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June 14, 2001

The Great Debate

Today (Part II)...

Socrates vs.


"We must also recognize that evil can use absolute liberty. I myself would have a different point of view with respect to the right of Socrates to drink hemlock, which I sustain in how much and how wise it would be to permit 12-year-old adolescents to be able to acquire alcoholic beverages."

- U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow

Speech Against Drug Legalization, June 1, 2001, Mexico City

"How you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that they almost made me forget who I was, so persuasively did they speak; and yet they have hardly uttered a word of truth…

"They are headed by Meletus, that good man and true lover of his country, as he calls himself. Against these, too, I must try to make a defense:, Let their affidavit be read: it contains something of this kind: It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own. Such is the charge; and now let us examine the particular counts. He says that I am a doer of evil, and corrupt the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer of evil, in that he pretends to be in earnest when he is only in jest, and is so eager to bring men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he really never had the smallest interest..."

- Plato (quoting Socrates at Trial)

"The Apology of Socrates"

Eric Sterling Responds

Also, Professors Francisco Gil-White,

Lyn Isbell and Attorney Mike McIntyre

Narco News 2001

Eric Sterling Responds

It is astonishing that the first argument and first "fact" cited by Ambassador Davidow in his argument against drug legalization, in his fifth paragraph, is so completely wrong. Almost every educated person in the western world knows that Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock for his conviction of the crime of "corrupting the youth" of Athens. Almost every educated person in the western world also knows that Socrates, one of the greatest teachers in human history, was not a corrupter of the young, but taught the importance of using reason to challenge the prevailing myths advanced by the state.

The Ambassador stands in the same long line as the Athenian jury, seeking to demean, and if necessary destroy, those who use reason to challenge the status quo falsehoods held by the majority.

If you visualize the degree of knowledge and concern for accuracy of someone, fifty or one hundred years from now, who argued that in the America of 2001, a Timothy McVeigh had a right to inject lethal drugs, you can appreciate the extent of the Ambassador's veracity today.

One can wonder at the subconscious meaning of Mr. Davidow's blunder. Perhaps he understands the dishonest, "corrupt" nature of his entire argument, for he casually links the lethal drinking of hemlock to the use of alcoholic beverages by 12-year old adolescents. For a U.S. Ambassador, presumably someone whose understanding of the world extends beyond the shores of the United States to Europe, for example, to make such a claim is laughable. Spend a week in Italy or France and one understands how ludicrous it is to paint the acquisition of alcohol by 12-year olds as the ultimate social nightmare of a corrupted youth.

In almost every French and Italian home, wine is on the table at lunch and dinner, and available to, and offered to, adolescents. The culture teaches moderation in the use of alcohol. Binge drinking of alcohol among teenagers and young adults is practically unknown.

By contrast, in America today, a 21-year old minimum age for drinking, accompanied by a zero tolerance hysteria, threatens parents with child abuse if they offer their adolescents wine with dinner. Indeed for an adult to offer alcohol to person under 21 can lead to a charge of corrupting the morals of a minor (fortunately no longer a capital offense in America). A consequence is that alcohol consumption is learned almost outside the cultural controls of family, moderation and responsibility.

More than one in three American high school students, fed a propaganda diet of abstinence, engages in binge drinking (the consumption of at least five "drinks" at one time) every month. Prohibition-bred young Americans learn to drink furtively, dishonestly, rapidly, excessively, without moderation -- and with disastrous consequences in pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, violence and accident. American college students are obsessed with getting drunk, and the prohibition they have been taught is the primary reason for that obsession. The example of other cultures makes clear that the simple availability of alcohol is not the primary problem.

Mr. Davidow's dishonest misuse of data in other respects does no honor to his teachers or his speechwriters. Writing of the notorious needle park in Zurich, for example, he dishonestly omits the rationales for both opening and closing the needle park, and dishonestly omits the events subsequent to that experiment. The Swiss wanted to minimize the disease of injection drug use and street disorder of the illegal market by experimentally centralizing the market. It was never an experiment in legalization, for drug selling remained completely in the hands of criminals. Simply creating a zone of tolerance of the prohibited drug trade in a central city park was not the way to achieve the goals, so a different experiment was attempted. Subsequently, the national government experimented with providing heroin inexpensively and directly to hard-core heroin users to see if the spread of HIV declined, if employment increased, and if criminal acts decreased among the heroin users in the program. They found such a system of regulated distribution produced such consequences, and are continuing the experiment. An analogy might be to compare the prostitution zones in typical U.S. cities -- with muggings, sordid and violent exploitation of prostitutes, and corruption of police -- to the prostitution situation in the State of Nevada with licensed brothels, inspection by physicians, taxation, and without violence.

American national attitudes about alcohol, drugs and youth have been divorced from history, science and common sense for decades. And the decades-old pattern of American bureaucrats uttering falsehoods in support of national policy likewise remains unbroken.

Eric E. Sterling, Esquire
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
1225 Eye Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

Lyn Isbell Responds:

Arguing that one abstract concept (evil) can "use" another abstract concept (absolute liberty) does not constitute a valid argument by the stretch of anyone's imagination. Further, Ambassador Davidow fails to illustrate or support what he means but instead leaps wildly to questioning the "right" (?) of Socrates to drink hemlock and throws in a red herring about 12-year-olds buying alcohol--without connecting either of these examples to evil or absolute liberty. (Is anyone anywhere proposing that 12-year-olds be allowed to buy alcohol? I think not.)

