Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reluctant Leadership Rules!

Just read another article talking about how there seems to be a groundswell of support for a Gore presidency, now that he's not interested in running. This reminds me of something very interesting that I learned while researching hunter/gatherer politics: those who want to be leaders rarely are. Describing !Kung leaders, an anthropologist who lived with them for several years writes that,

"None is arrogant, overbearing, boastful, or aloof. In !Kung terms these traits absolutely disqualify a person as a leader and may engender even stronger forms of ostracism. Another trait emphatically not found among traditional camp leaders is a desire for wealth or acquisitiveness. Their accumulation of material goods is never more, and is often much less, than the average accumulation of the other households in their camp."

This isn't the place for a long diatribe about hunter/gatherer power structures, but it is worth noting that coercive political power is a relatively recent development in human history. In a sharing-based economic system like that followed by hunter/gatherers (which means our ancestors for 98% of our existence), it's very difficult to accumulate the sort of power that would allow you to MAKE anyone do anything. Walking away is always an option for everyone. When the source of food and shelter is open to all, how does one go about becoming important? By being a good hunter perhaps and sharing the meat. Hoarding would get you ostracized.

Anyway, the point is that we go about choosing our leaders in such a way that we end up with those who are psychologically least qualified -- those with a NEED TO LEAD! "Fire in the belly" might be great for fans of Mexican food, but it leads to smoke in the brain for potential leaders. Better to draft a reluctant leader who has matured beyond the burning desire to be called "Mr. President."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hair-brained legislation

Ohio ("Land of 10,000 Toxic Waste Dumps") has now joined Nevada and Indiana as states that have laws on the books prohibiting driving under the influence of THC, the most prevalent psychoactive chemical in marijuana. They test by taking a hair sample and checking to see if there's any THC metabolite present. This is idiotic (and legally absurd) on at least two counts:

1) THC metabolites are found in the body (fatty tissue, blood, urine, hair) weeks or months after any exposure to marijuana. So maybe you smoke a joint at midnight on New Year's Eve. You were high until around 1:30 or 2. Then you swear off smoking pot as your big resolution for 2006. But you get pulled over at a random traffic stop and busted for driving under the influence of marijuana in mid-March! Punishable by up to 6 months in jail, by the way. Yeah, that's a law that'll make the youngsters respect the legal system...

2) Back before he was "America's most famous doctor," Andrew Weil worked at the National Institues of Health doing research on altered states of consciousness. While there, he looked into the effects of marijuana smoking on driving skill. He found that drivers who had been given a chance to practice driving while high (which includes basically everyone who regularly uses grass), actually drove BETTER than drivers who smoked nothing at all. Given the state of governmental interference into drug-related research since the 70s, I doubt any further research has been done along these lines since then. So, the existing scientific research tells us that driving under the influence of marijuana is not a danger to other drivers, but could actually increase the overall safety of the roads.

Justice, anyone? Logic, even?