The Great Debate UK

Declare victory in the War on Drugs – then run like hell


By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wherever you look – radio and TV, novels, internet – history is all the rage these days. Perhaps a large part of the appeal is the nice warm feeling it gives us of being able to look down on the sheer madness and heartless cruelty of our own ancestors. What did they think they were doing back in the 16th century burning witches? Or 300 years later, locking up poor young girls for getting pregnant? Or sending men to jail simply for being homosexuals, as we did until the 1950s ?

History may seem to be nothing but a catalogue of human folly, but have you ever asked yourself what features of contemporary life will have our own descendants scratching their heads and asking themselves: how could they – meaning us, today – be so crazy?

My guess is that the feature of modern life that future generations will find hardest to understand will be our attitude to narcotics. The War on Drugs will look to them as mad as the Salem witch trials do to us today.

Of course, narcotics are mostly bad for you – in some cases, very bad indeed (though the authorities have been rather keen to exaggerate the risks, in some cases quite grotesquely). But then cigarettes are also very bad news, as we all know, and alcohol abuse does a lot of damage (more through its effect on people’s behaviour than anything it does to their internal organs), and under the kitchen sink there are bottles of stuff which could give you a serious high and an even more serious health problem. Yet cigarettes, alcohol, cleaning fluids and glue are not classed as illegal substances. Why does sanity prevail in these cases, but not for narcotics? After all, common sense tells us that we can’t ban something simply on the grounds that it is bad for our health – that is why we haven’t yet made deep-fried Mars bars or turkey twizzlers illegal – but what we call “drugs” are, for some reason, treated differently.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Is a revolution in economic thinking under way?

Four years after the start of the Great Recession, the global economy has not recovered, voters are losing patience and governments around the world are falling like ninepins. This is a situation conducive to revolutionary thinking, if not yet in politics, then maybe in economics.

In the past few months the International Monetary Fund, previously a bastion of austerity, has swung in favor of expansionary fiscal policies. The U.S. Federal Reserve has committed itself to printing money without limit until it restores full employment. And the European Central Bank has announced unlimited bond purchases with printed money, a policy denounced, quite literally, as the work of the devil by the president of the German Bundesbank.

Free and Open Data as a Worldwide Economic Engine

 –Cameron Neylon is Advocacy Director at PLOS. Previously, he was a Senior Scientist at the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council and a faculty member at the University of Southampton. The opinions expressed are those of PLOS.–

California’s governor, referring as much to the state’s financial issues as its lead in technology, has signed into law a new fund to create 50 open-source undergraduate textbooks, as well as a digital library to host them. By being digital, the textbooks will be able to evolve rapidly as the needs of students and the state of knowledge change, but more importantly they will be made available under a Creative Commons license, allowing any individual or organization, anywhere in the world, to read, use, and remix the content.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Romney missing the point on Libya

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Monday's foreign policy debate are again likely to examine the administration’s handling of an Islamic militia’s murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its significance for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, they may again miss the crucial question raised by the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans: Why is Libya at the mercy of hundreds of lawless militias and without a functioning state one year after U.S. and NATO support enabled rebels to overthrow dictator Muammar Ghadaffi?

Can we trust economic data?

By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

China is often berated for providing unreliable economic data. Behind every release there are some who believe officials in Beijing have been at work to manipulate the data for the government’s benefit. But is China alone in this and can we trust the data coming from other economies in the West?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a fairly patchy record at providing accurate data on the UK economy. For example, the first reading of Q2 GDP for this year was -0.7%, this was then revised up to -0.4%. A 0.3% discrepancy in a $2.5 trillion economy is no small chunk of change. The ONS even revealed that the Q2 data was more difficult to calculate than usual due to the extra Jubilee bank holiday and that GDP could be overstating the weakness in the UK economy.

from The Great Debate:

The neocons’ war against Obama

The neoconservatives who rebuffed the Republican establishment’s warnings about the perils of war in Iraq have now opened another front —against President Barack Obama.

The neocons, unlike the muscular Democrats who led the U.S. into the Vietnam War—including Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk— are not reflecting about what went wrong in Iraq. Nor are they dodging the public spotlight.

from The Great Debate:

Chasing the Reagan Legacy

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, like so many Republicans today, continually try to grab onto Ronald Reagan’s legacy and call it theirs. They might know my father’s politics -- but they didn’t know the man.

After the first Republican presidential debate last September at the Reagan Library, I wrote a piece for about how all the candidates seek to stuff themselves into my father’s image. Ironic, since he never tried to imitate anyone.

from The Great Debate:

Sympathy for the Plutocrat

This is a response to an excerpt from Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, published this week by Penguin Press.

It’s great to be what you people are now calling a plutocrat.  I know.  I am one.

from The Great Debate:

The billionaires next door

This is an excerpt from Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, published this week by Penguin Press.

Pittsburgh was one of the smelters of America’s Gilded Age. As the industrial revolution took hold there, Andrew Carnegie was struck by the contrast between “the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer.” Human beings had never before lived in such strikingly different material circumstances, he believed, and the result was “rigid castes” living in “mutual ignorance” and “mutual distrust” of one another.

from The Great Debate:

The key to understanding the ‘Arab Spring’

The United States has been unable to develop a clear national policy about the Arab Spring largely because Washington does not fully understand what’s happening in the Middle East.

The term, “Arab Spring” is itself misleading. The changes over the past 20 months have produced a fundamental transformation of the region – but not in the way most outside observers anticipated: They reflect the replacement of the dominant Arab national identity by a more Islamic identity.