damnum absque injuria

January 27, 2007

This Is Your Brain on Drug Wars. Any Questions?

Filed under:   by Xrlq @ 1:01 am

In yesterday’s Human Events Online, the usually sensible John Hawkins offers a piss-poor defense of the War on Some Drugs. Hawkins writes:

Libertarians often attack the war on drugs as a waste of tax dollars and an infringement on personal liberties. That is misguided thinking that comes from trying to apply unworkable theoretical concepts in the real world.

Either that, or it is “misguided” thinking that comes from trying to examine the actual effects of a government program, rather than judging it according to its proponents’ intentions. Libertarians also attack the war on poverty. Is that misguided thinking that comes from a theoretical concept that poverty is a good thing (“povertarianism,” perhaps)? [Yes, some looneytarians also attack the war on terror, but that’s another issue altogether. If you think you can defend yourself against terrorists as easily as you can against drugs, try “just saying no” to a terrorist sometime.]

For example, you often hear advocates of drug legalization say that we’re never going to win the war on drugs and that it would free up space in our prisons if we simply legalized drugs. While it’s true that we may not ever win the war against drugs — i.e. never entirely eradicate the use of illegal drugs — we’re not ever going to win the war against murder, robbery and rape either.

Here we have a cheap attempt to score a rhetorical point with a creative definition. Of course we will never completely eradicate anything. World War II went a long way toward rolling back fascism around the world, but it didn’t eradicate it completely, and no one argues as a result that the War on the Axis Powers was a failur.e. A more sensible working definition of “winning” is improving the status quo. Banning drugs almost certainly causes some potential users to go or stay straight. It also causes a hell of a lot of violent crime, and probably causes its share of police corruption as well. The question is how much crime and how much of our civil liberties we are willing to give up, in exchange for how much of a reduction of drug abuse. If you think the trade-off is a good one, the War on Some Drugs is already being won. If you think it’s a bad trade-off, it’s not, and query whether it ever can be.

But our moral code rejects each of them [murder, robbery and rape], so none — including drugs — can be legalized if we still adhere to that code.

Flaming non sequitur, that. Does Hawkins seriously mean to argue that we as a society should prohibit everything that a majority of the citizenry believes is morally wrong? If all the laws against real, victimful crimes accomplished was to make us feel like our laws were in sync with our moral code, there wouldn’t be much point in prohibiting those activities, either. The reason we ban these activities is most of us don’t care to be murdered, robbed or raped, and therefore, we’re safer as a society when those predisposed to murder, rob or rape us are locked up where they can’t. If the prospect of your neighbor abusing drugs concerns you nearly as much as the possibility of becoming the victim of a violent crime, then Hawkins’s analogy may work for you. If it doesn’t, it’s a worthless analogy.

If we legalized drugs, we’d be able to tax them and bring in more revenue for the state. But, how is that working out with alcohol and cigarettes?

Extremely well, but that inconvenient fact undermines Hawkins’s premise, so let’s not talk about that. Instead, let’s quickly change the topic and hope no one will notice:

In 2004 and 2005, 39% of all traffic-related deaths was related to alcohol consumption and 36% of convicted offenders “had been drinking alcohol when they committed their conviction offense.”

These statistics are suspect, as they tend to rely on post hoc ergo propter hoc (after the fact, therefore, because of the fact) reasoning: if an accident or crime happened, and one of the drivers or the perp had been drinking, drinking must have caused the crime or accident. Often it does, of course, but not always, which is why these numbers tend to get inflated. That said, no one seriously disputes that DUI is a problem, or that some people who are merely a-holes while sober become violent criminals while drunk, but who in his right mind argues that either fact justifies a return to National Prohibition? I guess it’s easier to burn down the whole cotton-pickin’ haystack than to search for that needle, but geez.

When it comes to cigarettes, adult smokers “die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.”

