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61


L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 61, December 15, 1999
Happy Bill of Rights Day!

Why the War On Drugs Will Never Succeed (And Other Good Reasons To End It Now)

by Michael W. Gallagher
mwglaw@pond.com

Special to TLE

           The "War on Drugs" is a major governmental program, designed to modify the behavior of individuals, by criminalizing activity. It operates on the belief that, if you ban an activity, people will be dissuaded from engaging in that activity. To that end, we spend many billions of dollars of taxpayer funds each year, at the federal, state, and local level. This "war" is used as an excuse to modify the laws on posse comitatus, in order to have the military "aid local law enforcement" in the interdiction of drug imports. It has resulted in the federalization of much of criminal law enforcement, under the auspices of the DEA, the FBI, the Border Patrol, and other agencies.
           Further, it has resulted in a coast-to-coast wave of gross violations of basic property rights, under civil confiscation rules for alleged (and usually never proven) criminal activities, as detailed in Vin Suprynowicz's article in the November 15th issue of TLE. It has resulted in a culture that permits the violation of civil rights by law enforcement, particularly federal law enforcement, with a resultant atmosphere of fear among the innocent neighbors, as much as the guilty possessor of drugs, particularly in poorer neighborhoods.

What Does It Cost?

           Just looking at the cash costs, the federal government estimates that it will spend, directly, $17,100,000,000.00 this year on drug enforcement and interdiction. (Office of National Drug Control Policy, http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/budget-1.html). This does not include the cost of prisons or other "indirect" costs. The states will spend an estimated $20,000,000,000.00 this year, exclusive of prison costs.
           Almost 43,000 people will be incarcerated this year alone for drug offenses.(U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics). Using a commonly given estimate of prisoner cost, i.e., $25,000.00 per prisoner per year, this will cost about of $1,075,000,000.00 per year just for those new drug prisoners. There are currently over one million (1,000,000) persons incarcerated in the United States. It is estimated that over fifty percent those imprisoned are jailed for drug offenses. That means that the American taxpayer shells out about Twenty Five Billion Dollars ($25,000,000,000.00) every year, to shelter, house, and otherwise confine people in jail, with over half of that being due to the "war on drugs". In 1993 alone, new prison building programs cost an estimated Twenty-Five Billion Dollars ($25,000,000,000.00). Since violent crime is down, according to the Justice Department, and over half of those currently in jail are there for drugs, all of that expansion is made necessary by the "war on drugs".
           Then there are some of the "indirect"costs, which range from increases in welfare payments (for the wives and children of those incarcerated), to the higher medical costs caused by the war on drugs. "Accordingly, it appears that present drug control laws themselves, have directly led to an increase in the health risks associated with drug use and substance abuse. In addition to those dangers posed by lack of quality control and safety regulations governing illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia laws, together with a failure to promote needle exchange programs, have resulted in the preventable spread of AIDS and other similarly transmitted diseases to users, their partners and children." -- New York County Lawyers Association, Drug Policy Task Force report, October 1996.
           Despite all of this, the DEA admits that only about ten percent (10%) of all illegal drugs are ever intercepted. And, ladies and gentlemen, the net result of all of this expenditure, these suspensions and violations of basic civil rights, and this battering of the Constitution, has been that drug abuse is far more common than it was thirty years ago. Weapons offenses have increased substantially in the last thirty years, despite the passage of literally thousands of gun laws. (No, I don't believe in those either-but that is for another article, at another time). The reasons, I believe, are as follows:
           1. Criminal laws do not modify behavior: In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and make crime out of things that are not crimes." While the government will never admit it, criminalization of behavior does not end that behavior. In fact it can, under some circumstances, INCREASE that behavior. For example, most illegal drug use commences during adolescence, or shortly thereafter. While the government will never admit it, anyone who has survived their own adolescence will know that banning or criticizing something will, for many adolescents, make it even more attractive. All teenagers tend to feel some degree of alienation from society and family, simply as a part of being a teenager. Also, since the typical teenager believes that he or she is virtually bullet-proof--they are unable to truly comprehend either their own mortality or any inability to control a behavior over time-the usual propaganda does not work on them. Teenagers are often incapable of foreseeing the negative aspects of their actions, or of believing that they apply to them. Hence, seeing that adults-the "system", the "establishment", whatever name you give it-hate what you are doing, will make it all the more attractive. This is a normal part of growing up-adolescent rebellion.
           Further, among those individuals who are prone to take risks, the negative attention will make it even more attractive still. However, once that behavior is begun, it sometimes will continue for a lifetime. Vidae smoking. Finally, if criminalization worked, then you must believe that alcohol prohibition was a shining success, and prostitution has been all but stamped out. No? Well, then, I think that shows the point I was trying to make.
           2. Drug laws have caused the creation of and enlargement of criminal cartels. It is axiomatic that anything which creates a scarcity -- artificial or real -- of a substance will drive up the price of it. That is the most basic of economics. Further, it is also obvious that increasing the risk of importing, manufacturing, or selling a substance will cause a substantial scarcity. That increase in cost will, by definition, make it more profitable to engage in such activity. Therefore, it guarantees the presence of criminal individuals and organizations, such as "Organized Crime", in such activity. The profit is enormous. For example, the pharmaceutical cost of a typical cocaine abuser's weekly intake is about $20.00. However, its street cost is about $1,000.00. (William F. Buckley, National Review, 1996). The $980.00 is profit-risk money. "About $500 worth of heroin or cocaine in a source country will bring in as much as $100,000.00 on the streets of an American city. All the cops, armies, prisons, and executions in the world cannot impede a market with that kind of tax-free profit margin." (Joseph D. McNamara, former Chief of Police, Kansas City, MO, writing in National Review, 1996).
           Once a criminal organization involved in drug import, manufacture and/or sale is created, it will work very hard to promote its continued existence and profitability. Governmental corruption, murder, blackmail, and a host of other ills result. This has been shown many times over, from Al Capone's organization in Chicago in the 1920s to the Columbian Cartels of the 1980s and 1990s. In the words of Kurt Schmoke, Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, "...prohibition is a major source of crime: it inflates the price of drugs, inviting new criminals to enter the trade;...These are not problems that are merely tangential to the war on drugs. These are problems caused, or made substantially worse, by the war on drugs".
           3. The drug laws are largely responsible for the increase in violence feared by many persons in the last twenty years. Edward Rendell, mayor of Philadelphia and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, once said that he could tell almost to the day when "crack" cocaine first came to Philadelphia, because of the increase in violent crimes that followed it. This violence occurs primarily among dealers and users of the substance, in turf wars, thefts of the drugs from other dealers, collection of debts related to the drug, etc. The killing of innocent persons caught in the cross-fire of dealers became so common in major cities that the news almost stopped carrying the stories.

