Friday, March 31, 2006

Drug War Revisited

Stossel Asks The Right Questions.

John Stossel tackles the war on drugs and reaches my conclusion: the war isn't working, so why aren't we looking at other ways.

I am not in favor of hard, recreational drug use. I would fight it with every fiber of my being. Some people can never get past the harm of drug use, which I do not deny. But one must always ask, when formulating policy, what is effective as well is what is "right" or "good." I also favor, given my libertarian leanings, freedom in the absence of force or fraud. But I don't care to go down the "freedom" road on the issue of drugs. I will trade my libertarian stripes for drug prohibition if it will achieve its objectives. But it doesn't.

I just want to know: what has the money spent on the war on drugs produced. The answer: more prisoners, less civil liberties, more drug related crime, a budget black hole at every level, and no reduction in the availability of drugs. As Stossel summarizes:

I was once among the majority who believe that drug use must be illegal. But then I noticed that when vice laws conflict with the law of supply and demand, the conflict is ugly, and the law of supply and demand generally wins. The drug war costs taxpayers about $40 billion. "Up to three quarters of our budget can somehow be traced back to fighting this war on drugs," said Jerry Oliver, then chief of police in Detroit, told me. Yet the drugs are as available as ever.

Plus, our drug laws only serve to fund the criminals of this country and many others, including terrorists. As Stossel sees it, this is what we reap from our war:

1. More crime. Rarely do people get high and then run out to commit crimes. Most "drug crime" happens because the product is illegal. Since drug sellers can't rely on the police to protect their property, they form gangs and arm themselves. Drug buyers steal to pay the high black market prices. The government says alcohol is as addictive as heroin, but no one is knocking over 7-Elevens to get Budweiser.

2. More terrorism. The profits of the drug trade fund terrorists from Afghanistan to Colombia. Our herbicide-spraying planes teach South American farmers to hate America.

3. Richer criminal gangs. Alcohol prohibition created Al Capone. The gangs drug prohibition is creating are even richer, probably rich enough to buy nuclear weapons. Osama bin Laden was funded partly by drug money.

At the end of the day, I want a better America and a more effective policy. If it isn't some form of legalization, then tell me what it is. The current system cannot be defended on any rational cost/benefit analysis.

13 Comments:

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Stossel is the man! I still can't get over how good his "Stupid in America" was back in January, covering the failure of our public education system.

He says it like it is. That's why the rest of the media can't stand the guy. That's why I watch him.

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger camojack said...

Since people are going to do it anyway, de gubmint is missing out on a lot of potential tax revenue. They tax alcohol and cigarettes; why not other substances of abuse?

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger spd rdr said...

While we're at it, let's get rid of speed limits, too. Think of all the money that we would save on law enforcement if we just legalized going as fast as you want. Screw everybody else, its my life, and if I want to end it wrapped around a light pole, that's my business.

/sarcasm

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger KJ said...

I know that was sarcasm spd, but the argument is not that people are going to do so legalize it. People are going to commit every crime on the books, and thus we have prisons. But I assure you that murder and theft is much lower than it would be were it not a crime subject to stiff penalties. Thus, when you compare the world with illegal theft/murder laws, and account for the cost of enforcement and the benefit from lives/property saved, and compare that with a world without laws against murder/theft, and the costs as a result, well keeping the law is a no brainer.

But when you look at illegal drugs, and the costs of enforcement and compare the benefits of illegality (and most come to the conclusion we aren't doing anything except driving up profits for dealers), and compare that to a different world with some form of regulation, reduced enforcement and taxation, I think we can come to a better outcome.

As for speed limits, ever study I have have ever read suggests that speed limits are set too low, they generate a contempt for the law b/c drivers know they are too low, and they are used more for revenue generation than safety. But your sarcasm is duly noted nonetheless.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I would like some kind of tangible reward, KJ, for not commenting for so long (or going all "for the children" on you) on this thread :) The strain is beginning to tell on me.

Or you could just pat me (metaphorically speaking of course) on my curly head for being such a nice little girl.

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

I understand your argument, KJ, it's been around for some time. But every time I start thinking about it, I remember those people whose lives I watch destroyed by drugs and booze. Adding another batch of highly addictive substances into the "legally approved, but regulated" basket gives me the willies. Which drugs do we choose to make legal? Pot? Ecstacy? Cocaine? If we make cocaine legal, will people stop doing heroin? What about Meth? Did illegal stills disappear after Prohibition was repealed? Will meth labs?
THe Dutch instituted a policy that legalized "soft drugs", like pot and mushrooms, while continuing the ban on "hard drugs" like coke and herion. How's that working out?

There's always some cost involved when the goal is to prevent stupid people from ruining their own lives and those of others. I'd prefer to keep making it as difficult as possible to do so. The South American "farmers" be damned.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Cass, *head pat* Your restraint is amazing.

spd, I appreciate your feelings on this subject. Why not go after alcohol again? Lives are undoubtedly being destroyed still (pun not intended).

As for illegal stills after the repeal of prohibition, I think the answer you are looking for is "yes, they largely disappeared in those areas that legalized alcohol. But in those that continued prohibition as the 21st amendment allowed, they did not disappear so much." Is that not right?

As for the Dutch, they and others have done diffent things to mixed success. This is not a binary issue. There are more than two options. All options hate the children.

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Do *not* tempt me, Mr. J. I can only be baited so far...

 
At 8:00 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

It's times like these that it's best that I go outside and punch something.

KJ, we just can't agree about this one. I've got too many memories, and too many college-aged kids.

I don't give a flying *&^% what it costs. Keep it away.

Yeah, I'm a dreamer. But I'm not he only one.

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Well we all already know what I think on this one. I have waded into the muck alone and unfriended far too many times to want to go tilting at that particular windmill again :)

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger Masked MenaceĀ© said...

I'm not quite sure where I stand in this. My gut reaction is very much like spd's. But I also find KJ's argument persuasive.

It's an excersize in line drawing to me. Murder is pretty much an all or nothing deal, but no so with drugs. All drugs carry risk to yourself. Even Tylenol has a mortality rate (4 grams in a 24 hour period will likely kill you). Ban it all and you take Tylenol off the shelves. Allow it all and you put heroin on them.

Where's the line? I don't know. I know alcohol wasn't it, but is it pot? Ecstacy? Cocain? Hell if I can figure it out.


As for speed limits, this is hilarious. Unless you're behind them.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I probably would have been one of those people going completely out of my gourd...

 
At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

some drugs just don't make sense to be illegal.

Take Cocaine for example
Dosen't make you stupid
Dosen't make you sleepy
Dosen't make you Violent
Isn't incredibly addictive
minor long term use side effects
Few if any withdrawl symptoms

Hell, legalized cocaine would increase productivity by an exponential amount.

It would help solve obesity and food supply problems.

Legalizing it would prevent deaths caused by cutting the cocaine with Meth or Ephedrine.

Legalizing it would help solve the screwed up US economy.

I'm not saying (Legalize drugs). Meth PCP, Heroin, LSD, CM, X. These are all horrible drugs that need to be outlawed.

This country was built on cocaine. All through the 1900's to the 20's, for 50 years it was legal.

 

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