Some ‘Drug War’ Links

by Don Boudreaux on June 17, 2011

in Civil Society, Crime, Reality Is Not Optional, Video

The late William F. Buckley understood the vileness of the “war on drugs” war on peaceful people (only some of whom use intoxicants that the government disapproves of).

More wisdom from W.F. Buckley on the ‘drug war.

Here’s Buckley (circa 1991) debating Rep. Charles Rangle on the ‘drug war.’

And here’s Buckley (joined by others) writing eloquently against the ‘drug war.

Milton Friedman presents part of his case for ending the ‘drug war.

Here’s a video narration of a 1984 Thomas Sowell essay arguing against the ‘drug war.’

Jeffrey Miron points out that ‘drug-war’ violence is not caused by the ‘drug’ part but by the ‘war’ (i.e., ‘war-on-drugs’) part.

Here’s a video of Jeff explaining the benefits that would emerge from ending the ‘drug war.’

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Go Galt June 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

The war on drugs is futile and destructive, I agree. But a nation of druggies, which ours is rapidly becoming and legalization will speed up, is the symptom of a dying civilization using narcotics to ease its death throes. Give me liberty or give me death, indeed.

Scott G June 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Looks like the war on the drug war is in high gear now. With all the links and videos going around attacking the drug war I don’t see how the drug war can survive more than five years.

AC June 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I wish I could be that optimistic. The popular outrage isn’t there, and the political incentives aren’t there.

Underwriterguy June 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Years of attendance at Nar-Anon taught me that addiction is a disease, not a crime.
The waste in human and monetary terms is staggering. For once I agree with Jimmy Carter.

Scott G June 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I would say that drug addition is neither a crime or a disease, but rather a choice. Individuals with drug addictions heal those addictions by deciding to get help. Individuals are not helpless.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Drug addiction is a disease. People can choose to enter rehab or stop using drugs, but they will experience physical and mental symptoms and they will become hooked again if they use drugs again. The disease is that their brain chemistry is abnormal so as to cause addiction if they use certain substances. They can choose not to use these substances, much as someone with a peanut allergy can choose not to eat peanuts, but being addicted/susceptible to addiction is no more a “choice” than is being allergic to peanuts.

vidyohs June 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm

“Some Drug War Links”, OD OD OD, gasp!

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Hate to say it, but drugs do cause increased crime without “War on Drugs” related violence. The crack crime wave of the 1980s was not caused by the War on Drugs. It was caused by crack addicts wasting their money on crack and robbing and stabbing people to get more money for another fix.

I also fail to see how legalizing drugs will magically shift production from criminal cartels to law abiding citizens. No distributor in the US would want to be associated with the stigma of selling drugs like cocaine or heroin, even if they were legal. Besides, criminal enterprises would still look for ways to make money selling their product, including killing or attacking legitimate distributors who threaten their market share. Besides, the drugs would still have to be produced in the same places (Afghanistan, Colombia, etc.) because the raw materials are found there, and farmers there will be coerced into selling to cartels and not “legitimate” distributors in the U.S. The “War on Drugs” also led to the dismemberment of the Medellin and Cali cartels.

Finally, the criminal organizations involved in the drug trade would not magically decide to lay down their weapons were they to lose control of the drug market. They will always be criminals and look to make money through illegal activities, whether it be drugs, human trafficking, racketeering, arms sales, etc. There will always be some form of violent, organized crime no matter how many things get legalized because there will always be people who seek profit through aggression, theft, exploitation of others, and a source of income that isn’t taxable or dependent on honest work.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

This comment is full of all sorts of stupid, but it’s Friday night so I’ll only focus on 2 points.

1) Crack was created as a result of the WOD as a result of the high price of cocaine.

2) All the arguments you make in your 2nd and 3rd paragraph could have been made in the days of alcohol prohibition. Just as in the days of alcohol prohibition, they are every bit as irrelevant.

IOW, the argument that because there will always be criminals we should never legalize anything they’re profiting from is… dumb.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Prohibition is a poor analogy.

1) There was already a thriving, well-established legal market for alcohol that was able to step in and replace the gangs as distributors once prohibition ended

2) Alcohol was used by a much larger percentage of the population and there was less opposition to alcohol use then than to hard drugs now

3) There never was a well-organized, established market for drugs like cocaine before they became illegal, meaning drug cartels were/are the only major source of illegal drugs. Contrast this to alcohol, as mentioned in point 1.

I never said we should never legalize anything criminals profit from. I said that criminals will always find ways to be criminals and the idea that you can solve crime and its attendant social problems by legalizing everything is idiotic.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm

“Prohibition is a poor analogy.”

Only b/c it makes you drug ‘warriors’ look dumb.

1) Irrelevant. In a capitalistic society there will always be people looking to profit off a demand.

2) Any data to back that up?

42% of the US population has admitted to trying pot at least once.

16% has tried cocaine.

Neither are insignificant numbers.,8599,1821697,00.html

3) Any data to back up that assertion that there was never a ‘well organized market before drug prohibition.

You do know that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew pot on their plantations, right? I would venture to guess that there was a time when pot was quite readily available for much of the beginning of the US’s history given the wide use of hemp in a number of products. Hell, the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from pot plants. Again, you made the claim, so you need to back it up.

“legalizing everything is idiotic.”

