Reason Magazine is a fine and well-respected Libertarian magazine that had a very interesting article in last month’s issue. I say fine and well-respected because they saw fit to ask me to write an article for them last year, showing exceptional good taste, and as a result I still get a copy of the magazine each month. The November issue included an article by David Harsanyi, who is a columnist for the Denver Post. Harsanyi is also the author of a recent book called Nanny State, whose subtitle is “How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children.” His Reason article, Prohibition Returns! Teetotaling do-gooders attack your right to drink, was adapted from his book and it’s a very interesting read. I wanted to post it when I first read it, but Reason doesn’t put the current issue online instead keeping all but the current issue on the web. As a result I had to wait until now to share it.
One of the most interesting parts of his article involves Candace Lightner, the founder of MADD. She was the original mother against drunk driving who started a crusade. I have on several occasions written unflatteringly about her but what I did not realize is that she’s every bit as disgusted with MADD as I am. For example she told the L.A. Times in 2002 that she realized she was wrong about lowering the blood alcohol level to 0.08% because that strategy “was not a solution to the alcohol problem. The majority of crashes occur with high blood-alcohol levels, the .15, .18 and .25 drinkers.” As a result, Lightner and MADD parted ways in 1985 and she is no longer affiliated with the organization she founded.
From the Reason article:
Lightner has moved on from MADD, and since then has protested the shift from attacking drunk driving to attacking drinking in general. “I worry that the movement I helped create has lost direction,” she told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1992. BAC legislation, she said, “ignores the real core of the problem….If we really want to save lives, let’s go after the most dangerous drivers on the road.” Lightner said MADD has become an organization far more “neoprohibitionist” than she had envisioned. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol,” she said. “I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”
I’m afraid I owe her an apology. I take back what I said previously. She has not taken things too far, the people who took over from where she started and fanatically went off to advocate a different agenda have much to answer for, not least of which is that they continue to use the tragedy of her daughter’s death at the hands of a drunk driver in their propaganda despite the fact that know they Lightner no longer agrees with what they’re doing. This also explains to some extent why MADD has gone off in such a radically different direction from the founder’s original intent. Neo-prohibitionists simply took over her organization co-opting it for their own purposes. Given that it’s been 22 years since the founder resigned, they’ve done a pretty good job of keeping that information in the background so that most people — myself included — weren’t even aware that the organization had internally changed so much. MADD’s mission statement changed abruptly in 1985 — the same year Lightner left — and has been changed two more times since then to incorporate the expanding agenda of the organization to include underage drinking and, although not stated explicitly, to end all legal drinking in this country if not the world. I think after learning this I’m even more frightened of MADD than I was when I thought it was still just a pissed-off mother trying to do right by the daughter that was taken from her by a drunk driver. At least I could understand that, even if I didn’t entirely agree with it. Now that I know she’s been gone for more than two decades and in her absence they’ve become more of a neo-prohibitionist organization I confess I can’t understand what they’re doing in the least. Nothing about their current agenda makes any sense whatsoever to me. All I know is we have to do everything we can to make sure they don’t succeed in bringing about another Prohibition.