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To Solve San Francisco’s Drug Problem, Start Emulating European Traditionalism

To Solve San Francisco’s Drug Problem, Start Emulating European Traditionalism

European traditionalism stands in stark contrast to the progressivism of American cities where displays of depravity are welcome even as society and culture suffer.

In recent decades, the city of San Francisco became a living embodiment of everything that’s wrong with progressive politics. There are good reasons for it: the once beautiful, modest-sized urban center gifted with mild climate and breathtaking ocean views mutated into an open air asylum for frequently violent psychotics.

I don’t expect much will change anytime soon because the locals, no matter how intolerable their day-to-day existence becomes, are highly ideological creatures. Their allegiances to left wing ideologies are so intense that they are unlikely to consider the possibility that their worldview might be the root of the region’s problems.

Take, for example, the recent San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed by Keith Humphreys that blames the city’s intractable homelessness and addiction on—-wait for it-—libertarian attitudes. I generally find Humphreys insightful. For instance, in the same Op-Ed he explained how American experts misrepresent the Portuguese model of tackling drug dependency. Contrary to the oft-repeated dogma, the Iberian nation doesn’t allow the unobstructed flow of heroin or offer rehab as a mere suggestion. It doesn’t tolerate open air heroin markets, and it forces addicts to quit.

Elsewhere Humphreys suggests using the term “drug poisoning” in place of “overdose” because the latter implies that there exists the correct dose of a recreational narcotic. Although I am generally not in favor of manipulating language, the word “overdose” comes with excess amount of glamour baggage: think Gary Oldman in Sid and Nancy. “Poisoning” is a better, more neutral term.

Unfortunately, when it comes to pinpointing the ideological roots of San Francisco’s vices, Humphreys is badly off base (archive link):

What bedevils the city instead is its libertarian, individualistic culture. Since at least the 19th century, Americans have come to San Francisco to be free of traditional constraints back East, to reinvent themselves, to escape the small-mindedness of small towns and to find themselves. This culture underlies the city’s entrepreneurialism, artistic energy and tolerance for diversity in all forms.

But this has a downside when it comes to addiction, which thrives in such a cultural milieu. San Francisco has long been one of the booziest cities in the country as measured by metrics such as bars per capita or percentage of income spent on alcohol. The psychedelic drug revolution and much of the cannabis culture were born in the Bay Area. The “new” crisis around fentanyl is thus not as novel as portrayed: Heavy use of substances has always been part of how San Francisco defines freedom and the good life.

Although there is an overlap in liberal and libertarian attitudes towards mind-altering substances, one would be pressed to say in what other area the town that yearly posts a budget the size of a frugal small nation, regulates every aspect of its residents’ lives, and sends Nancy Pelosi to Congress can be considered libertarian. It makes no sense to talk about the Wild West heritage when San Francisco demographics shifted dramatically over the late twentieth/early twenty-first centuries. Those who arrived in the Golden Gate City since the 1960’s tended to be leftists. Libertarianism withered away with John Bargagelata, the last elected Republican leader.

In fact, the “city’s entrepreneurialism” is an attempted import from the nearby Silicon Valley, “artistic energy” hardly ever existed here–Los Angeles is the creative center of the West Coast–and don’t even try to tell a conservative about that famed “tolerance for diversity in all forms.”

We do have the drugs, though, lots of them.

San Francisco’s attitude towards drugs and addiction is not that of the libertarian “make your mistakes and pay for them” kind. Instead, the city creates problems, nurtures them, gets the government (including government-funded non-profits) involved in their maintenance, and keeps expanding the government role in facilitating addiction.

How big of a role does San Francisco want for its government in the drug epidemic? Very big indeed: it’s eyeing the takeover of the recreational drug supply.

For decades, the city not only allowed the sale of narcotics under the nose of the cops, it expanded the problem by enabling the addicts through generous subsidies. And if that it not enough, it dabbled in promoting drug use for pleasure.

In 2020, the city sponsored “know overdose” billboards with a picture of happy partiers. “Do it with friends,” it said. “Use it with friends and take turns. Try not to use alone, or have someone check on you.” The marketing team was ostensibly promoting NARCAN, the drug for reviving passed out junkies–at least that was what the message in the fine print said. Yet I can’t think of a better way to promote narcotics to the general public than by posting a picture of smiling partiers sprinkled with some words about friends.

Our leadership echoes this easy fun attitude toward addiction. California Governor and San Francisco native Gavin Newsom once said that “[c]lean and sober is the biggest damn mistake this country ever made.” In the following sentence the Progressive politico admitted to “self-medicating” with “a glass of wine.”

To be fair, Newsom did veto the bill authorizing “safe injection sites” last year, but that was likely because he entertains presidential ambitions. The bill, written by Progressive State Senator Scott Weiner of San Francisco, would allow for the establishment of government-run facilities where city employees would oversee recreational drug consumption, presumably reversing poisonings.

