Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Why Social Science Is Better Than Stand Up Comedy, Part 10,895

In a now notorious bungle, back in 1986 the CIA judged that real per capita income in East Germany was higher than in West Germany. In 1986. 1986. As Pat Moynihan mordantly noted, "Any taxi driver in Berlin could tell you that was utter nonsense." The trouble, of course, is that the CIA didn’t employ any taxi drivers in Berlin. Instead, they hired Harvard, Yale, and Princeton graduates who thought the idea that socialist economy in eastern Europe could produce a higher standard of living than West Germany was perfectly plausible. And in recent years the CIA thinks. . . well, no need to go there.

This week Nature magazine offers another example of science laboring to prove what anyone with some shoe leather to burn will notice in one evening of bar-hopping: Nicotene ’Sobers Up’ Drunk Rats. As the old saying goes, you have to read it, not to believe it. A sample from the lead:

A new study helps to explain why smokers tend to have boozier nights out than non-smokers. The work, done in rats, shows that a heavy dose of nicotene can cut blood alcohol levels in half. If cigarettes lower intoxication in people, it could mean that smokers need to drink more than non-smokers to get the same buzz.

Couldn’t any bartender tell you this?     (These mugs are substitutes for cigarettes, of course, since bars are going smoke-free.)

Discussions - 7 Comments

Steven- (I am a non-subscriber, and was unable to access this story, but) I am guessing that you would have had the same reaction to a study demonstrating that nicotene acts as a stimulant, and thus causes smokers to drink more in order to take in enough alcohol to counteract the stimulant. That fictional result would also have been consistent with the observations of "any bartender," but it would be based on a very different effect of smoking than one that "cuts blook alcohol levels in half."

Do you really want to replace scientists with taxi drivers and bartenders?

Studies have not shown that rats drive better drunk than mice do sober.

That’s interesting. Personally, when I smoke and drink at the same time, I tend to feel more drunk. Something about the buzz of the nicotine mixed with that of the alcohol. If I have three beers with five cigarettes, I definitely feel more drunk than with just the three beers alone.

My equally unscientific observation about smokers having "boozier nights out," based on years of drinking in bars with friends who are smokers, is simply that smoking goes hand in hand with a heavier-drinking lifestyle. In the bar/partying world, the smoking subculture and the drinking subculture overlap heavily. Drug use falls in there too, of course.

This all seems perfectly obvious to me, but of course I’m not a psychologist.

What’s up with the weird spelling of nicotine??

I was sorry to hear Bob Brinker, the investment advisor with a radio show who sometimes has Larry Kudlow as a substitute, call for a total ban on tobacco sales, when he had an m.d. on the line to act as straight man. Seems as if he could have started with more moderate reforms to cut-back on subsidies.

I’d just like to point out that this research isn’t "social science" -- it’s biomedical science, which is even more entertaining at times.


I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion on this topic in class last week as well as the American Statemen class itself. You are a "classy" person (please excuse the pun). :-)

I hope you don’t mind if I play with the logic of the CIA being out of touch portion of your statement a bit. Okay, let’s assume this is somewhat typical. Wouldn’t the Bush administration have wanted a thorough assessment of Iraq’s WMD capabilities especially since other weapons inspectors had suggested that Iraq’s capabilities were at best doubtful in 2002/2003 while Tenet believed it was a "slam dunk"?

Just a thought from left of center.

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