Whew. For a minute there I thought he was about to trot out some statistic about how many criminals or negligent drivers smoked cigarettes (or worse, breathed in second-hand smoke) before committing their crimes and/or crashing their cars. Still, so friggin’ what? If someone likes smoking enough that he’s willling to trade 14 years of his life, and God knows how much money and smelly clothes along the way for the habit, that’s his prerogative. If people insist on saving Social Security by dying at retirement rather than collecting a check for years to come, why stop them?

But, will we ever get rid of tobacco or alcohol? No, both products are too societally accepted for that and perhaps more importantly, the government makes enormous amounts of revenue from their sale.

Yeah, sin taxes. That’s the ticket. ‘Cuz we know no government would ever attempt to tax an illegal product or make any effort whatsoever to prevent kids from drinking or smoking. What’s the legal drinking age in your state? Probably the age of adulthood, 18, right? No? Younger still, so the state can maximize its revenue? Oh wait, I almost forgot that all 50 state legislatures equally weighed the pros and cons, and independently concluded that the way to make the most money off of alcohol is to prohibit sales of the product to anyone under 21, and that the federal government loves it revenue so much it once banned the stuff completely. My bad.

Do we really want to be sitting around 10 or 15 years from now saying, “Gee, we’d like to get rid of heroin, but how could we replace the revenue we make from taxing it at an exorbitant rate?”

Hell, yes. Compared to the status quo, I’d love to have THAT problem, as it presupposes that we have a way of getting rid of heroin. We don’t, or after this many years of the War on Some Drugs (one of which is heroin) now there wouldn’t be any left to get rid of.

Of course,

Never trust any statement prefaced with “of course.” Of course he wouldn’t have had to say “of course” if this really were an of-course.

the number of people using what are currently illegal drugs would skyrocket if they were legalized, so we’d see a new wave of drug-addled burglars if we “legalized it.”

Hawkins appears to have pulled this argument out of his butt. Of course (no, really) legalization would lead to some increase in use, but the main reason this is so obvious is basic economics: lower the cost of anything, and someone will start doing it. But lowering the cost of doing it also removes the principal motive for druggies to become burglars today. No one burglarizes a house for a can of beer, an aspirin, or any other substance available cheaply on the open market.

Now, maybe you think that’s not the case. Some people certainly argue that if illicit drugs were legalized, their usage would drop.

A few crazies argue that, sure. How about addressing the more sensible proposition that a textbook increase in drug use (which most of us still wouldn’t do) would be a small price to pay for removing the motive of most serious, violent crimes in this country?

However, the fact that drugs are illegal is certainly holding down their usage. Just look at what happened during prohibition. Per Ann Coulter in her book, “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)”:

“Prohibition resulted in startling reductions in alcohol consumption (over 50 percent), cirrhosis of the liver (63 percent), admissions to mental health clinics for alcohol psychosis (60 percent), and arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct (50 percent).” — p.311

That’s what happened when alcohol was made illegal.

Correction: that’s part of what hapened when alcohol was made illegal. Another part had something to do with the mob, if memory serves.

However, on the other hand, if we make drugs legal, safer, easier to obtain, more societally accepted, and some people say even cheaper as well, there would almost have to be an enormous spike in usage.

“Some people say?” Has any serious economist ever argued that legalizing anything would not result in that product being safer or easier to obtain? Whether it would be “societally” (assuming that is a word) acceptable is a tougher question. I don’t think acceptance automatically follows from legalization. One could envision a policy of ending prohibition while redirecting efforts to persuading people to find something better to do voluntarily. Freedom, what a concept.

Certainly that’s what happened in the Netherlands where “consumption of marijuana…nearly tripled from 15 to 44% among 18-20 year olds” after the drug was legalized.

But, some people may say, “so what if drug usage does explode? They’re not hurting anyone but themselves.” That might be true in a purely capitalistic society, but in the sort of welfare state that we have in this country, the rest of us would end up paying a significant share of the bills of people who don’t hold jobs or end up strung out in the hospital without jobs — and that’s even if you forget about the thugs who’d end up robbing our houses to get things to pawn to buy more drugs.