The latest idea being explored by local leadership is “safe supply,” or government-regulated narcotics trade. Proponents of the idea speculate that fatal poisonings can be avoided if dope potency is consistent. The local government would play a role (it’s not clear yet how big) in providing addicts with substances on which they depend . . . for their own good. In other words, the paternalistic city government sees itself as a permanent ongoing solution to the problem it allows and encourages to proliferate.

The goals of the proponents go beyond keeping the addicts alive. The San Francisco Standard reports:

Department of Public Health behavioral health director Hillary Kunins said that the city is looking to broaden access to medically assisted treatment for people suffering from drug dependency. Kunins pointed to Canada and Switzerland, which offer prescription opioids—including heroin and fentanyl—in an effort to stabilize the drug supply and destigmatize drug use.

But what purpose does it serve to destigmatize synthetic opiates if not to promote their use? Rampant use, in turn, provides an excuse for further government expansion.

While Canada’s program is new, as Michael Shellenberger pointed out in his seminal work San Fransicko, the European countries erroneously known for tolerance of drug use in reality break up the open air drug markets and force users into treatment. In Europe, drug maintenance is only available, as a last resort, to addicts who do not respond to other treatments.

Like Portugal, Switzerland is a traditionalist society that simply doesn’t tolerate the sight of addiction. In Europe, governments use their power to preserve their way of life. No way would they allow an opiate market to spring up between the city hall and the opera. European traditionalism stands in stark contrast to the progressivism of American cities where displays of depravity are welcome even as society and culture suffer.

Progressives successfully shut up their critics using the traditional lefty tactic: shame. Ask the local leadership to guarantee safe, welcoming streets for all and be prepared to be accused of not caring and maybe even of being a conservative. There is no residual libertarianism in the Bay Area, only big government creating problems that it can later appoint itself to solve. Does that sound libertarian?

No positive change will take place in San Francisco until the voters understand this dynamic and consider adopting European traditionalism.


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Come on – it’s not about ‘solving’ anything. All this depravity and chaos is planned, and in furtherance of of the evil plans of the likes of Soros and his useful idiots, and Communist China and the Americans they have bribed.

    Zero tolerance for drug addicts and homelessness.

    Develop a test for drugs in the human body and put those who possess drugs in prison where they cannot get drugs.

    Prosecute the homeless and drug addicted as much as possible so the have to go thru withdrawal over and over:

      Dennis in reply to ConradCA. | February 6, 2023 at 6:08 pm

      I think if someone’s holding down a job and managing their affairs, it’s none of my business what drugs if any they’re doing.

Subotai Bahadur | February 5, 2023 at 10:09 pm

San Francisco, its people and its rulers, have made their choices as to lifestyles and cultures they will stand for. Those who still remain have in their own way made an accommodation with it. For myself, I see no reason to interfere with . . . or subsidize their lifestyle. And to be honest to care about those who remain there. If San Francisco is to become part of America again, it will have to be the decision of those who are there. We cannot influence it.

Subotai Bahadur

    CommoChief in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | February 5, 2023 at 10:36 pm

    That is what the great sorting is truly about; accountability. Packing your crap and moving across the country isn’t convenient, it carries costs. So does remaining in an area where decline is accelerating. In both cases the decision carries consequences. The pace of relocation away from fundamentally broken areas has increased. That itself spurs further acceleration as the ‘hot’ relocation choices increase in price while simultaneously the remaining value of property in dysfunctional areas erodes.

    My advice is don’t be stubborn and end up in the last outbound wave after your existing property value has substantially diminished and has substantially limited your choices in areas to relocate. As red States become more red the blue States will become more blue. This dichotomy is already showing up and one effect is far less willingness to subsidize blue State policy failure with federal dollars. This will increase and likely result in less direct federal intrusion and more block grants of funding with States choosing how to spend the program dollars and the taxpayers of functional States becoming unwilling to bail out the policy failures of dysfunctional State and local govt.

      Re: “….one effect is far less willingness to subsidize blue State policy failure with federal dollars.”

      What? One of the consequences of the humongous Covid bills was a massive bailout of Blue states. NJ, one of the worst managed, got so much money that it did not know what to do with it all – so the Governor spent $500K on gas-guzzling SUVs. It has been widely reported that school systems got a ton of money that has been far from spent, despite enormous learning loss.

        CommoChief in reply to jb4. | February 6, 2023 at 10:45 am

        Every State received a bunch of money for Covid. Some States spent wisely, some less so. That’s the whole point. What I would predict is a return to a more intense Federalism. A blue state might use ‘welfare’ funding to support universal basic income while a red State might restrict the eligibility to those who hold a job (work fare) or to what used to be called the deserving poor. In either case the federal government would block grant the funds and leave the decisions up to the States instead of imposing National rules.

