Transcription of Harry Anslinger, America’s First Drug Czar with Dr. Jeffrey Miron, Episode 1
***** Credits *****
Annie Rouse: [00:10:18] This series is supported by Think Hempy Thoughts. Think Hempy Thoughts is an educational hub for cannabis, hemp in our environmental world. It is also the host of Anavii Market, an online retailer where you can find compare and buy third party verified hemp derived CBD. For more information visit thinkhempythoughts.com. It’s like think happy thoughts. But Hempy.
***** Intro *****
Annie Rouse: [00:10:47] This is the story of Harry Anslinger and the untold cannabis conspiracy.
[00:10:52] He’s Harry Anslinger ranked there’s a plan to go on a world wide movement to eliminate illegal drug trafficking. Who has served as US Commissioner of narcotics since the post was created by Congress. But he’s devoted the major part of his career to the fight against what he calls the living death of every dope taker.
Annie Rouse: [00:11:13] In this series we’ll uncover how Harry Anslinger influence on cannabis policy infects much of society today including war, civic unrest, prison, the opioid epidemic, Big Pharma and life as we know it. I am Annie Rouse your host and storyteller.
Annie Rouse: [00:11:36] Today on Anslinger: The untold cannabis conspiracy we interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Miron. Dr. Miron is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in the department of economics at Harvard University. And Director of Economic Studies and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. Among his many publications he’s the author of the book “Drug War Crimes: The consequences of prohibition.
***** Intro *****
Annie Rouse: [00:12:04] Bold, bald, blunt, outspoken, irascible, racist.
Annie Rouse: [00:12:12] One of the world’s foremost detectives and one of the least publicized.
Annie Rouse: [00:12:18] The strongest toughest and most competent intelligence authority in the U.S.
Annie Rouse: [00:12:24] The greatest living authority on narcotics traffic.
Annie Rouse: [00:12:28] As I scoured through archives at Penn State University and the Harry Truman Museum and Library, those were some of the phrases used to describe Harry Anslinger. He was a secret agent in World War One U.S. Consul in multiple nations across the world. He was fluent in four languages maybe even six. He was second in command and prohibition and then first in command of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for 32 years. When he stepped down from his post in 1962 he became first representative to the United Nations Committee on Narcotic Control. He went from a U.S. narcotic regulator to the International narcotic regulator creating an intricate system of international delegates that came to such an agreement, their process was viewed as the model for international agreements for major issues as big as nuclear warfare.
Annie Rouse: [00:13:22] On a national level Anslinger created the very purpose for which the Drug Enforcement Agency exists today: to control illicit traffic in narcotic drugs within the Department of Justice. But narcotics were always the Department of Justice issue and they weren’t always illicit. Anslinger made them illicit through the extreme policies he enforced.
Annie Rouse: [00:13:47] Before we investigate Anslingers time at the Bureau of Narcotics, we need to understand his life and the narcotic world prior to 1930. So let’s move back in time a little bit. Anslinger was born and raised in Altoona Pennsylvania in 1892. His father was Swiss and his mother was German. They immigrated to New York around 1890, then made way for Pennsylvania. His father was an experienced barber but found more stable work on the Pennsylvania railroads. Young Anslinger was always motivated and diligent kid from the very start. When most kids were quitting school to work the railroads. He actually conquered both worlds by going to school in the morning and working the railroads in the afternoons and evenings. Although he didn’t graduate high school he still managed to attend college, and after two years at Altoona Business School, he transferred to Penn State College, where he studied engineering and business.
Annie Rouse: [00:14:45] He moved up the ranks fairly quickly and pretty much every job that he had. And by the time he graduated college he was a landscape architect and the manager of several Italian immigrants for the Pennsylvania railroads. And it was here that he first learned about the Blackhand, which is also known as the Mafia. Although the immigrants that he worked with never spoke about the Blackhand outloud, Anslinger is still able to glean very valuable information from simply observing the group’s interactions.
Annie Rouse: [00:15:17] While I think these encounters definitely changed his life down the road as Anslinger actually became the very first person to publicly call out the mafia. I think what actually changed his life the most was his first encounter watching a neighbor suffer from opium withdrawal. It was 1904 and Anslinger was only 12 years old.
