The wager

The passing of Christopher Hitchens caused me to reflect on libertarian thinking about drugs and alcohol. I don’t like to get into reading other’s minds, but, in spite of all their pragmatic arguments for libertarian drug policies, I’ve always thought pragmatic considerations were an afterthought and that their motivations were much more philosophical. They bristle at attitudes and beliefs, not just at laws.

I’ve always believed that their thinking about drugs and alcohol is organized around the idea that we’re all like Christopher Hitchens, free adults making an internally rational wager based on a subjective assessment of the costs and benefits. If only it were that simple.

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I don’t know whether he was an alcoholic. I take him at face value, that he was a heavy drinker who loved drinking. He’s very convincing as a man who lived life on his own terms.* Until, that is, life dealt him cancer. Though his wager was never there for me (I never had the ability to drink as he drank.), I understand his choice, I even respect it. I feel sad for his daughter.

On the other hand, I just came across this:

I used to wonder, enviously, how he could write so much, especially given his drinking, his travels, his public appearances and his demanding social life. He told me once that a writer should be able to write with no difficulty, anytime, anywhere—but actually, not many writers can do that. I think part of the reason why he was so prolific—and the reason he had such an outsize career and such an outsize effect on his readers—is that he was possibly the least troubled with self-doubt of all the writers on earth….

…His drinking was not something to admire, and it was not a charming foible. Maybe sometimes it made him warm and expansive, but I never saw that side of it. What I saw was that drinking made him angry and combative and bullying, often toward people who were way out of his league—elderly guests on the Nation cruise, interns (especially female interns). Drinking didn’t make him a better writer either—that’s another myth.

* It’s important to keep in mind that addicts are not living life on their terms, they are not free where drugs and alcohol are concerned.