Boy, am I going to quibble with this thesis.

Overlooking the imprecision of brevity, “libertarianism” in five words has always been: “socially liberal but economically conservative.”

The libertarian approach towards social issues — like drugs, being homeless, and “living free” — have always been precisely the (left) liberal approach. So in that regard, Humphreys is dead on… modulo his weaselly attempt at misdirection by his gratuitous reach into libertarianism to avoid fairly assigning the problem to California’s own left liberalism.

What exacerbates the problem is the complete lack of the concomitant “economic conservatism” that would balance society:
“I don’t give a damn what you like to shoot up, but get the hell off my lawn.”

There is no social mandate to cater to the self-destructive with tax money — to create housing for them, pay them welfare, provide them free needles. They’re free to abuse themselves on their own dimes, and private charities are free to cater to such beings, to the extent that the brainless and heartbound feel guilty enough to contribute to the cause, but only that far. And if their self-abuse is their only “offense,” and nothing more, then it is no offense at all. They are free to liquefy in their own basements.

The offense comes when their lifestyle impinges upon that of others, in that they break laws against violence or property (theft, trespass, destruction). Tax money spent in correction for such crimes is justly spent.

That is in itself a good recipe for correcting San Francisco’s problem. But it is precisely that half of libertarianism that they will never dare touch.

    And you confirmed what I said below, about libertarianism.
    And it would be a better approach than the progressive one (I refuse to use “liberal”).

    CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | February 6, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Yep. Libertarians embrace maximum individual liberty while also embracing the responsibility for that liberty. Progressives want freedom without the countervailing responsibility for the consequences of that freedom.

    ConradCA in reply to henrybowman. | February 6, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    You need to realize that the primary motive for liberals care for the homeless is to make themselves feel superior to those who don’t. This superiority allows them to justify the evil they do because they are attempting to do good. The truth is that they intend to destroy our country and rebuild it into their fascist utopia. A utopia where they rule a one party state without the constraints of real elections or our constitution. Their utopia is identical in every significant respect to the utopias created by the Nazis, Communists and Muslims. You have to ignore the lies they tell to justify what they do and co NBC spider what they di

Want to understand it …. Simple …. Google how much SF spends on drug treatment and homelessness … Then google average salary for those employed in the drug treatment and homelessness industry

The absence of God is still God speaking. The sermon is what happens when you turn your back on God with such a deliberate and consistent action as blue states and blue cities do.

We had the going away party with the family today as we’re moving to a red state. The rest of the extended family is largely stuck here. The conversation eventually turned away from “why” we are leaving to the day to day reality that is why we are leaving.

The house closes on the 27th… we’ll be maintaining houses in two 2 states till our current house sells.


1, Detoxification. The first step is to purge the body of drugs and manage withdrawal symptoms.

2, Counseling: Individual, group, and/or family therapy.

3. Medication: Used to manage withdrawal symptoms.

4. Long-term follow-up: To prevent relapse and maintain health.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Paula. | February 6, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    I — A better option. People do drugs because it’s their least bad alternative right then. Sometimes you can change that, for some people.

    Sometimes, for some people, drugs including destructive addiction seems their best alternative, to them in their own terms. It matters what are their terms.

    /This happens. This is a thing that happens…

    This past Summer was the funeral of a guy I knew who chose self-destruction every step for a couple decades. It took that long for his slow path of maximizing misery to kill him. Literally a knowing, slow suicide.

    He was younger than I. Full of charisma. Smart. Adaptive. He turned that toward even pleasures and indulgences that moved him lower. A new skill, or learning a new thing would somehow harm him, limit him, cost him, reduce him, every time, eventually. He was preternaturally creative at finding a way.

    Eventually you realize that the choice that controls is moving lower, and he’s good at it. Of course, his portfolio included drugs.

    There is also the choice of what do you do with people who choose destruction, added to what to do with people who cannot do better even if they choose, or those who cannot choose.

Halfway measures like so-called “decriminalization” only make the opiate problem worse.

Nothing will change until there exist two simultaneous conditions: the availability of OTC opiates to everyone 18+ in dedicated pharmacies with no marketing or advertising and no excess taxation, together with strictly enforced, severe penalties for public drug use and public intoxication.

In other words, nothing will change.

I also have a bone to pick with the following:

The writer prefers “using the term ‘drug poisoning’ in place of ‘overdose’ because the latter implies that there exists the correct dose of a recreational narcotic. Although I am generally not in favor of manipulating language, the word ‘overdose’ comes with excess amount of glamour baggage: think Gary Oldman in Sid and Nancy. ‘Poisoning’ is a better, more neutral term.”