Annie Rouse: [00:15:40] Anslinger was visiting a neighbor in his small mining and railroad town in the rolling hills of Altoona in south central Pennsylvania. During Anslinger’s visit he hears agonizing screams from upstairs screams of pain. He had never heard before.
Annie Rouse: [00:15:57] As the woman screams the pain fills Anslinger body. The woman’s husband throws open the upstairs door and races down the stairs yelling at Harry to take their cart and horse to the drugstore pick up her prescription and take it back to the house promptly.
Annie Rouse: [00:16:14] So Harry takes the direction and zips down the road whipping at the horse faster and faster and faster. He carries the screams with him. When he arrives back to the farmhouse, the man sprints upstairs with the prescription administering a drug into the woman. Her screams slowly withdrawal and the house becomes quiet again. The woman was suffering from morphine withdrawal.
Annie Rouse: [00:16:40] The agonizing screams disturbed Anslinger throughout his life and he often writes about this story. But the realization that the morphine was sold to him a 12 year old kid, without question, I think motivates him to prevent anyone else from experiencing this kind of situation.
Annie Rouse: [00:16:59] Now that we have a background about Harry Anslinger as a young adult let’s hear from Harvard economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron.
Annie Rouse: [00:17:07]
Can you explain what the drug regulatory environment was like in the nineteen hundreds in terms of labeling restrictions and pharmacies and how people really felt towards drugs at that time.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:17:19] So there was essentially no regulation of drugs at that time. All the things that we think of as illegal drugs now marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, various other depressants, amphetamines, and so on to extend they existed, they were all legal. They were available from pharmacists. In some cases they were available like the Sears catalog. They could be used in all sorts of other medicines form the ingredients of all sorts of curative and things like that.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:17:52] That’s right is right that any 12 year old could have gone to a pharmacist and purchased opium or morphine or whatever at that point. If the story is correct it was exactly the right thing that the 12 year old Anslinger was allowed to purchase it and bring it to the person who was going to withdrawal, because the best cure for withdrawal, of course, is to have another dose of the opioid, and the withdrawal is much more unpleasant and worse for you than continuing to simply take the opioid, which many people did then, as many people do now, without any serious adverse effects. And so if he’s trying to present that story as showing that the unregulated environment was bad, I would disagree, I think that story showed just the opposite. The unregulated environment was good because it allowed the drug to be provided to someone who would benefit from having received opium or morphine in that condition.
Annie Rouse: [00:18:48]
What was the feeling towards drugs at that time? Did people know that they were actually taking the drugs? Do they know really what the addiction was?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:18:57] The concept of addiction that definitely existed many people were aware of it. There were concerns in medical journals about the fact that there might be addiction. And it was leading to a general concern about over-consumption of opioids. And so private mechanisms had certainly attempted to alert people, discourage use and so on. At same time, the state of medicine wasn’t especially elevated. Many, many conditions, just relieving the symptoms of pain by taking opioids, was one of the better things one could do. And so of course lots of people still took them.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:19:34] I don’t think there was anything like the hysteria that we have now or the view that these were unambiguously bad things they were seen for what they were, which is medicine which is very useful in many instances, and also something that can be misused and sometimes.
Annie Rouse: [00:19:54] Some of Anslinger’s most impressionable ages of his life were during an era of lackadaisical labeling and high addiction rates and his withdrawing neighbor was the first of many addicts that he ends up encountering on his pathway to the Commissioner of Narcotics. Because during Anslinger’s youth, and his early adulthood, ingesting opium and opium’s active molecule, morphine, was common. Opium was frequently smoked throughout the world, and morphine was in most household elixirs and medicines. Now none of these medicines were actually labelled that opium was in them nor any an active ingredient for that matter including cannabis, which at the time actually cannabis was very popular and cough medicines. And as Dr. Miron, mentioned people were just taking these medicines, but the fear and knowledge of addiction was nothing at all like it is today. So during this time in the late 1800’s in the early 1900’s, people were regularly taking opiates and were just going along with their normal lives. But this created hide drug addiction rates and it was likely around 1 in 350 people of all races sexes and economic status.
