L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 176, June 3, 2002
Prove Me Wrong!
Addicted to the Drug War
Special to TLE
Drug dealers are the scum of the earth and the dregs of humanity.
There. I hope that satisfies you.
Some, no doubt, will ignore this because this is an essay about the futility of the Drug War. Political correctness is not just a liberal's disease. Many conservatives -- not all, but many -- have done with the Drug War what liberals have done with racial quotas and gay rights. When anyone says anything in opposition to the Drug War, they spaz out as if they were tripping on Angel Dust.
Such were my thoughts after reading Bill O'Reilly's May 16 column on World Net Daily in which he classifies drug dealing as a "crime against humanity." O'Reilly tells some gut wrenching stories about drug addicts and their families, and lays the blame at the feet of the dealers who sold the drugs to these addicts. He writes that, "If nobody sold drugs, there would be no drug problem".
Liberals frequently brand those who oppose racial quotas "racists" and those who oppose gay rights "homophobic." Conservatives, likewise, frequently brand those who oppose the Drug War as "pro-drug". In this respect they are no different from those people they say they oppose diametrically. They fail to recognize that just because the government is doing nothing to address a certain issue, does not mean that nobody is doing anything to address this issue. They fail to recognize that their agendas have produced numerous unintended consequences and that continuing with these agendas will only make bad problems worse.
O'Reilly writes: "The truth is that selling hard drugs to people who may die from using them, may become enslaved by addiction, may abuse their children while intoxicated, and may commit crimes to buy more drugs is a vile enterprise that should be condemned by society. The (New York State drug) laws were passed to protect Americans from people who would prey upon them. The average pusher on the street sells to scores of people every day. The damage that person is doing is enormous."
Let us pretend that this is the 1920s, and we are advocating a continuation of alcohol prohibition. "The truth is that selling alcohol to people who may die from using it, may become enslaved by drunkenness, may abuse their children while intoxicated, and may commit crimes to buy more booze is a vile enterprise that should be condemned by society. The Eighteenth Amendment was passed to protect Americans from people who would prey upon them. The average bootlegger sells to scores of people every day. The damage that person is doing is enormous."
The Eighteenth Amendment was passed with good intentions. It had broad support from Christians who longed to turn America into a "no-sin zone", if you will. However, alcohol prohibition produced nothing but disaster. By the early 1930s, alcohol was more abundant and dangerous than ever, crime had skyrocketed. Bootlegging could make you millions. Al Capone virtually owned the city of Chicago, and a good chunk of the Kennedy fortune was amassed by old Papa Joe Kennedy bootlegging that hooch.
As historian George Santayana said, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. O'Reilly and his ilk have learned nothing from alcohol prohibition. Prohibition doesn't work. It is a great big game of "let's pretend" that produces nightmarish results.
All the bad things drug warriors detest keep happening in spite of the Drug War. Perhaps 100 million Americans have smoked the Devil's Lettuce (i.e. marijuana) at one time or another. We have far harder drugs than we did 30 years ago. The outrageous profits earned by drug dealers -- and hence the huge amounts of money that go to terrorists -- are a direct result of drugs being illegal. And because prohibition has made drug dealing so profitable, there are always people willing to traffic in drugs. Prohibition stopped none of the horrific events O'Reilly recounts in his column.
Drug War fanaticism has led to a quadrupling of our prison population since 1980. (Imagine this: America, "the land of the free", has the highest incarceration rate of any non-communist country.) Why are our prisons so overcrowded and why do rapists and murderers go free? Can you say "War on Drugs"? Last year, the authorities were so busy arresting 730,000 people on drug charges that they apparently had no clue as to what would happen on September 11.
At least there was still enough respect for the Constitution in 1919 to pass an amendment before the government embarked on a new course. Today's drug warriors show reckless disregard for nine of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. They micro-monitor bank transactions, seize assets without due process, impose draconian fines and sentences on non-violent people, routinely kick in doors in "no- knock" raids, and - here is the most damnable aspect of the Drug War - deny medication to suffering and dying people who have exhausted all other avenues of relief.
But won't we solve the problem if we just eradicate the pushers? Because prohibition has made drug dealing so profitable, if you put a pusher in jail and two or three more pop up in his place. Drug dealers prosper because they satisfy demands. Millions of Americans are so morally and spiritually bankrupt that they will do anything for a cheap thrill. There is not one thing that government can do about this.
But won't increased interdiction efforts stop the flow of drugs into the country? Drugs do not magically "flow" into the country. People transport them here because Americans want them. And when you make it tougher to import drugs, Americans turn to "made in America" drugs like methamphetamines. And when the authorities "crack down harder" on meth labs, someone will come up with an even more diabolical drug.
But look at China? They cracked down hard and solved the drug problem. Yeah, and they also "crack down hard" to "solve" the Christianity "problem." If totalitarianism is the price you are willing to pay for a drug-free society, then move to such a country. Given the choice between a free America and a drug-free America, I will choose the former any day. While we are on the subject, solving the drug problem is a totally utopian objective that no government can attain.
But I don't want my kid doing drugs. Well, if you raise your children properly you greatly reduce the chance that they will do drugs. The government cannot raise your children for you. 100 years ago, it was perfectly legal for a ten-year old to walk into the local drug store and buy heroin, and we had nowhere near the problems we have today. Why? Because raising kids was the duty of parents and churches. If you are really serious about keeping your kids off drugs, you have got to look somewhere - anywhere - besides the government.
The Drug War has become a veritable addiction for many of those who support it. While it may make its proponents feel good temporarily, it provides no solution to what is ultimately a moral and spiritual problem. Like so many hard core addicts, drug warriors are never satisfied: they constantly demand that we intensify the thing that makes them feel so good. Their ultimate high -- a drug-free America -- will never come to pass, but they keep pursuing the Drug War anyway. So many Americans have become so accustomed to seeing things through the prism of the Drug War that they cannot imagine life without it. They forget that the solutions lie not in politics, but in the homes and churches of America.
Ranklin Fineo Doosevelt was a lot of bad things. However, he was right on in applauding the end of alcohol prohibition. I do not have the exact quote in front of me, but when the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified, Roosevelt said something to the effect we do not need alcohol control nearly as much as we need self-control. Today, we do not need a national drug control policy nearly as much as we need individual self-control. This is a virtue that no "policy" can instill.