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True conservatives will be the ones to end the Drug War

In fighting the War On (Some Taxpaying American Citizens Using Non-Alcoholic, Non-Pharmaceutical, Tobacco-Free) Drugs, I often find myself allied with many left-leaning progressive types. Many times, they’ll launch into anti-conservative, anti-Republican tirades, and I’ve been guilty of the same more often than not.

So it always surprises them when I say that it will be the conservatives (true conservatives, not these Bushites in power now) that stop the ridiculous prohibition of drugs. Why? It’s about the money and that invisible hand of the marketplace.

The latest example of conservative / libertarian newsman John Stossel – certainly no friend of liberals – writing in Townhall.com:

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.

… 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.

Government’s declaring drugs illegal doesn’t mean people can’t get them. It just creates a black market, where even nastier things happen. That’s why I have come to think that although drug addiction is bad, the drug war is worse.

Many conservatives have been against the drug war, notably William F. Buckley, Jr. and economist Milton Friedman, who has long warned us that we’re wasting our money in a futile attempt to eliminate a market through prohibition, and told us that we’re missing out on $14 billion a year on potential tax revenues and law enforcement savings.

But what would your average red state denizen of Freepersborough think about such heresy?

The WOD can’t be won. Even if you make drugs illegal doesn’t mean people can’t get them; it just makes things worse. As John Stossel notes, even if you think drug addiction is bad, the cure has has resulted in more crime, more terrorism and the existence of powerful criminal cartels that can do all kinds of things we don’t want with illicit money. And our resources could better be spent on prevention and treatment programs than to lock people up for pursuing recreational fantasies with a couple of pills. Its called common sense.

I think the WOD was Reagan’s biggest mistake. The price has been high in both blood and treasure with little if anything to show for it. One only has to look back at a little history to know what the result would be. Oh well…

Milton Friedman and others who think like him, called exactly how the drug war would turn out. More crime, more prisons, bigger government, less rights for individuals, and drugs as available as ever. The drug warriors remind of communists. They both imagine a utopian world, if just the state can intervene, with the ends justifying the means.. and oh yes they won’t screw up like the last communists did.

Nixon was more successful than any president after him in battling illegal narcotics. In Turkey he created a model program to persuade poppy farmers to grow alternative crops. He developed a massive anti-drug education program aimed at elementary school age children. He founded the DEA. He funded drug and alcohol treatment facilities. The difference between the Nixon era drug war and today’s drug war is that the Nixon Administration spent 25 cents of each WOD dollar on enforcement/interdiction and 75 cents on education and treatment. Today 75 cents goes to enforcement/interdiction and 25 cents goes to treatment/education.

Here’s what I don’t get: everyone I know- liberal or conservative- thinks the War on Drugs is a disaster, a waste of time, and a horrible idea that must be put to an end. It’s probably the one issue everyone agrees on. My question is this: who are the people that are actually supporting this nonsense? There has to be a pretty sizable group out there somewhere, or else this money wouldn’t be wasted every year. From what I can see, most people want this fake war ended.

:If we did not have this drug war going on, we could spend more time going after robbers and rapists and burglars and murderers. This has always been my take. In London we had a operation called Operation Bumble Bee targeting career burglars withing a few months we had cut break ins by 10% and the figure was going down. Then a newspaper the Evening Standard ran a series of stories about dealers in Soho. The offshoot was that resources were diverted from BumbleBee and put to use tackling the dealers. After a man hour intensive five month operation they busted a gang of dealers many were arrested an jailed, withing a week new dealers had taken over. As a by-product house break-ins rose again.

I think most people are still brainwashed by the government on this matter. Second, there are hundreds of thousands of government workers whose career depends on the War on Drugs. Notwithstanding the utter moral imperative to end the war, the government is “addicted” to the War to keep their parasite class employed. Remember, it came out after 911 that many FBI staffs around the country were mostly dedicated to the WOD, not terrorism. It would take a strong visionary leader to end this insane drug war.

The shame is that most people who have drug problems have serious emotional problems that need compassion, not incarceration, to help solve. The Drug Warriors like to imply the drugs cause the problem these people have, when it is their sad state that causes them to fall into the drug dependency. We would have a much more civil society if we treated them with compassion instead of police state actions.

… and just paging through the many many comments, it seemed about 2-to-1 against the drug war. There were a few crazed Freepers out there, though:

When this country enforced draconian drug laws ON USERS there wasn’t a problem. When middle class parents wailed about junior’s 20 year sentence for a joint, those laws changed. They don’t have a problem in Singapore. Guess why?

But legalistic and economic reasons aside, one of the reasons I was drawn to conservatism as a political philosophy is because of its clarity of moral purpose. Legalizing drugs is another step on the road to cultural acceptance and affirmation. Look at gambling: the same murderous rats who ran the casinos in Vegas are running the casinos now, only nationwide. Gambling is accepted, even celebrated, with its grubby, loathsome philosophy permeating everything from the Internet to the local 7-11, teaching children that the one thing infinitely better than hard work and study is the luck of the draw. After drugs, I suppose prostitution is next. After all, we’re talking ‘victimless’ crimes, right? And prostitutes aren’t really prostitutes: they’re ‘sex workers’, and their johns are ‘participants in the sex industry’, consumers. That is the logic, correct?

And all those drug buyers and sellers would be model citizens if only the evil government wouldn’t ruin their fun by banning drugs. Anybody who would steal to get mind- and body-destroying drugs, and anybody who would buy a gun and form a gang to sell them, is either evil or stupid. Chances are they’d end up criminals anyway.

Stossel is wrong on this issue. People who are intent on destroying themselves need to be locked up. Treatment only for those who want it and show a commitment to it. We aren’t respo
nsible for making sure everyone makes the right choices in life, but we are responsible for removing those people from civilized society. The public health problems created by “recreational” users is incredibly damaging.

Most of the anti-Stossel responses on Free Republic followed that general theme, i.e., all drug use is abuse destined to wreck society, and all drug users are immoral cretins with no impulse control and criminal tendencies.

Still, I think the conservatives will end the drug war and I’d love to have liberals prove me wrong and do it first. But I don’t get my hopes up, after decades of spending and an entrenched economy of prisons, crime, gangs, pharmaceuticals, drug testing, politics, and so much more that depends on the continued prohibition of drugs, it’s hard to see an end in sight. I can’t really believe Democrats will do anything about it; they’re willing to just ignore stolen elections, torture, gay rights, outright fraud and lying, war on false pretenses, and a lawbreaking president. They’re really not likely to jump up and say, “let’s decriminalize drugs!” The hope I hold for the Republicans is their natural greed, belief in individual liberty, and dislike of government intrusion.

One potential end: we continue to be wrapped up in wars in the Middle East and our economy takes a dump when foreign governments start calling in their debts. As our country goes broke trying to fight wars in Asia (just like we taught Osama bin Laden to use against the Soviets), we’ll be desperately trying to raise funds, and the temptation to tax drugs and save law enforcement money and manpower will be too great to ignore.

On the other hand, maybe in order to continue feeding these wars in Asia, we scapegoat the drug users even more, and enact mandatory minimums that send drug users to the military. That’ll be an easy sell, won’t it? Punish the druggies and make ’em go through boot camp to learn discipline — oh, and we get to shave their hippie heads! — and make ’em go shoot an insurgent to help spread democracy. Damn, that’s almost a GOP campaign commercial!

[Cross-posted at Radical Writ]

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