Annie Rouse: [00:21:08] It was actually common for physicians to push drugs onto their patients, which is very similar to the late 1990s and early 2000 with OxyContin. In fact in the early 1900’s physicians actually accounted for the highest addiction rates of any profession, estimated at around 2 percent. Because we must remember that during this time drugs weren’t viewed as an illegal narcotic, and addiction wasn’t viewed as a mental disorder. In fact alcohol was considered worse than drugs, because drugs were the medicine.
Annie Rouse: [00:21:50]
In terms of people knowing what they were taking was there, what was the labeling like?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:21:55] Until 1906, when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, there were no labeling requirements. It doesn’t mean they weren’t ever labeled, but they were not necessarily required to be labeled. I don’t think that the vast majority of people were completely clueless about what they were taking, because there was nothing forbidden and there was no reason for people to particularly hide the fact that opioids might have been a component of other medications. In many cases people were simply directly taking something that they knew to be opium or morphine or other derivatives. So yes there was less labeling but was there dramatic misinformation. No.
Annie Rouse: [00:22:35] But times were beginning to change. By 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act passed, mandating labeling of active ingredients. But disclosing the active ingredients wasn’t actually put into effect until 1915 and in between that time period, in 1909, the world experienced the first ever international campaign against drugs at the International Opium Convention in Shanghai. And actually the first day of that convention was February 5th, 1909, which is why I chose to publish this series on February 5th, nearly 110 years later.
Annie Rouse: [00:23:17] The U.S. led the convention by expressing their concern for rising addiction rates, mostly in the Philippines. But we also need to keep in mind that heroin, a synthetic derivative of morphine, had been introduced into medical practices just 11 years prior, in the late 1800’s. And heroin was already creating alarming levels of known abuse, just five years after its release. So while the US was expressing their worry for the Philippines, I think the U.S. also had great concern over the more recent levels of heroin abuse that was infiltrating its population. .
Annie Rouse: [00:23:56] Either way, 13 countries participated in the conference which included Austria-Hungary, France, China, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Persia (which is now Iran), Portugal, Russia Siam (which is now Thailand) and the United States. *** (India was not mentioned here, but was also a participating country)***
Annie Rouse: [00:24:22]
What was the stake in narcotics for some of these participating countries?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:24:28] I think the issue going on actually had two pieces, and somewhat different than one might think. One piece was that many of those countries you listed wanted to be engaged more with China in terms of trade. They wanted China to be more open to the west. And they were interested in steps which might convince China that these countries were sympathetic or cooperative or were in some way people that the Chinese wanted to be more open to.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:24:59] One of the issues that China had dealt with for a long time was its concern that there was excessive use of opium by its citizens. And so many people decided that it would be in the U.S. interests and that other country’s interests if they themselves band opium, as a way of basically showing solidarity, of making a goodwill gesture toward China, saying look we know you’re concerned about your country’s opium use. We’re going to take steps to reduce our own citizens demand for opium, and so they pass their own prohibition laws, that they discussed at that convention, passing their own laws, outlawing opium, as a way generating goodwill with China.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:25:42] A second factor is that some members of the U.S. government, one person in particular, had a strong view that opium use was immoral. They wanted to stamp out opium use and they concluded stamping that out in China, but they felt that in order to do that, they were going to have to first show that the U.S. was willing to do the same. And so they encouraged that for these moralistic or religious reasons, not necessarily so much related to trade, but it led in the same direction. The U.S. concluded that promoting opium prohibition, narcotic prohibition would be beneficial vis-a-vis China.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:26:26] So it’s a classic combination of what economists refer to as bootleggers and baptists. The Baptist are the ones pushing a policy because they think it’s good, moral, desirable, from that perspective, and the bootleggers are the ones who are trying to make money off the very same, very same policy change. In this case with the opening of trade, that was going to make people who were the quote unquote bootleggers.
Annie Rouse: [00:26:55] While young Harry Anslinger was in college, the international narcotic arena was busy negotiating narcotic trade terms at the 1909 opium convention in Shanghai. The 13 participating countries disagreed on terms fearing the effects on commerce and competition among producing states. But agreed that nonmedical uses of opium were dangerous and needed to be regulated. The U.S. delegation proposed restrictions to opium, unless it was used for western medicine procedures, or was being used for scientific research.
