Politics & Policy

In Drugs We Trust; Politics, Practically Speaking; The Mailbag Overruneth


The “therapeutic society” used to refer generally to the over-indulgence of its members by the state and its institutions. The self-esteem cult and the worship of victimology were its two most obvious symptoms. But today it seems less a metaphor and more an actual description. In a recent article in Policy Review, Contributing Editor Mary Eberstadt writes that the number of children taking Ritalin is approaching 4 million and that production of the drug has increased 700 percent since 1990. In some parts of the country school nurses spend much of their days simply handing out the drugs.

#ad#Ritalin is supposed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, a condition so nebulous that its name has changed 25 times in a century. This makes sense because when I was child its official name in the Goldberg household was AIYP (ants in your pants). The typical treatment was GOAP (go outside and play) or GBYF, GBYM, or WYBD (respectively: “Go bother your father,” “go bother your mother,” or the more euphemistic “What is your brother doing?”). If these remedies didn’t work, the swift application of a video game or comic book often did the trick.

Then there’s the Ritalin for grown-ups we call Prozac. Millions take it and swear by it. From what I can tell it makes them happy; it also tends to make them talk like Jedi Knights — but whatever, as Bob Dole might say. Which of course brings us to the millions who take Viagra. This wonderful pill has brought our country a little closer to the old adage that anyone can be president. We’re not there yet, but they can certainly be like him now. And of course it has the side benefit of making Alan Dershowitz taller.

The Clinton administration wants Medicare to pay for prescription drugs for seniors. To be honest, that’s fine with me — if someone pays for it. As it is now the administration claims this will pay for itself. This is the funniest thing health-care economists have heard since the old saw about the actuary with the broken slide rule (you had to be there). The White House, at the behest of Tipper Gore, wants to make it easier for people to get coverage for mental-health drugs.

Now Tipper has more class than the rest of that crowd. But could it be that with the growing acceptance of better living through chemistry, the White House has stumbled on a winning issue?

Well, what got me thinking about all of this was the poll data in the latest issue of the American Enterprise (one of the best magazines in Christendom and not just because they let me scribble in it). In the “Opinion Pulse” section, edited by the inestimable Karlyn Bowman, there is a October 1998 Gallup poll which asked people to rate the ethical standards and honesty of various occupations. The poll seems to be calibrated correctly because lawyers (14%), insurance salesmen (11%), advertising hawkers (10%), and car salesmen (5%) are at the bottom. But guess who’s numero uno? Most people would guess “clergy,” right? Well, the priestly class comes in at #2. The most ethical and honest group in the eyes of the American people are…”druggists.”


On Tony Snow’s Fox News Sunday, NPR and Fox reporter Mara Liasson offered a wonderfully succinct glimpse into how the press thinks. She thinks George W.’s “compassionate conservatism” is brilliant because it “answers the critique of Republicanism that it’s hard-hearted.” Fair enough. People do think Republicanism is too “mean.” This is a silly way to think about politics, but okay, it’s a fact nonetheless.

But Liasson went on. “And Al Gore actually tried out a competing slogan, ‘practical idealism,’” she said. “Well, that was a little clunky because it suggested that idealism can be impractical in the hands of Democrats.”

There you have it. Conservatism is mean in the eyes of the press, and therefore modifying it with “compassionate” is not just good politics, it’s about time! But even suggesting that idealism is impractical is just plain goofy.


GFHQ was fairly well swamped with e-mail over the weekend. A number of people were very disturbed by the “hate,” “intolerance,” and “ignorance” reflected in my comments about transsexuals. We conducted a quick psychic inventory and uncovered little to no hate and only a modicum of the much-maligned intolerance. As for ignorance, well, we found plenty of that – but that wasn’t exactly a secret was it? Still, for those who thought I was insufficiently clear, let me say right now, I know next to nothing about transsexuals.

I would like to clarify one other point. I did not mean to say that people born with very real medical conditions are mental deviants or perverts. Sometimes people are born one way on the outside and another way on the inside. My intention was not to hurt these people and your e-mails were enlightening. But these people, it seems to me, are not the people I was writing about (I wasn’t writing about gays either, by the way). Ms. Wilchins does not believe she is either male or female and she thinks other people shouldn’t buy into that thinking either.

And, I don’t for a moment retract my assertion that gender isn’t going away. If people want to transcend that binary system, give it your best shot as far as I’m concerned. But don’t expect many of us to go with you.

But the rage of the sexually indeterminate and their advocates was nothing as compared to those offended by my poll. We asked what institution was most responsible for keeping the flame of liberty alive. The choices were: the U.S. Armed Forces, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the Presidency, the Universities, or the ACLU. The armed forces won in landslide, but an even greater landslide was cause by the deluge of e-mail from people wanting to vote “none of the above.” As one correspondent put it, “five bureaucracies of one kind or another and a bunch of whores! What kind of choice is that?!”

Our apologies. The poll was concocted at the last minute and clearly the staff dropped the ball. We will take it under advisement and come up with a newer, stronger, faster poll.

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