High Math 

High Math 
Posted by FoM on May 24, 2001 at 08:44:11 PT
By Jacob Sullum
Source: Reason Magazine
If Bill Bennett's protege becomes drug czar, expect him to make some dubious claims. "The Drug War Worked Once. It Can Again." So read the headline above William J. Bennett's recent defense of drug czar nominee John Walters in The Wall Street Journal. Bennett, the Office of National Drug Control Policy's first director, was responding to charges that Walters, his former deputy, overemphasizes law enforcement and gives short shrift to "treatment and prevention." 
The thrust of Bennett's piece was that Walters' approach to drug policy is the same one that worked so well in the 1980s. Bennett's claims in this area have to be taken with a grain of salt. When he left the drug czar's job in November 1990, 20 months after taking office, he bragged about downward trends in drug use that had begun years before he was appointed. He is doing something similar with his broader claim about the success of the War on Drugs waged by the Reagan and first Bush administrations.His evidence comes from two surveys sponsored by the federal government. In the 1979 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 14.1 percent of respondents said they'd used illegal drugs during the previous month; that number fell to 5.8 percent in 1992, after which it started going up, hitting 6.7 percent in 1999, the last year for which data are available. The Monitoring the Future Study shows a similar pattern: The share of high school seniors reporting past-month drug use fell from 38.9 percent in 1979 to 14.4 percent in 1992 before climbing to 26.2 percent in 1997; last year it was 24.9 percent.Bennett's interpretation, which is widely accepted among Republicans and conservatives, is that Reagan and Bush were tough on drugs, so drug use declined; Clinton was soft on drugs, so drug use went up. Since drug arrests and drug control spending rose to record levels under Clinton, the premise that his administration was lax in this area is questionable, to say the least.In any case, both surveys show illegal drug use peaking in 1979, two years before Reagan took office. And although the upswing measured in the two studies does coincide with the beginning of the first Clinton administration, the survey of high school seniors indicates that drug use among teenagers started to fall again in 1998, three years before George W. Bush took office.Precisely why drug consumption has risen and fallen the way it has during the last two decades is not clear. But this much seems certain: If Walters measures up to his mentor, inconvenient timing won't stop him from taking credit for declining drug use.Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum is writing a book for Tarcher/Putnam on the morality of drug use.E-mail: jsullum Source: Reason Magazine (US)Author: Jacob SullumPublished: May 24, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Reason FoundationContact: letters reason.comWebsite: Related Articles:More Fuzzy Drug-War Math's Fuzzy Drug-War Victory
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Comment #11 posted by kaptinemo on May 25, 2001 at 05:27:40 PT:
Here's a laugh for you
So, Walters thinks that the ReaganBush (perhaps I should just say Bush; ol' Ronnie always seemed asleep at the switch, nodding off in meetings. makes you wonder how long he's had Alzheimer's) era's Just Say No was so wonderfully effective in innoculating the youth of America from using illicit drugs?Read this:'88 DRUG-AWARENESS ESSAY WINNER BOOKEDNAPOLEONVILLE -- The first-place winner in Assumption High School's 1988 drug-awareness essay contest was arrested and booked with possession of 91/2 pounds of marijuana worth $23,000, Sheriff Mike Waguespack said Tuesday.Deputies with a search warrant used a police dog to find the marijuana hidden in the oven of Todd Southall's mobile home at 117 Jacobs St. in Bertrandville. Southall, now 26, won the high school essay contest sponsored by a group of pharmacies, Waguespack said.  The contest plaque was on a wall in the mobile home, the sheriff said. Southall previously was convicted of distribution of cocaine, the sheriff said.  Deputies found two shotguns in his residence, a violation of his parole, Waguespack said. Southall was held Tuesday in the Assumption Parish Detention Center in lieu of $100,000 bail.Yessir, Just Say No was a pig's eye.
