Neither Order Nor Liberty

by Don Boudreaux on June 17, 2011

in Civil Society, Crime

Not only does the “war on drugs” war on peaceful people (only some of whom use intoxicants that the government disapproves of) create its own unattractive and dangerous artifacts, it also encourages people to rat on their neighbors.  (HT Mary O’Grady)

Some people call this war on peaceful people (only some of whom use intoxicants that the government disapproves of) a source of ordered liberty.  I call it tyranny – and it’s tyranny that doesn’t even deliver on its marquis promise: it creates disorder as it batters liberty.

See, by the way, Mark Perry’s stats on U.S. incarceration rates.  “Ordered liberty” my arse.

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{ 25 comments }

vidyohs June 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Do you see any hope that the situation will change in our lifetimes? I don’t. Too much profit in it for all those involved in the “drug war”.

This nation is far from being free of the suffering brought on by run-amok government. In every arena, not just regarding drugs.

Ryan Vann June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Depends on whose lifetimes you are including in our. I know that people in my age group recognize what a farce the whole thing is, and will probably call a truce when we get to power.

Don Boudreaux June 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Ryan: I hope you’re correct. But I warn you that people in MY age group – back in the day when pop/rock radio was filled with new songs by Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, and Foreigner – recognized what a farce the whole thing is. Such recognition by itself is insufficient.

Frank33328 June 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I don’t share your optimism. People your age didn’t invent recreational drug use and even people “my” age didn’t. When I was 18, I thought for sure these laws would be gone long before now and yet they persist. Not only do they persist but they have accelerated to where children cannot bring aspirin to school and happy meals and soft drinks may soon be are on the endangered list in some cities. To quote a song of my age, “Oh when will they ever learn, Oh when will they ever learn.”*

*Peter, Paul & Mary: Where Have All The Flowers Gone

Ryan Vann June 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

The primary difference being made is that drug use was very much counter culture in those times, and were primarily discounted as a juvenile engagement. Nowadays, drug use seems much more status quo.

Dan J June 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm

The weed police are slowly being asked to leave Mary Jane alone by state govts. And, should it persist, feds will be forced out of the prohibition game by reps of said states.

vidyohs June 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm

In the age brigade I outrank most here, but I will tell you that many of my peers think it is a farce just as you do.

John Galt June 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

So true. Before diving into the complex algorithms of economic reasoning to deal with the reality of scarcity, you should check your philosophical premises. Where has it been shown that armed force is superior to individual calculation to satisfy personal unease?
If Joe is able to shoot up and still hold a job, good for Joe.
If Sue shoots up and has to beg and live in filth on the street, that’s what she deserves, steer clear unless you have experience dealing with her kind.
If Bill shoots up and decides to steal and stick up tourists with a gun to support his habit, now we have a problem to approach praxeologically and economists can help with that.
When Sam comes marching home from the war with his rifle driving his tank and says he can save you from Joe, Sue, & Bill and provide you a safe neighborhood like you saw in “Leave It To Beaver” don’t be a sucker. He is ten times worse than the other three and you should see him as the true Devil he is and not listen to a single word of his lies.
Most economists advocate, cheerlead, and enable a version of Sam, and are themselves derivately evil men of the lowest sort.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

It’s always good to be #1. USA! USA! USA!

/sarcasm

On another note, has anyone checked out the comments over at Perry’s blog? We should consider ourselves extremely lucky with the likes of Mao Dung and Muirgeo here.

Fake Herzog June 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Hmmm…let’s see, we start locking up lots of criminals in the 80s and 90s (and yes, they were criminals, let’s not parse the language Don) and suddenly our big cities, especially and spectacularly New York, are livable again. Along comes Don and says we’ve created “disorder” around the country. One would almost think Don has been talking to criminologists:

http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_1_sndgs04.html

Don is usually careful to offer his readers data and facts — but unfortunately for him, the truth is on my side so he gets emotional.

And by the way — I would happily “rat” on my neighbors if they were doing something illegal — I would hope you all would to, or don’t you all have a moral compass and/or respect for the moral order where you live?

MWG June 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

“Hmmm…let’s see, we start locking up lots of criminals in the 80s and 90s (and yes, they were criminals, let’s not parse the language Don) and suddenly our big cities, especially and spectacularly New York, are livable again.”

You’d be wrong if you think the decrease in crime is even remotely proportion to the increase in incarceration rates, but hey, whatever helps you sleep at nigh.

http://reason.com/blog/2010/06/09/three-charts-to-break-your-hea

Yes, let’s MASSIVELY increase our incarceration rate ahead of Cuba, Russia, and Belarus to see… wait for… a MODERATE decrease in crime.

“And by the way — I would happily “rat” on my neighbors if they were doing something illegal — I would hope you all would to, or don’t you all have a moral compass and/or respect for the moral order where you live?”

Back to the South you dirty Negros! The law is the law! (See fugitive slave act)

Frank33328 June 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm

To make this claim, you’d need to demonstrate that there is a statistical (and causal) link between the reduction in crime and an accompanying reduction in recreational drug use. I doubt it exists but I have not seen the numbers so couldn’t say for sure. However, Freakonomics claims the reduction is most strongly correlated to the legalization of abortion in the early 70’s.

Dave June 20, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Steve Sailer took on this claim, and he ended up having a lively debate with one of the Freakonomics guys that is still available at Slate, somewhere.

