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robertogreco : legalization   7

Surveillance Kills Freedom By Killing Experimentation | WIRED
"In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress.

We know that surveillance has a chilling effect on freedom. People change their behavior when they live their lives under surveillance. They are less likely to speak freely and act individually. They self-censor. They become conformist. This is obviously true for government surveillance, but is true for corporate surveillance as well. We simply aren’t as willing to be our individual selves when others are watching.

Let’s take an example: hearing that parents and children are being separated as they cross the U.S. border, you want to learn more. You visit the website of an international immigrants’ rights group, a fact that is available to the government through mass internet surveillance. You sign up for the group’s mailing list, another fact that is potentially available to the government. The group then calls or emails to invite you to a local meeting. Same. Your license plates can be collected as you drive to the meeting; your face can be scanned and identified as you walk into and out of the meeting. If instead of visiting the website you visit the group’s Facebook page, Facebook knows that you did and that feeds into its profile of you, available to advertisers and political activists alike. Ditto if you like their page, share a link with your friends, or just post about the issue.

Maybe you are an immigrant yourself, documented or not. Or maybe some of your family is. Or maybe you have friends or coworkers who are. How likely are you to get involved if you know that your interest and concern can be gathered and used by government and corporate actors? What if the issue you are interested in is pro- or anti-gun control, anti-police violence or in support of the police? Does that make a difference?

Maybe the issue doesn’t matter, and you would never be afraid to be identified and tracked based on your political or social interests. But even if you are so fearless, you probably know someone who has more to lose, and thus more to fear, from their personal, sexual, or political beliefs being exposed.

This isn’t just hypothetical. In the months and years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many of us censored what we spoke about on social media or what we searched on the internet. We know from a 2013 PEN study that writers in the United States self-censored their browsing habits out of fear the government was watching. And this isn’t exclusively an American event; internet self-censorship is prevalent across the globe, China being a prime example.

Ultimately, this fear stagnates society in two ways. The first is that the presence of surveillance means society cannot experiment with new things without fear of reprisal, and that means those experiments—if found to be inoffensive or even essential to society—cannot slowly become commonplace, moral, and then legal. If surveillance nips that process in the bud, change never happens. All social progress—from ending slavery to fighting for women’s rights—began as ideas that were, quite literally, dangerous to assert. Yet without the ability to safely develop, discuss, and eventually act on those assertions, our society would not have been able to further its democratic values in the way that it has.

Consider the decades-long fight for gay rights around the world. Within our lifetimes we have made enormous strides to combat homophobia and increase acceptance of queer folks’ right to marry. Queer relationships slowly progressed from being viewed as immoral and illegal, to being viewed as somewhat moral and tolerated, to finally being accepted as moral and legal.

In the end it was the public nature of those activities that eventually slayed the bigoted beast, but the ability to act in private was essential in the beginning for the early experimentation, community building, and organizing.

Marijuana legalization is going through the same process: it’s currently sitting between somewhat moral, and—depending on the state or country in question—tolerated and legal. But, again, for this to have happened, someone decades ago had to try pot and realize that it wasn’t really harmful, either to themselves or to those around them. Then it had to become a counterculture, and finally a social and political movement. If pervasive surveillance meant that those early pot smokers would have been arrested for doing something illegal, the movement would have been squashed before inception. Of course the story is more complicated than that, but the ability for members of society to privately smoke weed was essential for putting it on the path to legalization.

We don’t yet know which subversive ideas and illegal acts of today will become political causes and positive social change tomorrow, but they’re around. And they require privacy to germinate. Take away that privacy, and we’ll have a much harder time breaking down our inherited moral assumptions.

The second way surveillance hurts our democratic values is that it encourages society to make more things illegal. Consider the things you do—the different things each of us does—that portions of society find immoral. Not just recreational drugs and gay sex, but gambling, dancing, public displays of affection. All of us do things that are deemed immoral by some groups, but are not illegal because they don’t harm anyone. But it’s important that these things can be done out of the disapproving gaze of those who would otherwise rally against such practices.

If there is no privacy, there will be pressure to change. Some people will recognize that their morality isn’t necessarily the morality of everyone—and that that’s okay. But others will start demanding legislative change, or using less legal and more violent means, to force others to match their idea of morality.

It’s easy to imagine the more conservative (in the small-c sense, not in the sense of the named political party) among us getting enough power to make illegal what they would otherwise be forced to witness. In this way, privacy helps protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

This is how we got Prohibition in the 1920s, and if we had had today’s surveillance capabilities in the 1920s it would have been far more effectively enforced. Recipes for making your own spirits would have been much harder to distribute. Speakeasies would have been impossible to keep secret. The criminal trade in illegal alcohol would also have been more effectively suppressed. There would have been less discussion about the harms of Prohibition, less “what if we didn’t…” thinking. Political organizing might have been difficult. In that world, the law might have stuck to this day.