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Comment #10 posted by nl5x on May 24, 2001 at 19:04:57 PT
my letter to Sullum/
I will get right to the point this letter is regarding "high math".please do a follow up to high math with the other half of the real #'s. examples with source link:see below Bennett's strategy of neglecting drug abusers while punishing casual users worked exactly as designed. In the 1980s and early 1990s, arrests and imprisonments for drug law violations skyrocketed, self-reported drug use fell and drug abuse exploded. Federal Drug Abuse Warning Network reports showed overdoses and hospitalizations skyrocketing, especially for those drugs most targeted by the drug war. In 1980, when Reagan took office, 28,000 Americans were hospitalized for abuse of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. In 1992, when Bush left office, the number was 175,000. In 2000, the latest figures available, 250,000 were hospitalized. Walters' czarist capabilities are shown when he cites trends to indict Clinton's policies without mentioning how they equally discredit the Reagan-Bush drug war. From 1980 to 1992, heroin and cocaine prices dropped by 60 percent, heroin-related emergency admissions tripled, cocaine ER cases jumped 1,200 percent and drug-related murders quadrupled from 400 to 1,600. The Reagan-Bush era spawned the very "adolescent superpredators" Walters later mythologized to inflame national panic. His 1996 book, Body Count, coauthored with Bennett and John DiIulio, blamed "the alarming rise in teenage violence" on "a population of teenagers with a higher incidence of serious drug useDuring the Reagan-Bush reign, the number of adults 35 and older hospitalized for heroin and cocaine overdoses surged from 7,000 in 1980 to 130,000 in 1992, while hard-drug deaths leaped 800 percent. America now suffers its worst drug abuse crisis ever -- more annual drug-involved arrests (1.6 million), imprisonments (300,000), overdose deaths (16,000) and emergency treatments (600,000) than ever. Males, senior researcher for the Justice Policy Institute and sociology instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on May 24, 2001 at 18:27:06 PT
The numbers can be manipulated and formulated tosupport anything.When pressed about the origins ofsuch numbers about drug use,you usually find out thatthey were not really lying,,but the numbers given were from a survey of students in the 8th grade,who were membersof the Glee club,who had 3.5 grade point averages in the monthof September....,,,,By juggling the numbers,you can make a surveysay anything you want,,,and the same goes for many polls.....dddd
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Comment #8 posted by Ron Bennett on May 24, 2001 at 15:38:58 PT
Time to Change My Name :-(
I really hate the thought of someone else with the same last name as me being so damn ignorant - makes me sick!! :-(
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Comment #7 posted by Pontifex on May 24, 2001 at 15:12:03 PT:
Jacob Sullum responds
Why didn't Jacob Sullum discuss the unreliability of self-reported drug-use statistics? Read his reply to my letter:(please excuse the formatting enforced by the narrow Comment: field. How do you guys use the whole line anyway?)---Thank you for your note. I didn't discuss the reliability of self-reports mainly because this was supposed to be a short, simple piece, but you raise a valid point. Despite assurances of confidentiality, to some extent these surveys probably do measure changes in willingness to report drug use rather than changes in drug use itself. It seems likely, however, that the same factors that discourage people from reporting drug use would also tend to discourage drug use, though perhaps not to the extent suggested by the surveys. Other indicators, such as hospital admissions, seem to confirm the general trends suggested by the household and high school surveys.Another possibility is that some respondents may *exaggerate* drug use and drug availability. Some teenagers may be embarrassed to admit they've never tried pot, for example, and they may consider it a sign of coolness to have good drug connections.Jacob Sullum---He makes a credible point, but I have to side with Kaptinemo on this one. What kind of drug user is going to admit illegal activity over the phone to a stranger?
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Comment #6 posted by Sudaca on May 24, 2001 at 14:07:36 PT
por favor!
How can anyone expect students facing denial of federal aid to admit to criminal behavior in a poll, especially to a gov't poll? Look at your incarceration statistics; they are closer to what's happening out there. The US hasn't relaxed its laws at any point, and the amount of people being arrested in light of those laws keeps growing. Street prices for drugs keep getting cheaper.Each time the conservatives get in power, the dopers of the world think its wiser to keep mum about their fun. Given the virulent and hate filled rhetoric of the 'compassionate conservative crew' can you blame them?
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Comment #5 posted by Robbie on May 24, 2001 at 13:35:42 PT
I have a question
I keep seeing the "39% high-skool kids report drug use in 1979." And then that figure is supposed to a scant "14.4%" not even 15 years later? Does anyone believe the shifts that these figures claim?
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Comment #4 posted by observer on May 24, 2001 at 11:04:17 PT
such a survey
 A question posed by a total - and in some cases, unidentifiable - stranger. Whose affiliations with law enforcement are unknown. Whose real intent may not be benign. And who, despite any promises to the contrary, is under no compunctions to respect your privacy or the confidentiality of your answers. Simple logic dictates that anyone who has given any thought to this at all will come to the conclusion that anyone admitting illegal activity in such a survey is either naively dim-witted, non compos mentis...or lying. Excellent points and post as always kaptin! . . . In the Pavlovian strategy, terrorizing force can finally be replaced by a new organization of the means of communication. Ready made opinions can be distributed day by day through press, radio, and so on, again and again, till they reach the nerve cell and implant a fixed pattern of thought in the brain. Consequently, guided public opinion is the result, according to Pavlovian theoreticians, of good propaganda technique, and the polls a verification of the temporary successful action of the Pavlovian machinations on the mind. Yet, the polls may only count what people pretend to think and believe, because it is dangerous for them to do otherwise.THE RAPE OF THE MIND (The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing), Joost A. M. Meerloo, MD, 1956 (World Publishing), pg. 47 . . . Can't say enough good things about Jacob Sullum's writing. He and others are opening many eyes.