Annie Rouse: [00:27:31] The US also felt it necessary to prohibit opium smoking, but the rest of the delegates were not so hot to Prohibition just yet with many refusing any reductions in production, unless all producing states agreed. The nation settled on agreeing that each nation should regulate opium as desired.
Annie Rouse: [00:27:53] So back in the US, America took action by making it unlawful to import opium of any form into the US unless it was for medicinal use. Charles Brent and Hamilton Wright, the U.S. delegates from the Shanghai Convention, secured the support of President William Taft and U.S. temperance groups, by sparking fears of rising addiction rates, increased smuggling of morphine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis, and concern of Chinese immigrants pushing opium on the American population.
Annie Rouse: [00:28:26] With this support the US kept pushing international enforcement more and more. And in 1912 they organized the same 13 countries to convene in the Netherlands Parliament, at what is known now as the Hague Convention. And this convention was monumental, because the principles that were drafted in this convention, in 1912, are the basis for international drug control, still today. This convention was the first international agreement to limit any kind of narcotics trafficking for raw opium, morphine, and heroin, but not cannabis.
Annie Rouse: [00:29:10] It didn’t immediately make these narcotics illegal but the countries did agree that they needed to start controlling their manufacture, the preparation, and the use in their own countries. This meant developing tracking systems to determine how much and where the narcotics were being manufactured and shipped. So with the Hague Convention of 1912, two years following the convention, the U.S. passed the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. And once again this Harrison Narcotics Act didn’t actually make anything illegal quite yet, but it implemented Narcotic Control by creating a record keeping process for selling opiates and cocaine. And most importantly it enforced the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, so now medicines were required to be labeled with their active ingredients. And implementing these acts reduced access, and it did it quite successfully.
Annie Rouse: [00:30:15] Over a one year span, the number of medicines available to the public reduced by 30 and the medicines containing narcotics, including opiates, cocaine and cannabis reduced by 35. So of the 1078 remaining medicines, 52 of them contained opiates, five of them contained cannabis, and none of them contained cocaine.
Annie Rouse: [00:30:44] So the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 definitely improved labeling and recordkeeping but it would take another 16 years before the US decided how to actually control narcotics. And that was with the hiring of Harry Anslinger.
***** Commercial Break ***** .
Annie Rouse: [00:31:05] This series is supported by Think Hempy Thoughts. Think Hempy Thoughts is an educational hub for cannabis, hemp and our environmental world. It is also the host of Anavii Market- an online retailer where you can find compare and buy third party verified hemp derived CBD. For more information visit thinkhempythoughts.com. It’s like Think Happy Thoughts. But Hempy! And now back to the show.
***** Commercial Break *****.
Annie Rouse: [00:31:32] So now that we have a better understanding of drug policy prior to Harry Anslinger, let’s get back to the story of Harry Anslinger and the untold cannabis conspiracy. The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 was passed right after the outbreak of World War One. During this time Anslinger is in his 20s and he decides that he must fight for his country, so he joins the U.S. war efforts. However, he actually has vision issues and he might even be blind in one eye, so he can’t participate as a soldier. But, the military realizes what an asset he truly is. So they offer him a position as an assistant to the chief of inspection of equipment, and because of his efficiency and his judgment, he quickly advances to a second lieutenant in the Ordnance Reserve Corps. Then as a U.S. diplomat stationed at the Hague in the Netherlands. And since he was fluent at that time in English, German, and Dutch, and he was also advanced in French, he was sometimes sent into the field as a secret intelligence agent. And it was during this role that he begins to socialize with kings and queens, presidents and parliament, the upper middle class citizens, while attending dinners, social events, and galas, all while initiating, very deceitful maneuvers, in order to gain access and knowledge for America.
Annie Rouse: [00:33:07] Now after his time at the Hague, Anslinger is transferred to Hamburg, Germany as the American Vice Consul. And in this role he helps discharge young American war heroes. And as he is discharging these men he begins to notice an increasing number of American soldiers that are addicted to opium, morphine, and especially the new drug on the block, heroin.