China serves as a cautionary tale. The country has long been a world leader in the ubiquitous surveillance of its citizens, with the goal not of crime prevention but of social control. They are about to further enhance their system, giving every citizen a “social credit” rating. The details are yet unclear, but the general concept is that people will be rated based on their activities, both online and off. Their political comments, their friends and associates, and everything else will be assessed and scored. Those who are conforming, obedient, and apolitical will be given high scores. People without those scores will be denied privileges like access to certain schools and foreign travel. If the program is half as far-reaching as early reports indicate, the subsequent pressure to conform will be enormous. This social surveillance system is precisely the sort of surveillance designed to maintain the status quo.

For social norms to change, people need to deviate from these inherited norms. People need the space to try alternate ways of living without risking arrest or social ostracization. People need to be able to read critiques of those norms without anyone’s knowledge, discuss them without their opinions being recorded, and write about their experiences without their names attached to their words. People need to be able to do things that others find distasteful, or even immoral. The minority needs protection from the tyranny of the majority.

Privacy makes all of this possible. Privacy encourages social progress by giving the few room to experiment free from the watchful eye of the many. Even if you are not personally chilled by ubiquitous surveillance, the society you live in is, and the personal costs are unequivocal."
freedom  surveillance  authoritarianism  privacy  2018  bruceschneier  experimentation  ostracization  prohibition  history  legalization  society  liberty  creativity  unschooling  deschooling  us  parenting  schooling  learning  howwelearn  behavior 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Johann Hari & Naomi Klein: Does Capitalism Drive Drug Addiction? | Democracy Now!
[See also: ]

"And the first kind of chink in my doubt about that was explained to me by another great Canadian, Gabor Maté in Vancouver, who some of you will know the work of, amazing man. And he pointed out to me, if any of us step out of here today and we’re hit by a bus, right, God forbid, and we break our hip, we’ll be taken to hospital. It’s very likely we’ll be given a lot of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. It’s much better heroin than you’ll score on the streets, because it’s medically pure, right? It’s really potent heroin. You’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. Every hospital in the developed world, that’s happening, right? If what we think about addiction is right, what should—I mean, those people should leave as addicts. That never happens, virtually never happens. You will have noticed your grandmother was not turned into a junkie by her hip replacement operation, right?

I didn’t really know what to do with it. When Gabor first explained that to me, I didn’t really know how to process that, until I met Bruce Alexander. Bruce is a professor in Vancouver, and Bruce explained something to me. The idea of addiction we have, the one that we all implicitly believe—I certainly did—comes from a series of experiments that were done earlier in the 20th century. They’re really simple experiments. You can do them yourself at home if you’re feeling a little bit sadistic. Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the '70s and said, "Well, hang on a minute. We're putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently." So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says is that shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

There was a really interesting human experiment going on at the same time as Rat Park, which kind of demonstrates this really interestingly. It was called the Vietnam War, right? Twenty percent of American troops in Vietnam were using heroin a lot, right? And if you look at the reports from the time, they were really worried. They thought—because they believed the old theory of addiction. They were like, "My god, these guys are all going to come home, and we’re going to have loads of heroin addicts on the streets of the United States." What happened? They came home, and virtually all of them just stopped, because if you’re taken out of a hellish, pestilential jungle, where you don’t want to be, you can die at any moment, and you go back to a nice life in Wichita, Kansas, you can bear to be present in your life. We could all be drunk now. Forget the drug laws. We could all be drunk now, right? None of you look very drunk. I’m guessing you’re not, right? That’s because we’ve got something we want to do. We’ve got things we want to be present for in our lives.

So, I think this has—Bruce taught us about how this has huge implications, obviously, for the drug war. The drug war is based on the idea that the chemicals cause the addiction, and we need to physically eradicate these chemicals from the face of the Earth. If in fact it’s not the chemicals, if in fact it’s isolation and pain that cause the addiction, then it suddenly throws into sharp contrast the idea that we need to impose more isolation and pain on addicts in order to make them stop, which is what we currently do.

But it actually has much deeper implications that I think really relate to what Naomi writes about in This Changes Everything, and indeed before. We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that."

"JOHANN HARI: I think Gabor—yeah, I mean, I think we’re all on a continuum, and we all have some behaviors where the rational part of us doesn’t want to do it, but the irrational part of us does it anyway. I mean, yeah. I mean, cake. You only need to say the word "cake," and everyone knows exactly what I mean. But so, yeah—and, of course, it’s a continuum where you’ve got cake at one end and, you know, extreme—and it doesn’t have to be—obviously, you’d think of crack or meth, but actually gambling addiction, or you can have all of the catastrophic addiction and no chemicals. No one thinks you snort a roulette wheel, you know.

