Bill Murchison

What it was about -- you had to have been there to remember now -- was the defense of cultural inhibitions. Sounds awful, doesn't it?

As the counterculture saw things, inhibitions -- voluntary, self-imposed restraints -- dammed up self-expression, self-realization. They dammed up a lot more than that, in truth: much of it in serious need of restraint and prevention.

The old pre-1960s culture assigned a higher role to the head than to the heart. Veneration of instincts risked the overthrow of social guardrails that inhibited bad, harmful and anti-social impulses. The drug culture that began in the '60s elevated to general popularity various practices, modes, devices, and so forth that moved instinct -- bad or good, who cared? -- to the top of the scale of values. There was a recklessness about the enterprise -- do whatever turns you on, man! -- incompatible with sober thought: which was fine with an era that had had it, frankly, with sober thought.

Drugs are very much a part of our time and culture, which is why the war on drugs looks more and more like a losing proposition. The point compellingly advanced by Becker and Murphy may win out over the next decade. If so, the drug gangs may disappear, the prisons disgorge tens of thousands. Will things in general be as good as they might have been had the culture walked a different path 40 years ago -- the path of civilized "inhibition"? Ah. We get down here to brass tacks.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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