Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2003/ 3 Tishrei, 5763
Bring on the capitalists
Of the first 10 patients to be supplied with the government weed, half claim it's the worst pot they've ever smoked. They're sending it back to Ottawa and they want a full refund. ''It's totally unsuitable for human consumption,'' says Jim Wakeford, an AIDS patient in Gibsons, British Columbia. ''I threw up,'' says Barrie Dalley of Toronto.
Health Canada insists their dope contains 10.2 percent THC, the main active ingredient. But the respected pot lobbyist Philippe Lucas says the government weed is only 3 percent THC and full of contaminants like lead and arsenic. Aren't lead and arsenic dangerous? To modify Nancy Reagan: ''Just say no to government drugs.''
One of the reasons I'm in favor of small government is because there's hardly anything the government doesn't do worse than anybody else who wants to give it a go. Usually when I make this observation, I'm thinking of, say, Britain's late unlamented nationalized car industry. But when the government of a G7 nation can't run a small marijuana sideline as well as a college student with a window box, that seems to set an enti
Instead of its hugely wasteful ''war on drugs,'' the U.S. government might have been better just to legalize them, give the contract to the government of Canada, and in three months the entire drug market would have collapsed and guys would be huddled in darkened alleys saying, ''Hey, man, do you know where I can get some butterscotch pudding?''
Other plants in the news these days include the Gentry indigo bush. This rare shrub grows in a few selected parts of Arizona and Mexico, close to a proposed transmission line Tucson Electric Power hopes to construct to enable it to supply electricity to its southern neighbor, so that impoverished Mexicans will have better street lighting to guide them as they swarm across the U.S. border to pick up their complimentary drivers licenses and free health care from Gray Davis. But now the whole project is in doubt. Although an environmental study says the Gentry indigo bush would be unaffected one way or the other by the power line, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the U.S. government to get the bush listed as an endangered species and thus indirectly put pressure on Tucson Electric.
Alas, Jeff Humphrey of the Fish and Wildlife Service says his agency has no money to list any new endangered species because its budget is mostly tied up in court cases brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and similar groups. Got that? If this keeps up, the endangered species list will itself be an endangered species. And the barrage of litigation on behalf of various beleaguered flora and fauna will have resulted in a spectacular increase in population for mainly one species: environmental lawyers.
The Gentry indigo bush doesn't seem to be ''endangered.'' True, you can't find it in northern Maine. But then you never could. This would seem to be yet another example of how every do-gooding cause eventually floats free of whatever good it was trying to do and becomes a self-perpetuating business all of its own. The racism industry, for example, is now so large and lucrative and employs so many highly remunerated people from the Rev. Jesse Jackson down that it has a far greater interest than the Klu Klux Klan in maintaining racism. Thus, the African-American Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee was recently moved to complain that the naming of hurricanes is racist. Apparently, blacks are being discriminated against because hardly any massively destructive meteorological phenomena are given African-American names. The black community can't relate to some white-bread wind like Hurricane Isabel. Why are there never any Hurricane Leroys? It's deeply racist and insulting to imply that only WASPily appellated forces of nature are capable of billions of dollars of coastal damage.
Which brings us, as most things do, to Iraq. In the last few weeks, almost all the big NGOs -- nongovernmental organizations -- have pulled out of the country, either partially or totally: Oxfam, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders ... Is it dangerous? Maybe. When I was in Iraq earlier this year, I detected a good deal of resentment at the NGO big shots swanking around like colonial grandees in their gleaming Cherokees and Suburbans. But Iraq's a good deal less dangerous than, say, Liberia, where drugged-up gangs roam the streets killing at random, and the humanitarian lobby -- Big Consciences -- is happy to stay on.
What's different is the political agenda. The humanitarian touring circuit is now the oldest established permanent floating crap game. Regions such as West Africa, where there's no pretense anything will ever get better, or the Balkans, which are maintained by the U.N. as the global equivalent of a slum housing project, suit the aid agencies perfectly: There's never not a need for them. But in Iraq they've decided they're not interested in staying to see the electric grid back up to capacity and the water system improved if it's an American administration at the helm. The Big Consciences have made a political decision: that it's not in their interest for the Bush crowd to succeed, and that calculation outweighs any concern they might have for the Iraqi people.
Heigh-ho. For six months, their Chicken Little predictions of humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq have failed to emerge. If the country gets by perfectly fine without them, that may be a very useful lesson.
Meanwhile, who's staying on? The private sector: Bechtel and Halliburton and all the other supposed Bush cronies invited to help rebuild postwar Iraq. According to the conspirazoids, Dick Cheney planned 9/11 so that he'd have an excuse to topple Saddam Hussein and his old company Halliburton could make a killing. Fine. Let's take that as read. The fact is, right now, Oxfam and the other do-gooders have fled, and the only folks standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqi people are the wicked capitalists.
So, in a month when the government can't even be a competent drug dealer, and environmental nonprofit groups have bankrupted the endangered species list, and the international humanitarians have decided the Iraqis can go screw themselves, I say: Let's hear it for the private sector.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
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