But I’d be interested, actually, if you think, though—do you think economic—partly—so you’ve got this kind of atomized society, and I wonder if there’s a relationship between this atomized, more addiction-prone society and the panic at the idea of economic growth not happening. I agree with you about fossil fuels, but do you think the part of the kind of—because one of the most controversial parts of Naomi’s book is—I’m baffled by why anyone finds this controversial, but Naomi says at one point we may have to return to the living standards of the 1970s, which Elizabeth Kolbert thought was like saying we have to go live in caves. And there were bad things about the 1970s—don’t get me wrong—but they weren’t living in caves. And I’m [inaudible] about—there’s something about the idea of like having less stuff that just panics people. Do you think it’s related to this atomization?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, I think we are—I think it’s this self-reinforcing cycle, right? Where we’re getting from—we’re projecting onto our consumer products our identity, our community, and we are constructing ourselves through consumption, and so that if you tell people they have to consume less, it’s not seen as you want to take away my stuff, it’s you want to take away myself. Like it is a very profound—

JOHANN HARI: Oh, that’s fascinating.

NAOMI KLEIN: —panic that it induces, that has to do with this surrogate role that like we’re shopping for so much more than stuff in our culture, right? So, but yeah, I mean, what’s interesting, too, I mean, all the debates about economic growth. Like if we let go of growth as our primary measure of success, then we would have to talk about what we actually value, like what is it that we want. And that’s what we can’t really do, because then we have to—you know, then we’re having a conversation about values and well-being and defining that. And so, growth allows us to avoid that conversation that we are not able to have, for a whole bunch of reasons. Now, I—"
johannhari  naomiklein  addiction  drugs  2015  capitalism  environment  brucealexander  warondrugs  pain  gabormaté  medicine  psychology  policy  consumerism  consumption  materialism  individualism  economics  growth  values  identity  society  elizabethkolbert  joãogoulão  decriminalization  joãofigueira  inequality  prostitution  switzerland  britishcolumbia  arizona  racism  judygarland  donnaleonehamm  marciapowell  vancouver  addicts  billieholiday  harryanslinger  davidcameron  josephmccarthy  legalization  dehumanization  harmreduction  prisons 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Inside Colorado’s flourishing, segregated black market for pot - The Washington Post
"The resentment goes something like: We Latinos and African Americans from the ‘hood were stigmatized for marijuana use, disdained and disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. We grew up in the culture of marijuana, with grandmothers who made oil from the plants and rubbed it on arthritic hands. We sold it as medicine. We sold it for profit and pleasure.

Now pot is legalized and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records and 800 credit scores. And here we are again: on the outskirts of opportunity. A legion of entrepreneurs with big plans and rewired basements chafes with every monthly state tax revenue report.

Ask someone who buys and sells in the underground market how it has responded to legalization and the question is likely to be tossed back with defiance. “You mean, ‘Who’s been shut out of the legal market?’ ” asks Miguel Lopez, chief community organizer of the state’s 420 Rally, which calls for legalization of marijuana nationally.

“It’s kind of like we made all the sacrifices and they packed it up and are making all the money,” says Cisco Gallardo, a well-known gang outreach worker who once sold drugs as a gang member. For the record, he does not partake. It rattles him a little, he says, to see the young people with whom he works shed their NFL and rapper dreams for the next big thing: their own marijuana dispensary.

In this light, taxation is seen as a blunt instrument of exclusion, driving precisely the groups most prosecuted in the war on drug further into the arms of the black market where they remain at risk for arrest or robbery. In one Denver dispensary, a $30 purchase of one-eighth of the Trinity strain of cannabis includes $7.38 in state and local taxes – a near 33 percent rate. As Larisa Bolivar, one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalizing marijuana nationally and opening a true free market, puts it: That seven bucks buys someone lunch.

“It’s simple,” she says. “A high tax rate drives black market growth. It’s an incentive for risky behavior.”"
colorado  2014  blackmarket  warondrugs  inequality  legalization  marijuana  markets  economics  taxes 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Drug experiment - The Boston Globe
"But nearly a decade later, there's evidence that Portugal's great drug experiment not only didn't blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon's troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized -- indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need."
drugs  portugal  politics  crime  society  policy  legalization  via:kottke 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Mexico and drugs: Thinking the unthinkable | The Economist
"In all, since Felipe Calderón sent the army against the drug gangs when he took office as president almost four years ago, some 28,000 people have been killed, the government says. There is no sign of a let-up, on either side.

So it came as a surprise when on August 3rd Mr Calderón called for a debate on whether to legalise drugs. Though several former Latin American leaders have spoken out in favour of legalisation, and many politicians privately support it, Mr Calderón became the first incumbent president to call for open discussion of the merits of legalising a trade he has opposed with such determination. At a round-table on security, he said this was “a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality [of opinions]…You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”"
drugs  mexico  policy  legalization  classideas  warondrugs  drugwar 
august 2010 by robertogreco
The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal - Glenn Greenwald -
"In 2001, Portugal became the only EU-member state to decriminalize drugs, a distinction which continues through to the present. Last year, working with the Cato Institute, I went to that country in order to research the effects of the decriminalization law (which applies to all substances, including cocaine and heroin) and to interview both Portuguese and EU drug policy officials and analysts (the central EU drug policy monitoring agency is, by coincidence, based in Lisbon). Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense."
drugs  portugal  glenngreenwald  politics  policy  government  law  health  europe  legalization  decriminalization  addiction  culture  crime  society  via:cburell 
march 2009 by robertogreco

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