Even setting that aside, we make laws that prevent people from harming themselves all the time in our society. In many states there are helmet laws, laws that require us to wear seatbelts, laws against prostitution, and it’s even illegal to commit suicide. So banning harmful drugs is just par for the course.

That’s an interesting twist on the usual slippery slope canard. Usually its adherence argue that we shouldn’t start down that slope or else we’ll soon end up at the bottom. This is the first time in recent memory that I’ve heard anyone argue that we should continue all the way to the bottom because we’re already halfway down anyway.

And make no mistake about it, drugs do wreck a lot of lives. Of course, drugs aren’t the only things that wreck lives and not every person who does drugs ends up as a crackhead burglar or a dirty bum living in an alley. Heck, Barack Obama, a man some people would like to see as our next President has used cocaine — and doesn’t it seem like every few weeks we read about another celebrity who comes out of rehab and goes on to have a successful career?

Sure, that’s true. But, every person who plays Russian Roulette doesn’t end up with a bullet in his head either.

Look at the flip side of the equation. How many homeless people are drug addicts? How many women have had crack babies?

Plenty. How many of those turned out to be such a big deal after all the initial hype. Just last week on American Idol, didn’t a crack baby just get the coveted “welcome to Hollywood?” Besides, looking at the flip side is a cheap political stunt that could be used to prove almost anything. How many homeless people once attended public schools? How many of them ate fast food at McDonald’s? How many once abused marijuana, smoked tobacco before that, which in turn was preceded by coffee, all the way back to mother’s milk? If Hawkins’s logic holds any water, the War on Milk is long overdue.

How many people are in jail today because they got high and committed a crime? How many lives have been wrecked in some form or fashion by drug use? There’s probably not a person reading this column who doesn’t know someone who has faced terrible consequences in his life because of drug use.

Sure there is: me. Off the top of my head I can think of two people who have faced bad or terrible consequences because of alcohol use, and one who did because of long-term tobacco use, but I don’t know any who have suffered from any of the drugs in the cross-hairs of the War on Some Drugs. Not that this matters, really. The point is not whether drugs are bad, mmmkay, but whether the laws prohibiting them leave society in a better or worse overall position that we’d be in if the government left well enough alone. There’s not an easy answer to that question, but it is the question that needs to be addressed, and one Hawkins, like all too many of his fellow prohibitionists, ignored entirely.

That’s why once, way back when William Bennett was the drug czar, he responded like so to a caller on the Larry King show who told him that he should “behead the damn drug dealers.”

“I mean what the caller suggests is morally plausible,” he said. “Legally, it’s difficult. But somebody selling drugs to a kid? Morally, I don’t have any problem with that at all.”

Not sure what trotting out past examples of William Bennett’s lunacy is supposed to accomplish, but all it does accomplish – in my case, at least – was to show that anti-drug zeal can warp somebody’s mind almost as badly as the drugs themselves can.

Bennett was right then, he’s right now, and my guess is that most parents, upon finding out that someone was peddling drugs to their kid, would agree with him. Since that’s the case, do we really want the federal government to take over the role of a pusher and get our kids hooked on drugs to make a profit? No, we don’t.

It’s a poorly kept secret that we got rid of Don Rumsfeld for asking too many stupid rhetorical questions and answering them in the next breath. Do we really need someone else to take up that habit in print? No, we don’t.

28 Responses to “This Is Your Brain on Drug Wars. Any Questions?”

  1. RAMMER Says:

    Truly an article deserving a Fisking. The notion that the sale of newly legalized drugs to minors would also be legal, and thus immunize some creep on the playground, is risible. And the rest of it was no better.

  2. triticale Says:

    Fact of the matter is that the majority of critics of the War on (some) Drugs are calling for a rollback, and not sudden total legalization. Decriminalize personal possesion and growth of marijuana and other plant drugs (nost anti-drug types have no idea how widespread ‘shrooms are), reduce penalties for crack cocaine to match those for cocaine hydrochloride, and demilitarize enforcement. If we do this it would be possible to promote a culture of moderation, which currently would be taboo.