In cities throughout the United States, we find a proliferation of armed violence resulting from "turf" wars for control of territory for lucrative drug sales, together with regularly recurring dangerous and deadly altercations over drug deals gone bad. In addition to this community-based violence, there are "shoot-outs" between drug dealers and law enforcement officers, the latter developing the need for greater and more powerful weapons, only to be matched and then surpassed by those in the drug trade who have enormous profits, and personal liberty, at stake. The net result of these circumstances has been an extraordinary casualty rate for those involved in the drug trade, (35) injury and death to innocent bystanders "caught in the crossfires," injury and loss of life to law enforcement officers, and a prevailing atmosphere of violence in many inner city communities. A further byproduct of these conditions is an increase of weapons possession, and thereby, the weapons trade, where use and sale of dangerous and increasingly powerful weapons have proliferated. This widespread possession and use of dangerous and deadly weapons has further resulted in the increase of armed violence in our communities, not always directly related to local drug wars, but fostered by the undercurrent of violence, guns and money supported by the drug trade.
-- New York County Lawyers Association Drug Policy Task Force, October 1996.

           Of course, those same people who demand we continue this idiotic "war" also demand that we give up the right to defend ourselves with personal armaments. The fact that the violence referred to above is committed, almost exclusively, with illegal weapons, (either stolen or purchased illegally), never enters their minds. It is axiomatic that laws only control the law-abiding. Those already breaking the law have little or no reason not to break it further. Further, since illegal drug sales generate massive profits, even for street dealers, this gives the dealers more than enough cash to buy any sort of weapon they want usually very chromed, and very large caliber. Sometimes fully automatic.
           4. Governmental corruption is an inevitable result of a "war on drugs". This is not merely a continuation of the argument about cartels, above. Despite many attempts by the government to discredit the story, the authors and editors of the San Jose Mercury still stand by their story of several years ago, detailing how the United States Government permitted the sale of crack cocaine in California, in order to finance certain "intelligence" activities which they could not finance through their own (congressionally reviewed) budgets. The evidence, from what I have seen, is on the side of the Mercury. In other words, as a matter of policy, the United States Government became a drug dealer. If that is not "governmental corruption", then I think we need a new definition for it. If you have a hard time believing this, please remember that this is the same government that:
           A) Expanded an attack on an American vessel into the Tonkin Gulf Incident, as an excuse to expand the Vietnam War;
           B). Attempted to hide the fact, and discredit the man who revealed the truth, (Daniel Ellsberg), by burglarizing the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist in the early 1970s;
           C). Experimented on its own, unwitting citizens with L.S.D. as a part of an interrogation technique for the C.I.A. (Speaking of "controlled substances");
           D). Experimented on persons infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and never told them that they were never properly treated, in order to study the full course of the disease, in the infamous Tuskeegee Experiments;
           Released cold and other disease germs in the New York subway system, in order to test disease vectoring and spreading techniques, as part of CIA and Defense department germ warfare experiments in the 1950s and 1960s;
           F). Set up a political "hit" squad under Richard Nixon, and used FBI and IRS files in order to embarrass and destroy political "enemies" in the 1970s;
           G). And has otherwise engaged in more sordid, base, and disgusting behavior than I have either the time or the stomach to list here.
           Additionally, it has caused a degradation in government policy, with its new emphasis on civil forfeiture law. As better described in Vin Suprynowicz's article, previously cited, the civil forfeiture laws have become a new, alternative funding source for police departments and elected district attorneys one which is not subject to the review of budgetary agencies and voters. Totally aside from the damage this has done to constitutional rights, including the right to property and the right to due process, these confiscation laws have had a major social cost as well.