Of course, as most of us learned in 7th grade history, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock, a death sentence imposed on him by the state to punish him for supposedly corrupting the morals of Athenian youth. Yes, the old man could possibly have escaped this fate because he had many friends willing to smuggle him out of Athens. But he would have been exiled, never able to return home, a fate worse than death for most old people. To characterize this dilemma as the "right" of Socrates to drink hemlock is as specious as saying we are "bothered" by the problem of "confronting" narco-traffickers.

- Lyn Isbell
Professor (ret.) of English and Logical Debate

Francisco Gil-White Responds:

One need not dwell too long on other sections of Ambassador Davidow's speech, for this priceless nugget contains everything that matters in terms of his political philosophy and its application to policy. Let us ask: would Abassador Davidow favor regulation of the access that 12 year-olds have to fat and sugar? Would he endorse laws criminalizing the sale of sweets and junk-food to minors? Would he like to see sugar become a controlled substance? The answer must be yes, because fat and sugar, as the epidemic of obesity seizing America clearly shows, are poisonous in the quantities currently consumed, and they are having negative health effects of historic proportions. And they can be addictive. If Mr. Davidow believes in the abstract principles he defends, he will naturally follow them to this obvious policy conclusion. But if he were to say that regulating access to fat and sugar is a ridiculous idea, then he himself must intuit a fundamental problem with the principles he advances. They bear some examination.

Francisco Gil-White
Assistant Professor, Psychology
University of Pennsylvania

Attorney Mike McIntyre Responds:

Ambassador Davidow, or whoever wrote his speech, seems to have forgotten the story of the "trial" of Socrates.

The poison Mr. Davidow suggests that Socrates exercised a "right" toward, was actually the sentence conferred upon him, by his government.

Socrates had been accused, by the authorities of "corrupting the youth."

No doubt he "committed" the equivalent, of explaining the benefits of marijuana, to an assembly of school children, in the present-day United States.

The only option Socrates had, was to permit his followers to take up arms against the government, in his defense. But, like Jesus over a thousand years later, Socrates refused to allow his followers revolt against the government and accepted their punishment; however unjustified.

Does Mr. Davidow suggest that Jesus exercised his "right" to climb up on the cross?

Perhaps the author was gambling that no one in Mexico is familiar with the writings of Plato.

Alcohol has been legal in the U.S. for quite a while and I have yet to hear someone lobby, that we should allow children access.

I would imagine that long years of government service, not unlike prison, might give someone a rather dim view of human nature. He surely knows his sons better than I, and perhaps since alcohol is legally available, they may have already raced out and became alcoholics.

The simple fact is, his sons could have become addicts already, if they so chose.

I have more faith in my children, and the children of most other people.

I am more concerned that one of them might "sell, furnish, or give away" a bag of pot to a friend/government informant, and be imprisoned for a long mandatory sentence in the penitentiary.

Like alcohol prohibition in the U.S. proved, that they are illegal, does in fact cause far greater evil in a society, than the substance alone.

Gang warfare over turf and profits, countless murders, poison product, corrupt officials, diminishing civil rights, wasted resources, a police state for our own "protection" and all the rest pertaining to alcohol, just disappeared with the repeal of Prohibition.

Today we have many drinkers, with relatively few alcoholics and drunk drivers. Most people take the drug responsibly and cause no harm, except to themselves. And as we well know, alcohol is by far one of the most dangerous of the recreational drugs,..... just not when compared to it's prohibition.

- Mike McIntyre


And More from Plato

on the Trial of Socrates:

Publisher's Note: In the words of that great North American philosopher Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu all over again!" It seems that this debate has been held before. And it's uncanny how the disingenuous perpetrators of State-sponsored falsehoods give themselves away. In this case, Davidow, invoking the name of Socrates in gross error (Ambassador-as-product of the North American school system?), while repeating, almost identically, the long-discredited argument of Meletus, the accuser of Socrates.

Davidow is our modern-day Meletus.

The victims and critics of the US-imposed war on drugs, like Salvador Allende, Victor Hara, Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi before them, are his Socrates. They drive him to distraction and atrocity.

And Narco News, like Plato, now records his words that shall live in infamy.

The following account by Plato of the trial of his teacher Socrates, and the master's courtroom debate with the nefarious Meletus, serves as a disturbing reminder of the cruelty of power…

Socrates: Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you. You think a great deal about the improvement of youth?

Meletus: Yes, I do.

Socrates: Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must know, as you have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak, then, and tell the judges who their improver is; Observe, Meletus, that you are silent, and have nothing to say. But is not this rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of what I was saying, that you have no interest in the matter? Speak up, friend, and tell us who their improver is.

Meletus: The laws.

Socrates: But that, my good sir, is not my meaning. I want to know who the person is, who, in the first place, knows the laws.

Meletus: The judges, Socrates, who are present in court.

Socrates: What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are able to instruct and improve youth?

Meletus: Certainly they are.

Socrates: What, all of them, or some only and not others?

Meletus: All of them.

Socrates: By the goddess Hera, that is good news! There are plenty of improvers, then. And what do you say of the audience, do they improve them?

Meletus: Yes, they do.

Socrates: And the senators?

Meletus: Yes, the senators improve them.

Socrates: But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt them?, or do they too improve them?

Meletus: They improve them.

Socrates: Then every Athenian improves and elevates them; all with the exception of myself; and I alone am their corrupter? is that what you affirm?

Meletus: That is what I stoutly affirm.

Next in The Great Debate Series...

Davidow's European Vacation

What the U.S. Agent Didn't Say about

Swiss, Dutch and British Drug Policies

See Part I:

Ambassador vs. Ambassador

Our First Witness: Gustavo de Greiff

Join the Great Debate!

Read Davidow's Speech

And Send Your Testimony to:

"Come Hither, Meletus..."