    In my nearly 40 years on the drug scene I’ve seen quite a few people mess up their lives, at least temporarily. Some, particularly a few who put succesful businesses up their noses, were hurt as badly as I’ve seen people hurt by alchohol. OTOH, the only person I ever saw hospitalized for physical damage from drug abuse was abusing aspirin.

  3. nk Says:

    Good job, Xrlq. I have nothing against John Hawkins. And I doubt that I will be a “big L” Libertarian anytime soon. But the way a very sensible law to prevent babies being given laudanum (opium dissolved in alcohol) has devolved into a phony war against drugs industry, with prisons for profit and cops shooting down ninety-two year old women …. While our closest allies in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, are the world’s major supplier of heroin. With our Monroe Doctrine protectorates having parallel governments of drug cartels. While Border Patrolmen go to prison for shooting a drug smuggler in the behind. Heck, while it’s suspicion of a crime to take out more than $10,000.00 of your money from your bank. Good work, Mr. Bennett. So shall every good tree bear good fruit. Ok, thanks for the opportunity for the rant.

  4. SayUncle >> This just in Says:

    [...] Xrlq defends libertarians. Well, kind sorta. He has a good fisk of a pro-drug war article. My favorite quote: Yes, some looneytarians also attack the war on terror, but that’s another issue altogether. If you think you can defend yourself against terrorists as easily as you can against drugs, try “just saying no” to a terrorist sometime. [...]

  5. The Agitator Says:

    Fisking Hawkins…

    I posted John Hawkins’ lame defense of the drug war over at Hit & Run yesterday, and the comments crew……

  6. Dana Says:

    I waffle back and forth on this issue. The libertarian part of me says, “Hey, if people want to foul up their lives with drugs, that’s fine with me, as long as I’m not expected to pay for their bad judgement.”

    Then the part of me that is married to a pediatric nurse, the part that gets to hear all of the horror stories she brings home from the hospital, reminds me that my darling bride has often said that there has never been a case of child neglect or abuse that she has seen that didn’t involve some adult somewhere using drugs or alcohol (or, usually, both).

    A very unfortunate part of drug use is that it isn’t a victimless crime. Most people wind up caring for children at some point in their lives, and if they can’t hold a job or they get stupid or whatever ill effects they suffer from getting stoned every weekend, those things effect the children for whom they are responsible.

    As for the ineffectiveness of the “war on drugs,” it is because it is fought completely wrongly. We go after the supply side, trying to catch drug smugglers and crack dealers on the city streets. Trouble is, the profits are so high that when we take one out, another takes his place, almost instantly.

    If we were serious about the war on drugs, we’d have to target drug users, have to put them in jail, not just offer some lame rehab program. But we’ll never do that, will we?

  7. Bob Dobalina Says:

    Oh wait, I almost forgot that all 50 state legislatures equally weighed the pros and cons, and independently concluded that the way to make the most money off of alcohol is to prohibit sales of the product to anyone under 21, and that the federal government loves it revenue so much it once banned the stuff completely. My bad.

    The problem is that you’re half-right here. If you’re familiar with South Dakota v. Dole, you’d see that raising the drinking age to 21 was in some cases precisely about raising revenue.

  8. Doc Rampage Says:

    I agreed with most of your comments, Xrlq, but you missed something with this: “If the prospect of your neighbor abusing drugs concerns you nearly as much as the possibility of becoming the victim of a violent crime, then Hawkins’s analogy may work for you.”

    It’s not their neighbor’s abuse of drugs that they fear as much as they do violent crime; what they fear is their children becoming addicted and ruining their lives. Many people involved in vices try to spread their vices to others, for motives that I’ve never quite grasped. but how many times have you heard this conversation: “no more for me, I’m driving.” “Oh, come on! One more isn’t going to hurt!” “No, I’ve had enough” “Come on, I’ll drive you home!” “No, really, I don’t want to get wasted.” “Ha ha ha! We’re all getting wasted tonight! Hey, get this guy another giant margarita!”