Annie Rouse: [00:33:33] As more and more of these addicted Americans are filtering through his door, I think those agonizing screams of his childhood experience begin to bubble inside of him once again, and he recognizes the urgency to stop the increasingly addictive opioid epidemic.
Annie Rouse: [00:33:52] After his role in Germany, his diplomatic position relocates him once again and his wife Martha Denniston and Martha’s son Joseph to Venezuela. Then to Nassau, in the Bahamas, as a U.S. Consul. And one day, in his position in Nassau, Anslinger’s truly bold deceptive characteristic shine through, when he learns that five of America’s wealthiest and most powerful families are stuck on their yachts in a 30 day quarantine off the coast. And to fix this arrangement and free the men, Anslinger calls Nassau’s Governor to remove them from quarantine immediately. But the Governor’s health officer doesn’t care who they are, and he forbids their entry because their port of origin reported a smallpox outbreak.
Annie Rouse: [00:34:51]
Why was there such a fear during that time and what were some of the other major concerns that would allow governments to force people into into quarantine?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:35:02] In 1917 and 18, the world experienced a flu epidemic known as the Spanish Flu. It killed about 50 million people worldwide. And of course, those concerns over that, and wanting to quarantine people with the flu, undoubtedly spilled over with a broader concern about communicable diseases and other health concerns and led to this very strong nervousness that things for soon unraveling because of this huge death toll from the Spanish flu. Now combined of course with the fact that the soldiers from the US and from Europe were killed in World War One, and many with severe injuries and so on. So, the world as a whole was experiencing just a general sort of outbreak of catastrophic events during that period.
Annie Rouse: [00:35:58] So given the widespread impact of these infectious diseases like Spanish flu, and polio, and smallpox, which together impacted hundreds of millions of individuals, one can definitely understand the seriousness of ensuring that no traveler is infected. However, I think Anslinger really wants to prove himself to these men. So, he takes issues into his own hands. And after confirming that the smallpox outbreak is Alastrim, which is a mild, non-fatal form of smallpox, that actually already exists on Nassau, he decides to make his move.
Annie Rouse: [00:36:38] So the next day, when a passenger ship is leaving Nassau for New York, the captain requests information from Anslinger, regarding the overall health of the island so that they may enter New York’s port. Anslinger responds that Nassau and the Bahamas have two diseases: Alastrim and Leprosy. The maneuver infuriates local officials because of the potential havoc that it could have had on tourism, But Anslinger shows no remorse. Instead he explains that whole retract his statements, if the quarantine is lifted on the Americans. So the officials agree.
Annie Rouse: [00:37:22] Now Anslinger’s bold, deceptive actions here to free America’s wealthiest and most powerful families from quarantine, ends up winning Anslinger and his wife an invitation on one of their yachts and after dinner Anslinger joins the men for a game of Penny stakes poker.
Annie Rouse: [00:37:41] Beyond this trickery, Anslinger’s time in Nassau is also at the height of alcohol prohibition and his main position in Nassau is dealing with immigration and smuggling concerns particularly the smuggling of alcohol into the US during prohibition.
Annie Rouse: [00:38:00] And given Anslinger is a racist attitude he believes that all bootleggers are immigrants or diseased in some form and he would prefer to use maximum force to hunt these rum runners and ban medical alcohol use altogether. And maximum force is a common theme in Anslingers work life over the next 40 years.
Annie Rouse: [00:38:28]
What were some of the social and economic impacts of alcohol prohibition in the U.S.?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:38:35] The impact of alcohol prohibition in the U.S. were first a reduction in the quantity of alcohol consumed, to some degree, not humongous probably 15 to 20 percent, but some reduction in alcohol use. At the same time, an increase in the degree to which alcohol use was dangerous, because it was being produced in a black market, was often adulterated, was often of low quality. People didn’t usually know to a significant degree what purity what dosage they were getting. Alcohol prohibition also spawned significant violence, corruption, and disrespect for the law, as people began to realize that this law was mainly a joke – that despite all the enforcement and all the attention it received, many people were managing to consume alcohol anyway.