"Moreover, the increased enforcement of civil forfeiture laws has further undermined the security and stability of families. Recognizing a growing trend of evictions and asset forfeiture as a further weapon employed in the "war on drugs," entire families have lost and continue to lose homes and other substantial assets for the acts of a single household member, thereby punishing eve drug-free members of the community".
-- NYCLA Drug Policy Task Force report, October 1996.

           5. There is little or no drug treatment in jail. If someone is in jail, they are not getting treatment. It has been shown for decades that the punitive, incarceration model of drug control does not work. First of all, it is well-known among professionals in the drug-rehabilitation field that no person sobers up until that person decides to do so for themselves. It requires a willingness to change. No judge or prison can force that willingness upon someone. While it is true that some people do change in prison, this is the exception, rather than the rule. For all the speeches and promises made by politicians, prison does nothing but isolate someone from the outside world for a period of time-and teach them how to be a better criminal. In fact, most prisons have a thriving internal trade in these same drugs. Despite the best efforts of prison authorities, incarceration does not even prevent the use of drugs in the prisons themselves.
           So, what is it going to be? Do you want to keep a nice Republican "war on drugs" going, with the attendant violence, destruction of the constitution, and insane spending? Or do we do something else? Do we admit that the statist, top-down, moralistic, model so favored by Bill (I didn't inhale) Clinton, George W. (so I did a few lines of coke) Bush, and numerous other political hacks and control freaks has been an unmitigated disaster? Do we realize that adults are allowed to MAKE THEIR OWN MISTAKES, and hopefully learn from them? Do we realize that, by banning something, we have guaranteed its existence, and the existence of violent criminals who profit from that illegality? Or do we keep dumping seventy billion dollars a year down a government rat hole?
           I personally am not of a mind to create more government programs. But, if you are,consider, please, how many people you could treat for drug (and alcohol) addiction for even half of that seventy billion per year. Treatment lasts usually less than thirty days, if the person is ready. It can last for a lifetime. And it costs a lot less than $25,000.00 per year. Plus, the person who does sober up goes on to earn a living, contribute to his or her society, and do all the other things that responsible adults do. Which is a whole lot better than sticking them in a crummy little concrete box for years at a time, at $25,000 a year.


I am an attorney and sometimes-public defender in Pennsylvania. Doing what I suggest would cost me money. So, when a lawyer suggests doing something that would cost him income, perhaps you might want to give it some thought!

Michael W. Gallagher


STATISTICS, DAMNED LIES, AND LIES

Ever notice that when the local weather prognosticator says, 'There's a 50% chance of rain today" ... it rains every time?

My son and I once worked it out: if the forecaster says 'there's a 30% chance', there's a 50% chance; if 'there's a 50 % chance', there's a 100% chance; and if 'there's a 70% chance', it's already raining.

---

TWA 800 was not hit by a 'missile', according to the NTSB and FBI? How about a supersonic target drone?

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The FBI 'did not fire a single shot' into the Branch Davidian church? How about three-shot bursts ... or, better yet ... why has no one made the same claim for Delta Force operators?


HOW WILL THEY KNOW WHAT TO THINK IF WE DON'T TELL THEM?

"'The confusion about the [Seattle WTO] protestors' [sic] political goals is understandable,' wrote a New York Times columnist Thursday, 'this is the first movement born of the anarchic pathways of the Internet. There is no top-down hierarchy, no universally recognized leaders, and nobody knows what is going to happen next.' "
---
Source: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/12/02/1618248&mode=thread


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