    I’ve heard this conversation, many times. On a few surprising occasions the idiot in the conversation was someone that I had previous respected. And although I don’t think we need to protect adults from this kind of social pressure, teenagers are another matter. Teenagers are extremely susceptible to this kind of pressure and parents know it. That is the fear that is equating the war on drugs to prevention of violent crimes, and I think it is a reasonable fear.

  9. jjv Says:

    Comparing drug legalization to alcohol is foolish. Alcohol is integrated woof and warp into Western society for thousands of years. That was what prohibition so terrible, not the mere banning of an injestible mind altering drug. To unleash the entire modern pharmacopia on the public is to tempt disaster. Further, regulation would insure a black market continued. If any regulation at all of the strength of opioids was allowed, illicit stronger drugs would immedietely spring up bringing all the crime, plus the problems of legalized drugs. While it is easy for some people to buy drugs, I for instance, would have little idea or contact with those who sell it. This would not be the case were it to be made legal. A large tranch of the American public also takes the view that if something is legal, its ok. These folks would be particularly susceptible to legalized drugs.

    I do not believe that everything consenting adults want to do ought to be legal or that a better world would usher in should we apply it to drug legalization.

    It seems to me about 20% of the American population is habitually in the current drug world. I don’t want that number increasing.

  10. steve sturm Says:

    A bit harsh X.

    You criticize John for saying that we’re not going to ‘win’ the war on rape, robbery or murder… but he’s actually turning that argument against anti-drug-war-nuts who he claims are inconsistent for arguing that we should drop the war on drugs because we can’t ‘win’ (defined as eradication, and not by your much better ‘making things better’ definition) but don’t carry that argument to other ‘wars’ that we also can’t totally win.

    And you go after him for his ‘how is that working out?’ question… but it’s clear – at least to me, based on his later acknowledgement that government makes a lot of money from cigarette and alchohol sales – that he’s not inquiring about the revenue raised from cigarette and alchohol sales, but rather whether there is a net expense to society. Thus, he isn’t quickly changing the topic hoping no one will notice; he’s actually staying on point when he segues into a discussion of the social and other financial costs of legalizing alchohol and cigarettes.

    And your economics lesson falls a tad short. Supply would have to increase (how much, who knows?) to accomodate the extra demand unleashed by legalization in order for prices to enough where there would theoretically no need for someone to resort to crime to fund his/her drug habit. Assume the government gets into licensing and inspecting and taxing drug sales and insisting on OSHA approved meth labs: are you so sure that prices would still fall? And even if prices were to fall a lot, wouldn’t those lacking the income to pay for their drug use still steal the money they need? Perhaps lower prices would allow some current users to be better able to afford their purchases.. but since drug use tends to presage lost jobs/no income, wouldn’t drug users continue to find themselves short of legal sources of funding their habit, making your suggestion that drug crime would go away a bit of, dare I say it, a pipe dream?

    I won’t claim that John is firing on all cylinders. His ‘smokers die early’ is a case in point, as is his claim that banning drugs is okay because society has seat belt laws.

    All in all, I think he is doing – or at least trying to do – what you claim we should be doing: “addressing the more sensible proposition that a textbook increase in drug use… would be a small price to pay for removing the motive of most serious, violent crimes in this country”.

    Finally, I know that even blind squirrels find the occasional acorn and stopped watches are right twice a day, but there is something about Radley Balko patting you on the back that makes me wonder…

  11. Phelps Says:

    The other thing that you could have added (not that I am criticizing, if you intentionally skipped it) is that cigarette usage has gone down drastically using the very method that libertarians advocate for other illegal substances — education and treatment for addicts. Does anyone seriously believe that the moral way to deal with tobacco is to throw smokers in jail for years if they are caught with a cigarette, and execute or give life sentences tobacco farmers and tobacconists?