Annie Rouse: [00:39:26]
How were other countries outside of the US affected or impacted by prohibition and were they enforcing it to any degree?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:39:35] A few other countries have had their own alcohol prohibitions, but namely were not nearly as significant as the one in the U.S. U.S. alcohol prohibition had little direct effect on other countries except that it stimulated exports of alcohol from those countries to the United States via smuggling networks to some degree, especially Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean.
Annie Rouse: [00:40:00] All the while that Anslinger is battling alcohol smuggling in Latin America and throughout the Caribbean, nation delegates meet again for the International Opium Conference. This time it’s in Geneva. 23 new countries have joined the conference allowing a total of 36 countries to adopt the new Geneva Convention of 1925. Participants at the Geneva Convention, applaud the Hague Convention for its fight against narcotics, but they also recognize that the battle against the illicit traffic and abuse of narcotics must be fully examined to counteract the global issue.
Annie Rouse: [00:40:43] The participating countries have difficulty agreeing on a quota limitation, but they do agree to establish a Permanent Central Board that is charged with supervising the quantities of each narcotic that is imported and consumed in each individual country.
Annie Rouse: [00:41:02] Meanwhile, as international drug regulations begin to form, Anslinger’s international status and experience as a US delegate grows. Beyond his belief in using maximum force, Anslinger is a very skilled negotiator. He attends conferences in London and Paris and Belgium, all in an effort to push international treaties to combat alcoholism. And uses his tactful diplomacy to convince countries to take action with alcohol prohibition.
Annie Rouse: [00:41:35] In this regard, he convinces Great Britain to enhance alcohol prohibition enforcement, in their British colony of the Bahamas. And his negotiation tactics don’t go unnoticed. By 1929, all of his hard work pays off when he is selected as the Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition, overseeing the Narcotics Control Board. His salary is six thousand five hundred dollars a year, which is nearly four and a half times the average salary. But the position is actually very short lived, as it becomes ever clear, that prohibition will end.
Annie Rouse: [00:42:17] However, personally I think this position, and his time in Nassau, really defined Anslinger’s future for controlling narcotics. And it is really hard to believe that given Anslinger background and his quite calculated maneuvers, that he would not have noticed the prime market that lay ahead of him. He witnessed liquor continuously pour into markets, even with prohibition, and he understood how criminal gangs fed off of prohibition, but with prohibition came job security. And as alcohol prohibition weakened, while narcotic regulations strengthened, the black market, or the Underworld, as Anslinger commonly called it, shifted focus to a new market, that was highly addictive, internationally distributed, and becoming ever more internationally regulated. The new Underworld had Anslinger’s name written all over it.
Annie Rouse: [00:43:20] And so in 1930, in the first year of the Great Depression, after quite a bit of arm-twisting, President Herbert Hoover appoints Harry Anslinger as United States Commissioner of Narcotics and Chief to the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to be under the auspices of the Secretary of Treasury, which at the time is run by banker, businessmen, and industrialist, Andrew Mellon. Now, some people say that Andrew Mellon and Anslinger’s wife, Martha Denniston, are related, but I actually haven’t found any solidified proof of this.
Annie Rouse: [00:44:09]
How did living standards change after the stock market crashed?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:44:14] After the stock market crash going forward the next four years, the overall value of GDP in the U.S. declined by roughly a third. So that’s a reduction in living standards by about that magnitude. The unemployment rate went into not just double digits but into the 20 percent range by standard estimates, and stayed high for an elevated period. Wages fell, so there was a huge change in the ability of people to find jobs, at the wages at which they could find jobs, the degree to which anything productive was happening in the economy.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:44:54] It was an enormous difference relative to the prior history, especially the roaring 20s which had come right before, in which it had seemed that the U.S. economy was sort of guaranteed to go blasting along.
Annie Rouse: [00:45:08]
So how does the 1929 crash compared to what a lot of us experienced in the 2008 crash?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:45:16] 2008 crash was large but it was far smaller than the Great Depression. I don’t remember the exact figure but real GDP fell by maybe 5 percent in the Great Depression, in a Great Recession, in the recent crash, five to eight percent, whereas in the Great Depression, it fell by about 30 percent. Those are very different magnitudes. So the statement that we averted the next Great Depression might be right, and it certainly technically true, but it maybe overstates the case a bit. It’s not obvious. We don’t know that the Great Recession would have been anywhere near as bad as the Great Depression because things turned around long before that happened.
