Puritanically Correct Cruelty

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Murray Rothbard famously described the key role played by the quasi-Puritanical New England “Yankees” in constructing the paternalistic welfare/warfare state that afflicts us.

Those of that persuasion, wrote Rothbard, insisted that it was “…each believer’s sacred duty to devote his energies to trying to establish a Kingdom of God on Earth, to establishing the perfect society in America and eventually the world, to stamp out sin and `make America holy’…They were deeply involved in the first phase of the federal “war on drugs,” the abortive prohibition of alcohol, because Demon Rum supposedly “clouds men’s minds to prevent them from achieving salvation…”

They were also enthusiastic supporters of total war, both against the South and then against unredeemed foreign nations, as a way of making the world as holy as they considered themselves to be.

All of these traits are in play in the outrageous story of Iraq veteran and double amputee Scott West and his wife Samantha, who were given a home by Massachusetts-based charity Homes for Our Troops — only to have the gift withdrawn “after learning that Scott West had been arrested on marijuana charges in 2007 and pleaded guilty in December to a felony of possession with intent to distribute.”

Scott was a clean-living youth prior to joining the Army. He recalls that he began smoking and drinking within a week of arriving at his first duty station. Once sent to Iraq, he recalls, marijuana and hashish were widely available to the occupation troops, and he developed a taste for them.

After being mangled by a roadside bomb, Scott returned to the U.S. He cashed a disability check and used it to purchase some consumer amenities. On the way home he picked up a friend who had purchased marijuana for the group. An armed tax feeder who pulled the truck over for trivial traffic infractions smelled marijuana and “forfeited” (that is, stole) the truck, the marijuana, the consumer electronics Scott had just purchased, and $800 in cash.

All of this led to Scott’s conviction and the “painful” decision by Homes for Our Troops to withdraw its gift.

Like proper statist Puritans, the people in charge of that “charity” have no problem with aggressive wars and murderous occupations, even when they have the collateral effect of corrupting innocent young men by encouraging them to smoke, drink, and use marijuana. The official corruption and violence of the “war on drugs” fazes them not one whit.

What they cannot countenance is the idea that a young man whose healthy body was mangled in a stupid and illegal war might seek palliative relief by consuming an “illegal” but largely harmless substance. (Hat tip: Radley Balko.)

9:13 am on February 23, 2009