  12. Xrlq Says:

    JJV: distinguishing alcohol and drugs on the basis that one is more integrated into society than the other is silly. The purpose of drug laws is supposed to be to protect people’s health, not to codify western culture. If anything, the fact that alcohol is more socially accepted than drugs is a reason to go after it more forcefully, as it affects far more people than the marginalized stuff few used back in the days when it was legal and alcohol wasn’t. And your argument about illicit stronger drugs creating all the same crime that today’s now illegal drugs do is uncommonly silly. Moonshine still exists today, too, but does anyone seriously contend that the tiny black market for illicit alcohol causes anywhere near the crime that the market for alcohol generally did during prohibition?

    Steve: using a phony, insanely unrealistic definition of “win” isn’t turning an argument on anyone. It’s beating up a strawman. If the debate were between John Hawkins and the National Society to Oppose All Laws That Don’t Completely Eradicate Their Targets Completely, Except If Those Laws Happen To Target Murder, Robbery or Rape, then Hawkins wins this one hands-down. If the debate is over anything else, his argument isn’t worth a tinker’s damn.

    As to the “how is that working out” question, the initial rhetorical question certainly makes it sound as though revenue collection does not work out, even though he knows full well that it does. The only way revenue collection (as opposed to alcohol and tobacco generally) could not work out would be if there were reason to believe that the alcohol and tobacco taxes actually cause the problems associated with alcohol and tobacco, an argument so retarded Hawkins himself didn’t make it.

    You are correct, of course, that drug prices would have to drop precipitously in order to remove the motive for crime that exists today. However, I see little reason to doubt that they would. How much do you pay at the pharmacy for aspirin, acetaminophen, or any other legal, generic over the counter drug? The only reason the illegal ones are so damned expensive is because prohibition and the drug war make the drugs artificially scarce. Make the stuff as legal as aspirin, and it will soon be just as plentiful. In some ways that’s a bad thing – cheaper drugs mean more people experimenting with them – but when it comes to curtailing drug related crime, it’s an overwhelming plus. Even if we assume a few junkies are so dirt-poor that they still have to steal for a $3 bag of what now goes for upwards of $300, at least they won’t have to steal anywhere near as much, or as often.

    Phelps: it’s a decent point, but a tough one to prove either way. First, today’s efforts to reduce smoking have not been limited to education and treatment, but have also included campaigns of disinformation and coercion that ought to give pause to any libertarian-minded individual. Second, it’s all well and good to talk about reductions in smoking, but as Henney Youngman may counter, “compared to what?” We’ve never tried banning smoking in this country, so there’s no way to know whether today’s education / public shaming policies are as effective in reducing smoking as total prohibition would be.

    As cigarettes were never outlawed, we have no way of knowing how much more or less successful today’s anti-smoking education (and, in many cases, disinformation) campaigns are than total prohibition would be. Besides,

  13. steve sturm Says:

    Phelps, you haven’t come across the non-smokers who have no mercy for those rude enough to smoke within a fifty square mile radius of their delicate noses, who feel that given the risk second hand smoke poses to them, jail time for smokers isn’t enough punishment?

  14. Anwyn Says:

    JJV: distinguishing alcohol and drugs on the basis that one is more integrated into society than the other is silly.

    Yep. But distinguishing them based on the fact that drugs mess you up worse, quicker, than alcohol isn’t. People can and do drive with a bit of alcohol in their systems. People can and do drive with a bit more alcohol in their systems and escape serious consequences. People can and do drink without becoming addicted to alcohol.

    The same cannot be said for heroin or cocaine or even marijuana. Unless I’m mistaken, and I freely admit I could be, having no firsthand or even secondhand knowledge of any of these substances, even a bit of pot will make you far more likely to ram your car into something or become otherwise dysfunctional a lot quicker than alcohol, and the addiction is far surer.