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Comment #3 posted by Pontifex on May 24, 2001 at 10:44:01 PT:
Well put
Kaptinemo, you really laid it out, much better than I could have. Thanks for that explanation of bureaucratic incentives to lie and spend as much as possible.
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on May 24, 2001 at 09:37:13 PT:
"Figures don't lie..." 
but government bureaucrats sure as Hell canFor the longest time I've suspected the US Gov's figures on illicit drug use. Having been trained as a sociologist, you learn the sad truth early on that there's simply no substitute for cold, hard facts. Everything else is supposition.And that, primarily, is what these polls represent: supposition.A supposition that rests upon the highly improbable event of a person honestly answering the question of illicit drug use. A question posed by a total - and in some cases, unidentifiable - stranger. Whose affiliations with law enforcement are unknown. Whose real intent may not be benign. And who, despite any promises to the contrary, is under no compunctions to respect your privacy or the confidentiality of your answers.Simple logic dictates that anyone who has given any thought to this at all will come to the conclusion that anyone admitting illegal activity in such a survey is either naively dim-witted, non compos mentis...or lying. There's simply no way at all to determine the totalnumber of people actually engaged in illicit activity who have not been caught and processed by the 'justice' system.. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nichivo.Which, incidentally, leads us to ask some interesting questions. Such as: If the budgetary requirements of the ONDCP and other 'drug-fighting' organizations are dependant upon these dubious and highly suspect figures, then every person working for them who has come hat-in-hand to Congress to get our money to use against us has done so on false pretenses.Think of it. They can't go to Congress and say that despite the funding, they have, (according to the figures) not made any headway in the arenas of interdiction and demand reduction. (Please remember, I used to be a Federal civil servant; I remember all too well the end-of-the-fiscal-year scramble my superiors engegd in to spend money on idiotic things, in order to be able to ask Congress for even more money to replenish the coffers that were essentially wasted. Absolutely disgusting.)Nope, they have to present Congress with 'proof' that they are winning. Hence these figures.I remember very clearly back in the late 1970's the old Committee on the Present Danger commercials stating that the Soviet Union had a military machine that had soldiers ten-feet-tall. Well, the CIA had been padding the strength estimates of Soviet forces, making them look more dangerous than they were. We found out how snookered we were when the Soviet military collapsed.But by then, we had sunk the country into debt so much to pay for the Reagan arms build-up that it's been twenty years and we still have a huge national debt. Lots and lots of already filthy rich people got richer - some, like Caspar Weinberger, while they were working for Uncle -while social welfare programs were cut in the name of fighting the Cold War.The antis are doing the same thing: using bogus data in order to justify their continued existence. What's amazing is that no one has ever called them out for it. 
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Comment #1 posted by Pontifex on May 24, 2001 at 09:28:41 PT:
Sullum misses the perfect rebuttal?
Hey folks,Here's a letter I just sent to Jacob Sullum, an excellent journalist:---Dear Mr. Sullum,I have enjoyed your columns in Reason and elsewhere for years, especially your expositions of federal drug and tobacco laws. Your reporting is thorough and your style is composed, articulate and always thought-provoking. I certainly don't want to bug you, but I found a strange omission in your recent article "High Math".As you pointed out, Bill Bennett relies on self-reported statistics to argue trends in actual drug use. Far from being an accurate measure, however, such self-reported responses are inherently suspect -- and one would expect self-reported drug use to fall in a climate of strict enforcement, and rise in a comparatively lax environment, regardless of actual drug use. To me, this irreducible inaccuracy of self-reported illegal activity is the most fatal (and glaring) flaw in Bennett's argument.I'm puzzled that you didn't make this point and seemed to accept Bennett's numbers at face value. Perhaps you have reason to believe these statistics really are accurate?At any rate, thanks for raising my consciousness throughout high school, college and beyond. I look forward to enjoying your prose for many years to come.Respectfully yours,---
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