Normally I focus only on economics and fiscal concerns here at the Desk, this is not to say that social issues do not concern me – although most don’t – I just believe economics is more important because it most directly affects the citizenry the strongest.
This week, I would like to take a break and look at drug policy, its failure, and the incredible unnecessary costs it has imposed on society.
Last month the United Nations celebrated its 100th anniversary of the “international war on drugs.” In 1909 thirteen countries joined together in the “International Opium Commission” to halt the Chinese opium trade. Although Mao Zedong claimed to have been fairly successful in the 1950s, according to the Associated Press current “government statistics put the number of known addicts in China at 1.2 million, including 700,000 heroin users, more than two-thirds of them under the age of 35.”
After a century’s worth of attempts to forcefully stamp out two perfectly legitimate and useful human urges – to make a decent living and to pleasurably alter our consciousness – drug warriors are no closer to victory.
French essayist Georges Bernanos wrote, “The worst, the most corrupting of lies, are problems poorly stated.” By refusing to address personal drug use honestly and intelligently, U.S. politicians continue to fraudulently talk about “drug violence.” The increased violence in Mexico in the past couple years is a direct result of increased military-style operations by police, encouraged by the United States. There were more people killed in Mexico in 2008 in drug-related crime than Iraq. Anyone else think it is time for a reevaluation?
President Obama has not announced a replacement for John Walters, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, but it should not be too hard to overcome his obtuse thinking. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported “Walters said increased violence in border areas of Mexico was partly a result of criminal organizations compensating for reduced income from the supply of drugs by turning to other activities, such as people-smuggling, and continuing to fight over turf.”
I wish I made this stuff up.
“If the drug effort were failing there would be no violence,” a senior U.S. official said. There is violence “because these guys are flailing. We’re taking these guys out. The worst thing you could do is stop now.”
It must take a huge heart to so graciously sacrifice Mexican lives to make it harder for U.S. adults to get high. Violence is down! We’re winning, give us more money!
Violence is up! We’re winning, give us more money!
Our own government’s research has shown that over half the population has, at one time, used a controlled substance. If the law were applied as equally, at least 125 million Americans – including the current and last two Presidents – would have spent some time in jail on a drug charge.
Either way, we still have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, a sorry statement for a nation that is supposed to be the shining example of freedom and prosperity. According to the U.S. Justice Department (fitting name, no?) in 2006, 20% of all adults serving time in state prisons were drug law violators.
Never mind the potential harmful effects of drug use; it should NOT be illegal to willingly and voluntarily partake in an activity that affects the user and only the user. It is not the government’s duty to protect its citizens from themselves.
But if drugs were legal, everyone would do them and society would collapse! No, those who desire to take heroin (which is currently cheaper than beer) or cocaine or smoke marijuana already do so. That is the thing about legality; if the desire is strong enough a law fails at deterrence. For further evidence see, jaywalking, possessing nunchuks in the state of New York, burning leaves in an urban backyard, skyrocketing knife crime in London after guns were banned, etc.
It all comes down to one simple tenet: either we are adults and can make our own choices or we are perpetually children and the state must make our decisions for us. The line is drawn, pick a side.