that the likelihood of damage to others be high for the conscientious libertarian to demur. If the damage envisaged, should it occur, were such as to involve large numbers of innocent people, exception would be taken. Thus, liberal economists might well agree on controls (including a temporary or permanent ban) on the use of modern technologies that carried a small risk of a catastrophe that, should it occur, would affect a significant proportion of the population of society, especially where such a catastrophe would produce irreversible ecological damage, either locally or globally. (back)
    Since the Second World War a growing number of innovations fall within this category, of which the generation of nuclear energy is among the most notorious.
    (18) In contrast to this libertarian doctrine, Mr. Justice Park—in rationalizing the severe sentences passed on Richard Kemp and others in 'Operation Julie', which in 1978 broke an LSD ring—simply conjectured that, in view of the scale of distribution, the LSD tablets must have been sold to 'utterly irresponsible' buyers who might drop a tablet into someone's glass of beer for a joke. Since the judge clearly had no idea of the actuarial risk of this occurrence, we need not speculate about it either. But he must have been aware, surely, that there is no limit to the mischief that people can and sometimes do get up to using the wide variety of substances already available to them on the market.
    As indicated earlier, moreover, if LSD were to be legalized, it could be sold on the market so diluted with water that even these 'utterly irresponsible' people would find it all but impossible to play such practical jokes. (back)
    (19) For reasons given in my book 21 Popular Economic Fallacies (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), ch. 9. (back)
    (20) For instance, in my article 'Road to repression and control', Encounter (1976). (back)
    (21) Recommended reading for the beginner includes: E. M. Brecher (editor of Consumer Reports), Licit and Illicit Drugs (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown & Co.); Debold and Leaf, op. cit. (note 15); and Gamage and Zerkin, Hallucinogenic Drug Research: Impact on Science and Society (Madison, Wisc.: STASH Press).
    Apart from a large number of books on the chemistry, botany and use of hallucinogenic drugs there are, of course, many articles in the ordinary medical journals as well as those in the more specialized sources, such as the Psychedelic Journal (devoted to the systematic study of the effect on humans of psychedelic and other drugs), Contemporary Drug Problems (dealing largely with the legal aspects), International Journal of the Addictions and Grass Roots.
    High Times Press in New York publishes a glossy monthly, High Times, with articles on taking pot and other drugs, along with worldwide information on the qualities and prices of a variety of drugs, although chiefly cannabis. This firm also produces a number of monographs on the growing of marijuana and of psychedelic drugs.
    In addition there are national organisations in many Western countries that provide information to the public about the drugs themselves and the law of that country. In Britain, for instance, there are Release and BIT Information Service both in London. In the United States there are the Institution for Chemical Survival in Phoenix, Arizona, and STASH (Student Association for the Study of Hallucinogens ), founded in 1967 as a non-profit-making drug-information centre for both the general public and university students, in Madison, Wisconsin. Finally, there is a large number of local voluntary associations, scattered throughout the United States, that provide aid and information to drug takers. (back)
    (22) Some control on family expenditure is generally effective, however, should the family become dependent on contributions from private or state charity. Private charity is often given in kind, in the form of, say, food, clothing or shelter. Assistance from state agencies sometimes includes specific housing arrangements, and in the United States a part of the benefits collected by the 'relatively deprived' may take the form of food coupons. (back)
    (23) In the case of diluted LSD mixture, imparting to it a bitter flavour would make the precaution doubly sure. (back)
    (24) This statement is a simplification. The only tax that is sure not to 'distort' allocation is a poll tax. Income taxes may affect incentives to work. Excise taxes will affect the pattern of outputs. Thus, taxes whose chief purpose is distributional may also have incidental 'distortive' allocative effects. This possibility is one of the nuisances that the purist in economic theory has to bear with. Yet, recognizing the fact that the real economy is continuously in a state of allocative 'distortion' anyway, he cannot be sure whether these incidental allocative effects add to, or reduce, the existing overall 'distortion', that is, whether they move the economy further from, or closer to, an overall optimal position. Although this is a minor complication, it is not one that blurs the economic distinction mentioned in the text, between an externality proper and a distributional effect. (back)
    (25) Attempts by a government to maintain the price of a good below the demand price corresponding to the available quantity also creates a black market, as borne out by the experience of the Second World War. The only way a government can effectively reduce the price of a good below the existing (equilibrium) price is to induce an expansion of its supply by subsidizing the costs of its production from tax revenues—a policy generally frowned upon by economists in the absence of particular allocative arguments. (back)
    (26) Although I restrict myself in this essay to the three familiar hallucinogens, there is a strong case also for legalising the trade in narcotics. The belief that the lobby in the United States for the continued illegalization of all drugs, including marijuana (despite the fact that about half of the US population, at least, has at one time or another smoked it), is strongly supported both by criminal organizations and by corrupt segments of the police is hardly surprising in view of the enormous profits created by their illegalization. (back)
    (27) It is yet harder to respect the law when it is overtly discriminating. Thus, despite the introduction of several Bills over the years, the Congress of the United States has never passed a law prohibiting the use of peyote by American Indians. In addition, the Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional several state laws that sought to prohibit the sacramental use of peyote by the 250,000 members of the Native American Church. Whites, on the other hand, have been continually denied rights to use psychedelic plants for religious purposes. (back)
    (28) Indeed, something close to this belief has been used as a premise of political analysis by economists. For a simple account of this approach to democratic politics, and for a short bibliography of those economists who adopt as a basic hypothesis the idea of politicians and bureaucrats seeking to maximize their own interests, the reader is referred to Gordon Tullock's paperback The Vote Machine (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1976). (back)
    (29) In my article 'Making the world safe for pornography', Encounter (March 1972). (back)
    (30) See my article 'The economics of sex pollution', Harper's Magazine (July 1 972). See also my article 'Violence and pornography: much ado about something', New Universities Quarterly (Spring 1976). (back)
    (31) Many youngsters who regularly take pot also believe that the tobacco industry sees the marijuana cult as a threat to the sale of its products, since the plant is relatively easy to grow. If its sale were legalized, it would, in the absence of government intervention, become a highly competitive industry. In these circumstances it is possible that the tobacco companies would be unable to count on large enough profits from the sale of their own marijuana to compensate for the losses consequent upon their reduced sales of tobacco products. (back)
    One cannot but sympathize with the sort of conspiracy theory held by many young marijuana smokers in the United States, bearing in mind the findings of committees of investigation to look into the problem. The team of scientists commissioned in 1938 by Major La Guardia of New York found no evidence that marijuana smoking leads to aggressive or antisocial behaviour or that it alters the personality structure of the smoker. Neither could the La Guardia Committee find any evidence of addictive tolerance or withdrawal symptoms—the criteria for a drug's classification as a narcotic. The later report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, prepared under a mandate from Congress and released in 1972, largely coincided with the La Guardia report and recommended the removal of criminal penalties for simple possession for private use.
    (32) In the final essay in this volume. (back)
    (33) Yet, as I have argued in my book The Economic Growth Debate (London: Allen & Unwin, 1978), the permissive society cannot long endure. It is the precursor to the totalitarian state. (back)
    (34) There are psychiatrists who would go further than this. In his recent book, LSD Psychotherapy (California: Hunter House, 1979), Stanislav Grof has expressed deep regret that psychiatry lost a unique research tool and powerful therapeutic agent when LSD was legally prohibited: 'Many observations from psychedelic research are of such fundamental importance and so revolutionary in nature that they should not be ignored by any serious scientist interested in the human mind.'

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