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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Reality-based Libertarian View of the War on Drugs

I spent last weekend in Nashville, TN. Nashville is a nice city, filled with nice people, except for the hundreds of drunken yee-haws who come in from out of town to drink and act stupidly on Broadway. That's okay, though. Acting stupidly is fine as long as you don't act stupidly in my tiny slice of the universe. Memphis, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco all have famous Zones of Stupidity for tourists. New York City used to have one until Rudy Giuliani got elected mayor and successfully eliminated stupidity from public places. Then Michael Bloomberg took over and restricted stupidity to government functions like sodium intake and pedestrian walkways.

Spend a view moments in any city's Zone of Stupidity, or watch The Jersey Shore if you don't like to rub shoulders with the riff-raff, and you will see the wonderful effect alcohol has on chronically obnoxious women and clinically unbright men. Alcohol sale and consumption is regulated by a government charged with protecting society in general from putrid smelling people whose livers are saturated with Johnny Walker and college-aged kids who think they are funny when they are blotto. I'm okay with this because this helps protect my aforementioned tiny slice of the universe. I guess that's the Minarchist in me.

This logically brings me to the War on Drugs. The same horrible president, Richard Nixon, who saddled us with the EPA was also the first to utter the words "War on Drugs" in 1971. Back then, everyone was blotto. Your mom and dad were sipping Martinis to dull the pain of looking at each other, and Michaels and Jennifers everywhere were staring at Lava Lamps and listening to Pink Floyd. For some reason this scared everyone, even though everyone was doing it. You think Pat Nixon didn't drink Manhattans by the pitcher?

In 2010, the Feds spent $15 billion on the "War on Drugs," without stopping for one second to understand they were fighting a war they can never win. In another war we continued to fight long after we realized we couldn't win, Vietnam, 58,156 soldiers were killed. There is no way to know how many of them were killed after we decided to keep fighting in order to avoid the embarrassment of admitting we were wrong. I can't help but feel we are at that very same place in Afghanistan today.

From 1980 to 1999, 126,374 people were sent to prison in New York State for low-level drug offenses. Possession for personal use in New York can send you to the same place murderers go even though Jeremy just threw up and passed out drunk on 8th Avenue after watching the Rangers game.

In 1999, there were 22,386 people in New York prisons for drug offenses, and 58% of them were there for minor C, D, & E level offenses which generally are for minute amounts of illegal drug possession. That year, only 624 people were in prison for the most serious drug-related A-I offenses. There were 2135 people imprisoned for A-II level offenses. Statistics from Human Right World Report, 1999.

Remember Jeremy who we last saw passed out on 8th Avenue? Society steps over him, but his buddy Tyler is doing 3-5 in a state prison for carrying some pot. Personally I'm not a fan of either Jeremy or Tyler, but even the most ardent "conservatives" among you have to admit Tyler got a raw deal.

We're losing the border to Mexico, and according to presidential candidate Rick Perry sending troops to Mexico, a sovereign country, may be necessary to stem the flow of drugs into our Puritanical-on-the-surface country. ABCNews Blog.

Billions of dollars have been squandered and countless lives have been lost to the prison system in an attempt to save those same lives from the scourge of drugs. We no longer have control of vast stretches of our southern border because of the illegal drug trade and the only solution the folks we put in charge seem to have is to invade another country.

The war on drugs is an abysmal failure. We cannot continue the insanity of allowing government intervention in the name of guiding a personal decision. Are drugs bad? Pretty much in all cases I'd say yes, including that Paxcil you just stuck your kid on. So is alcohol. So is tobacco.

We are trying to protect lives by destroying them. As a free people we cannot continue to blindly accept the utter ignorance of this policy. If we want to live in a free society we must start thinking as free people.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Reading this reminded me of a paper I wrote for an anthropology class at WWU. Most Americans don't realize that the government's ideology of "Border Protection" and the "War on Drugs" is getting us nowhere really fast. In its current state, to put it simply, it's a giant paradox which costs a lot of money and lives. The lingering effects of the Bush Administration's "enforcement-only and enforcement-first legislation" doesn't help the situation either.
Now, I'm not saying that I think either of these issues should be set aside and left unchecked. That would be avoiding the reality of the situation entirely.
Taking a militarized approach to either has obviously been expensive and counter-productive. The policies currently in place are maladaptive and need to be reformed.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I will also have to add "blotto" to my vocabulary.