JCE June 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

“peaceful people”?!? seriously? have you never read of the behavior of drug cartels?
beheadings etc etc

Don Boudreaux June 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I’m talking chiefly about the users. And the violence of suppliers of prohibited drugs is an artifact of criminalization – just as was the violence of suppliers of prohibited alcohol during Prohibition. The violence associated with alcohol supply ended when Prohibition ended. The likes of Seagram’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Robert Mondavi don’t acquire and defend turf with gunfire.

PrometheeFeu June 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I think the example of the Prohibition is one that people too often forget. Alcohol-trade-related violence was largely nonexistent both before and after Prohibition. During prohibition however, it was bloody and a real threat to the public order. Today while drug may not represent a real threat to the public order in large parts of the united states, they often are the lifeblood of many criminal organizations which would be competed away by legitimate producers thanks to legalization.

The parallels of course do not end there:

First there is the fundamental similarity that both are cases of an intrusive government forbidding people to consume what they wish to consume.

Then we have a number of exceptions which look very similar to Prohibition-era exceptions. In both cases, we see religious exceptions. In both cases we see some personal production exceptions.

In both cases, law enforcement officials are effectively encouraged to gleefully violate civil rights in order to enforce the prohibition.

In both cases the government is foregoing a huge income potential. (alcohol prohibition was in part revoked because the government needed the money. Perhaps another fiscal crisis will induce us to end this prohibition)

That’s all I can come up from the top of my head in a few moments. Perhaps the Cafe’s patrons can help out with a list of more precise and concrete similarities between the alcohol Prohibition and the drugs Prohibition.

Dan J June 18, 2011 at 12:20 am

Cannot disagree. But, ideology can beat out money. Ideology is forgoing the billions and billions and billions in revenue from the vast, enormous, colossal, harvesting of domestic oil.

Kent Gatewood June 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Selling to minors will still be illegal?

When meth is legal, will I see ads for lawyers with class action suits?

The provider of a drug that killed two people has been charged with first degree murder here in Oklahoma, will that continue with legalization?

PrometheeFeu June 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

“Selling to minors will still be illegal?”

Most likely yes. Or maybe we’ll let kids use under parental supervision.

“When meth is legal, will I see ads for lawyers with class action suits?”

Most undoubtedly. Those will most likely fail because unlike tobacco, the dangers of meth are well known and well documented. Caveat emptor.

“The provider of a drug that killed two people has been charged with first degree murder here in Oklahoma, will that continue with legalization?”

That might or might not change. Currently it is first degree murder because you are selling an illegal substance so it is considered reckless no matter what the facts are. With legalization, this would depend upon the specifics of the case. If for instance, they sold drugs of a normal quality and the consumer turned out to be allergic, then the fault would be that of the consumer and the seller would not be responsible. Peanut vendors are not liable if you have a peanut allergy, buy and consume their product and die. If however, they sold drugs of a poor quality or even one which they cut with poison (a common practice according to some) then yes, first degree murder would most likely be a plausible verdict in the same way that if you sell someone water with cyanide in it, then you are likely to get 1st degree murder.

Kent Gatewood June 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Thank you for the response,

Kent

Fake Herzog June 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm

MWG,

When I see charts of rising incarceration rates, my heart starts beating faster with joy! However, that last chart seems hinky and I wouldn’t trust anything put out by the lefty Center for Economic and Policy Research without checking and double checking their sources and data.

Anyway, given that the U.S. has more blacks and Hispanics than most first world countries, I would expect our incarceration rates to be higher (if we want to keep crime down). South Africa will descend into civil war or anarchy if they can’t figure out how to crack down on their black criminals.

Frank33328 June 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

People like you are the reason that the Muriego’s of the world cannot be convinced……

vikingvista June 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

No, traumatic brain injury is the reason the muirdes of the world can’t be convinced.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

“When I see charts of rising incarceration rates, my heart starts beating faster with joy!”

Of course you do. You’re a statist and an authoritarian.

“However, that last chart seems hinky and I wouldn’t trust anything put out by the lefty Center for Economic and Policy Research without checking and double checking their sources and data.”

Yes, the data cited comes from those crazy leftists over at the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics as well as the International Centre for Prison Studies: King’s College London depending on what chart you’re looking at.

“Anyway, given that the U.S. has more blacks and Hispanics than most first world countries, I would expect our incarceration rates to be higher (if we want to keep crime down).”

IOW, you don’t dispute the idea that a MASSIVE increase in incarcerations rates has only led to a MODERATE decrease in crime, but that it doesn’t matter because of teh blacks and mexicans?

Krishnan June 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm

About neighbors ratting on neighbors … I can see this coming to the “War” on Illegal Aliens – It may come first to Alabama

1-800-GET-THEM “Please call if you see any suspicious activities”

1) People who have a skin color that is brown (neither black or white) – they may be illegals
2) A house that has more than 2 adults and 2.5 children
3) People speaking with strange accents
4) Anything you think is suspicious and looks like they are not good, 100% unadulterated and pure Alabamanians (and if they are Yankees, we will let them off on their own recognizance)

Extreme? Oh, no … The climate on immigration in general has been the most hostile I have seen in decades. It has come to a boil and the citizens of the great state of Alabama want GOVERNMENT to eradicate these illegals (and if a few legals get hurt, hey, so what) No kidding.

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