    Levels of dysfunction/damage is a far better starting point for discussion about the merits/lack thereof of drug laws.

  15. Anwyn Says:

    Clarification: “the addiction is far surer” was meant to apply to drugs in general, not just pot. I have a vague notion that M-J isn’t all that addictive, but again I don’t know and haven’t bothered to look up links. :P

  16. Xrlq Says:

    I don’t think it makes sense to generalize about drugs in general. Some are worse than alcohol, others less harmful. AFAIK marijuana is no more addictive than alcohol, i.e., neither is addictive to most users, though potheads and alcoholics do of course exist. The only moral distinction I can see between alcohol and pot is that alcohol in moderation is good for you, while there’s no evidence any amount of pot is.

  17. markm Says:

    “Unless I’m mistaken, and I freely admit I could be, having no firsthand or even secondhand knowledge of any of these substances, even a bit of pot will make you far more likely to ram your car into something or become otherwise dysfunctional a lot quicker than alcohol, and the addiction is far surer.”

    You certainly are misinformed. Unlike alcohol, studies of whether pot increases the chance of an accident are inconclusive – aside from those biased studies that find accident victims (not just drivers, all victims) with THC, alcohol, and all sorts of other drugs in their bloodstream and try to blame it all on the pot. Anecdotally, alcohol impairs while it removes inhibitions and for many people increases aggressiveness and gives them the idea that they are supermen, so they’ll try things drunk that they never would with all their faculties unimpaired. Pot impairs but it reduces aggressiveness in nearly all people; if they have to drive, they’ll probably drive very carefully. Their worst danger is probably getting rear-ended by some drunk…

    If you had met potheads, this joke would ring very true: A drunk driver will run a stop sign. A thoroughly stoned pothead will stop and wait for it to change.

    As for addiction, alcohol and nicotine are physically and psychologically addictive; pot (and many other things, including blogging) may be psychologically addictive, but definitely aren’t physically addictive. Alcohol and nicotine are poisons, and people have died of overdoses; there is no known lethal dose for pot.

  18. Anwyn Says:

    Okay. Doesn’t change my argument for the harder drugs.

  19. Anwyn Says:

    Let’s leave blogging out of this. Okay? Really. It’s none of your damn business how much I … [click]

  20. Fenevad Says:

    I have a question on the economics of legalization, one that bears directly on the cost issue. Does anyone have any idea what the risk premium on drug prices might be? I.e., even if supply were not to change (in a hypothetical world), but drugs were to be legalized, what would the impact on the price be since the risk of delivery would vanish and all of the supply infrastructure that has appeared to mitigate that risk would no longer be needed? As a starting point for speculation on the price of drugs and the impetus for associated crime by users to fund habits, some idea of that change alone would go a long way.

    Also, from Hawkins post and from the rants of his commenters, I presume that he assumes a steady state model in production: i.e., production would stay in the same places and be subject to the same methods now employed. Aside from that I can see no way for any of them to assume that legalization would somehow benefit “terrorists”. After all, if legalization took place and I could plant a crop of poppies in my back yard (not that I want to), I would be cutting funding from the terrorists by becoming a domestic supplier.

  21. Milton Friedman Says:

    An open letter to Bill Bennet:

    In Oliver Cromwell’s eloquent words, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken” about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

    You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

    Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

    Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

    I append excerpts from a column that I wrote in 1972 on “Prohibition and Drugs.” The major problem then was heroin from Marseilles; today, it is cocaine from Latin America. Today, also, the problem is far more serious than it was 17 years ago: more addicts, more innocent victims; more drug pushers, more law enforcement officials; more money spent to enforce prohibition, more money spent to circumvent prohibition.

    Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, “crack” would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man’s lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.

    Columbia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror. Hell would not, in the words with which Billy Sunday welcomed Prohibition, “be forever for rent,” but it would be a lot emptier.

    Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse, and make the problem appear even more intractable.

    Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.