Whether one takes an opiate “recreationally” or medicinally, there are most definitely correct dosages of narcotics regardless of the user’s legal status, and they are easy to keep track of if dosages of drugs are known. Someone who no longer gets the same relief or high from 5 mg of drug X might be able to titrate up to 8 mg (or whatever) easily, depending on the drug.

And “overdose” is value neutral. The writer is, I think, reacting to the ubiquity of the word, not its connotation. If “overdose” has any connotation at all, it comes with the abbreviated form “OD,” since, for whatever reason, drug culture likes to abbreviate terms (“shrooms,” “nugs,” “cid,” “H,” “OD”). “OD” is also part of the professional argot of ambulance drivers and ER doctors. I suppose this lends some cachet to “OD” as well.

And, of course, “poisoning” as a transitive verb is not neutral at all. “To poison” is to deliberately feed someone a substance to kill or injure. To overdose (intransitive) is to exceed a safe dose and connotes error. Also consider the contrast between “overdose” and “poisoning” as nouns. The former implies accident, the latter implies deliberate malice.

libertarian attitudes
Libertarianism shares a huge idea space with progressivism: hedonism.
Libertarianism differs from progressivism primarily on consequences. Most libertarians accept the consequences for personal choices, and would seek to limit their effects on others, where progressivism looks for personal choices to have no consequences whatsoever.

What you’re looking at, with the difference between Euros and San Franciscans*, is the pace of “progress”. The Euros would prefer their progressivism very polished and with the proper amount of social stratification. The sorts of progs in San Fran are the ones to throw out everything before Year Zero, including everything we know about human nature. (Euros prefer their communism in the French fashion, while San Franciscans prefer theirs Mao-style.)

(* San Fanciscans, because most Americans aren’t the sort of fundamentalist Progressive those folks are.)

I get grief from people when I say that nearly all illicit narcotics use is a failed suicide attempt. My premise is based on placing all behaviors on a risk of death continuum. One can then assess where their suicidal tendencies lie. I think that the increased use and availability of narcan lends support to this model. Because people think that they now have a safety net, they are less caytious about their drug use, hence more suicidal in the behavior if not the outcome. In a way, it is similar to a finding where anti-lock brakes didn’t reduce accidents, because people assumed that they would keep them safe, so they drove faster in bad conditions. So in the end, the only individuals who benefit are the sellers of narcan, the distributors of narcan in the social services sector, and the drug dealers, whose customers are able to further extend their pitiful, incomprehensible, demoralized lifestyles. Narcan just allows the sufferers to suffer longer. If you keep someone from hitting their bottom, they will NEVER get better. The best thing that one can do for a drug addict is nothing. Neither trip them, nor help them up from when they have fallen. Only when they recognize that THEY are the source of all of THEIR problems will they get better. Sure, some will die, but with enabling (like Portland), no one ever gets better.

    Sure, some will die, but with enabling (like Portland), no one ever gets better.
    Actually, they will all die, But they will suffer much longer and more potently with the enabling.

San Francisco is a living model of liberalism. It shows the world what their policies create. If they would allow a conservative to take over their city, along with the manpower to enforce it, SFO could be returned to its once beautiful state. The simplest of city laws, “No Loitering”, which if enforced, would eliminate the filth on the streets of San Francisco. Then the real libertarians could apply and offer their remedies for how to treat addiction in some place away from the downtown area. Why is this so hard?

    SFO could be returned to its once beautiful state
    Nope. Not with just a savior at its helm. Said savior would have to change hearts and minds before San Fran could return to anything other than a preview of the Progressive utopia.

    bullhubbard in reply to inspectorudy. | February 10, 2023 at 10:57 am

    I agree. If the city were to ignore the drug use factor and just significantly raise penalties for public intoxication and public nuisance, maybe exhibitionist junkies would get high in their hovels and not on the street.

    I have always considered drug-taking–especially intravenous injection of drugs–to be a private thing and those who do it publicly the worst sort of narcissist exhibitionists. It’s ugly, wrong, and off-putting, making rational discussions of drug policy more difficult. Unfortunately, opiates reduce emotional affect to the vanishing point, so shame is unknown to many junkies.

BierceAmbrose | February 6, 2023 at 2:09 pm

We can’t solve this because too many people would rather have the issue than an answer.

The flop-house grifters, cartels, and cheats who collect around the broken and addicted are the least of those exploiting the situation.

He’s not wrong.

The libertarian approach to drugs is one of the bigger problems in their political philosophy. At some point, there has to be a line. That’s the problem with their approach to abortion and eventually even murder.

I like libertarianism at its most fundamental spirit, but it could not find an equilibrium with our current, entrenched social strategy. A libertarian implementation will probably always be of greater cost than a majority is willing to bear.