Annie Rouse: [00:45:59] Wow that’s that’s a huge difference in the drop in GDP. That’s pretty incredible.
So what do you think are some of the factors that led to the Great Depression?
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:46:13] Well economists have been arguing for 80 plus years about the causes of the Great Depression and they’ll probably argue for forever more.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron: [00:46:21] The main factors that are offered are: one, monetary policy. The Fed didn’t start to tighten its tools – the rate of growth of the money stock in 1928 early 1929. That almost certainly helped contribute to an initial downturn in output. Then other factors may have played a major role in causing the initial decline to turn into this huge recession, rather to a depression, rather than just standard, normal business cycle downturn. And people sometimes blame the Smoot-Hawley Tariff for generating a trade war that led to all major economies becoming more isolated from each other and therefore less efficient. Some people blame tax increases in part that occurred in the 1930s, and most people put a large emphasis on the banking panics that are heard in the 30s, late 29’s and through the early 1930s, as leading to this dramatic decline in the money stock and therefore the contraction of output.
Annie Rouse: [00:47:32] Anslinger holds the position of Commissioner and Chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics through the hard hitting times of the Great Depression. His first few years on the job were definitely not easy and he constantly finds himself trying to prove the worth of the Narcotics Bureau and himself. However, he manages to maintain his position and grow the bureau for 32 years until his semi-retirement in 1962.
Annie Rouse: [00:48:07] During Anslinger’s reign, from 1930 to 1962, the world changes tremendously. He serves under five Presidents and nine Secretary of Treasurers. He serves throughout World War II and through part of the Cold War. And while he controls narcotic policies, the synthetic revolution initiates, creating enormous growth in modern medicines, industrial goods and single use plastics.
Annie Rouse: [00:48:37] In addition, radios transform into TVs. Travel takes to the skies. Women enter the workforce and urbanization shifts the economy from farms to factories. Throughout all of this time Anslinger controls all lines of narcotic regulation. He works with the Committee on Drug Addiction, the League of Nations and the United Nations, Congress, and America’s wealthiest and most powerful, to form policies surrounding natural drugs, synthetic drugs, manufacturing of drugs, illicit drug imports and exports, the Underworld, addiction, and drug research, all while creating the entire framework that our world’s narcotic regulatory system still follows today.
Annie Rouse: [00:49:32] During his 32 year reign, Commissioner Anslinger’s main goal is to stop the international illicit trade of heroin. But along the way, his racist views, power hungry agenda, and quite manipulative stakeholders, ultimately create a Commissioner willing to regulate anything that bolsters his reputation as the world’s foremost detective.
Annie Rouse: [00:50:01] The underlying question is whether he continued to enforce his policies for the betterment of humanity, for job security, or for other reasons? Whatever his reasoning or his motives, we know he was highly successful on his path. But how and why he did it and who helped him get to that point? You’ll find out as we unfold Anslinger the untold cannabis conspiracy.
***** Credits *****.
Annie Rouse: [00:50:33] Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast, write a review and tell your friends to tune in. For more information visit Thinkhempythoughts.com and follow us on Instagram and Facebook at thinkhempythoughts. It’s like think happy thoughts. But Hempy!
Annie Rouse: [00:50:53] This podcast is written and produced by A. Rouse Production with facilities provided by the Media Collaboratory and audio support by Jake Mannino.
***** Episode 2 Teaser *****.
Annie Rouse: [00:51:03] On the next episode of Anslinger the untold cannabis conspiracy. We discuss Harry Anslinger’s first major drug bust in Washington D.C. opium dens. We also interview Lucy Sletvold, a recovering heroin addict about the effects of opioids and other narcotics on the mind and body.
Lucy Sletvold: [00:51:23] They just did too much heroin and it was normal quote unquote normal heroin but it was, we’d been doing it all day. They just they were pushing the limit. He was taking one breath per minute when I found him. Like his eyes started fluttering and he was like “where am I?” And I was like I don’t know right now but let’s get back to the present moment, and then sat right up, and was like five minutes later, “I want to do some more.”