    This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes “on suspicion” can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.

    Today is Milton Friedman Day. IMHO, every day should be.

  22. Electric Venom » Blog Archive » Winning The War on (Some) Drugs Says:

    [...] of the Drug War , which asserts that drug usage is best restrained by keeping drugs illegal, Xrlq writes: Banning drugs almost certainly causes some potential users to go or stay straight. It also causes [...]

  23. Pro-Gun Progressive » Further to the Drugs and Guns Issue Says:

    [...] Read this. [...]

  24. jjv Says:

    The “woof and warp” point I made earlier is being misinterpreted. I say that to note that the very prevalence of the use of alcohol over time and in the West in particular made the amount of people involved far larger than the drug culture does, with the concommitment problems of enforcement. Further, with most drugs the community of users is smaller than it would be were drugs legalized.

    The moonshine analogy is misplaced as you can legally buy alcohol that is the same proof as moonshine. It is made the same way as other alcohol. Moonshine was made partially to avoid “revenuers.”

  25. Bilwick Says:

    I wish the people who seek the power to control my life, my body, my money, or whatever would just be honest and say:

    “I disapprove of _____________ [drugs, porn, capitalism, whatever] and therefore I want to force people not to _____________ [take drugs, buy porn, trade freely, whatever].”

    Instead they waste valuable time (their own, and ours) with their “common good” rhetoric and tortured attempts at logic, only making themselves look silly and dishonest in the process. Just bottom-line it, worshippers of the Mailed Fist, so those of us who do not consider ourselves property of the State can quickly tell you to go to Hell and get on about our business.

  26. jjv Says:

    I would rather be a worshipper of “the Mailed Fist” (common good) than of myself which it strikes me those who think voting on tax rates, the legalit of drugs, the prevalence of pornography, and trade relations with other coutries is tyranny often appear to be.

    Worse, I’m sure I’d love heroin if I tried it and I’d have been more likely to try it if it were legal. The same for gambling and the like. Often times people do not vote to ban things they don’t like but things they believe they and others will like too much to the detriment of other desired goals or goods.

  27. leshrac Says:

    I’ve been under the impression for years that the increase in the drinking age was a reflection of the Federal blackmail on State drinking ages by threatening highway funding. Interesting that all I hear was increased tax revenue, that one didn’t make sense to me.
    I noted on another blog that many people who openly admit that they have never tried, nor were ever interested in drugs of any kind would be open to finding a place in their lives for reacreational use. First, alcohol being our legal drug which hopefully pacifies the masses end up being an instigator of far worse situations as discussed in the superman scenario. Second, many of these people pass fuctional recreational or daily users of drugs every day, even in the workplace whether they know it or admit. Lastly, the doomsday destruction of society that starts at home (save the children *puke*) would be no different than smoking, drinking, video games, tv or anything else. Moderation in all things people.
    Hawkers argument was half-assed at best and fairly indefensible when you look at the big picture, all the facts, all the statistics. I wouldn’t give up bike riding because I could get hurt, I won’t give up smoking but I will take others concerns into consideration and crack or heroin scares me too. But I’m not a child and I’m educated and I make decisions and perhaps mistakes for myself and don’t blame others. Some people need to control other peoples lives so thoroughly that it steals the drive for independence and freedom that we all see being taken from us at an ever dramatic pace.
    Oh, one last thought. How much exactly do these loco people think it’s going to cost to grow some weed in a garden. Good god, what will happen if someone finds a way to manufacture dandelions into something entertaining:)

  28. Bilwick Says:

    Thank you, Lod JJV. Your brilliant logic cannot be withstood. I hereby surrender my personal sovereignty and allow you to dictate how I should use my body, spend my money, etc. I no longer worship my puny, rotten, sinful self, but those gods like you who were divinely appointed to rule over the rest of us.

    (Seriously, this may seem like a flippant reply, but what can you do with someone who sees “the Mailed Fist” as synonymous with “the common good”?)

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