Sunday, October 17, 2021

Did the U.S. crackdown on drugs harm the economy and science?


Robert Anton Wilson used to write about the research inspired by LSD and other hallucinogens and argue that the banning of research was a major attack on science. You may have thought his claims were a little too much, but it's hard to disagree that repression isn't very good for innovation. 

There's now a very interesting essay, Higher than the Shoulders of Giants; Or, a Scientist’s History of Drugs, at a blog called Slime Mold Time Mold, which argues that passage of the Controlled Substances Act and the creation of the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) caused the well-known stagnation in the economy and technology since the 1970s. 

The thesis may seem kind of out there, but the essay demonstrates that  coffee helped fuel the rise of science in England and that cocaine helped generate important science in Germany and the U.S. It also documents the well-known influence of LSD on music (i.e., the Beatles, but also the Grateful Dead and many others) and Silicon Valley (I'm sure many readers of this blog have heard about Steve Jobs and LSD, and the popularity of the drug among people involved in the computer revolution in California.)

Via Sam Enright, who writes, "A very intriguing argument that the slowdown in growth post-1970 is due to the Controlled Substances Act, and that cultures tend to see periods of artistic and intellectual flourishing after the introduction of new drugs. An excellent post."

I can't find any credits for who writes Slime Mold, but it seems very interesting. Lots of science writing. And in case, it seems very likely to me RAW would have been interested in Higher Than the Shoulders of Giants. 

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