That’s not what we’re arguing for. Just those ‘crimes’ committed between consenting adults.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

2) I think it’s safe to say that more than 42% of adults drink alcohol.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

In addition, drug use and other “crimes between consenting adults” don’t just harm them. If someone uses, say, PCP, here’s who could be harmed:

1) People they kill in a car accident caused by driving while strung out
2) Dependents such as children who lose a source of income when their dad loses his job because of drug-related absenteeism or are neglected because he is so high he forgets to take care of them
3) Spouses and other family members who are subjected to domestic violence that often occurs with substance abusers.
4) People who are robbed for money when the drug user goes broke and needs another hit
5) The people in hospitals who get less treatment because money and doctors are diverted to treating OD cases

You can say that many of these happen with alcohol, but alcohol only causes these problems in alcoholics. Charlie Sheen notwithstanding, I am unaware of anyone who can use drugs other than alcohol or pot without becoming addicted.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Sooo… are you saying 42% is NOT a significant number? If you ask me that’s one HELL of a market waiting to be exploited by legitimate business men (…and women).

MWG June 17, 2011 at 10:29 pm

…and the idiot parade continues.

No one here is arguing that driving under the influence, child abuse, spousal abuse, theft, etc should be legal

“I am unaware of anyone who can use drugs other than alcohol or pot without becoming addicted.”

Surprise, surprise. Yes you’re comically ‘unaware’ I’ll give you that.

“The research report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that only 1% of first-time users of inhalants and tranquilizers were dependent a year later. For hallucinogens and sedatives, the figure was 2%; for pain relievers and alcohol, 3%. The drug with the highest number of dependent users a year after first use was heroin (13%), followed by crack cocaine (9%), marijuana (6%), stimulants (5%), and powder cocaine (4%).”

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Also, when did I accuse you of promoting the legalization of theft and domestic violence? I said that drug use makes one more likely to commit said crimes.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm

The study notes that the addictiveness rating of each substance does not take into account social pressures or availability of the drug, meaning that even substances with low addictiveness can create a large number of addicts and considerable destruction.

MWG June 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm

So you concede that they’re not as addictive as you originally thought?

Molon Lobe June 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Wow can I have some of whatever you are using? I have seldom heard such a reasoned, intelligent, nor documented argument such as yours.

But I graduated from kindergarden many years ago.

Drugs are a direct source of crime and corruption. Look at what it has done to nations where it is legal like East Africa or the Arabian peninsula. Tell us about the benefits that legalized drugs would have. Entire cities filled with denizens looking like Antioch College ar Amherst are to be hoped for?

But there is one argument for the legalization of drugs. After ten years we would eliminate all the inferiors and unfit that currently plague our nation, costing us bullions in health costs, crime, and misery.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Legalizing marijuana is bound to happen, and if it backfires, there will be no way to reset the clock. Pot may not cause violent crime, but it does cause, in cases of serious addiction, lazy, unproductive people who mooch off others and won’t do anything for themselves. Potheads (serious stoners, not casual users) as a rule don’t have jobs or bother looking for them, and are thus dependent on others for almost everything. Even in the most libertarian societies on earth there is no politically popular way to move people off the dole, and any politician who tried to let these people suffer the consequences of their actions will be voted out of office and replaced by touchy-feely busybodies who decide that the guy who lives in his parents’ basement smoking weed and eating mayonnaise straight from the container is a “victim” who is entitled to other people’s money.

Ryan Vann June 18, 2011 at 12:41 am

Please desist with the meme festival.

Rollcast June 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

If we are to legalize drugs such as heroin, cocaine, etc. perhaps it should be with the following conditions:
1. Such drugs could only be purchased through a state-controlled store.
2. Possession would be limited to a certain amount at any time; possession above this limit, or independent dealing of drugs would be punishable by death. Similarly, providing any amount of these drugs to minors would be a capital offense.
3. All public-supported treatment programs would be abolished.

This would place the consequences for drug use squarely on the individual.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Bleeding heart liberals would prevent state-supported treatment programs from being abolished, and trying to establish a state monopoly on drugs would lead to a vibrant black market of cartels that would attempt to offer lower prices or convince/coerce producers to sell to them rather than state distributors.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

“…establish a state monopoly on drugs would lead to a vibrant black market of cartels that would attempt to offer lower prices or convince/coerce producers to sell to them rather than state distributors.”

You mean like alcohol and state run liquor stores?

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Not all states have state run liquor stores, and you are perfectly free to buy liquor in other states. Ergo, there is a legal recourse to state monopolies on liquor. A better comparison would be if the firearms industry were nationalized and the guns produced by the state were expensive and poor quality. People would find ways to buy guns from other sellers, even if they were illegal, creating a black market.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Not that there isn’t already a black market for guns.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm

“Not all states have state run liquor stores, and you are perfectly free to buy liquor in other states. Ergo, there is a legal recourse to state monopolies on liquor.”

So then let the states decide whether MJ should be sold in state run stores.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm

There is a huge black market for guns. It’s across the southern border in Mexico where their gun laws aren’t as… ‘liberal’ as are.

Guns are run across the border from the US where they’re purchased on a black market largely fueled by… wait for it… money made from the sale in illegal drugs.

The Mexican government (Largely supported by the US) is currently fighting a battle in the WOD with a number of extremely wealthy cartels that has resulted in approximately 35k deaths in the last 5 years. All in the name of keeping pot out of the US (70% of the drugs moved from Mexico is weed).

You’re ideas on drugs have worked wonders in places like Columbia, Brazil, and (GASP!) Afghanistan, but hey, as long as you can sleep well at night.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Ok, so who is going to start producing (il)legal drugs in lieu of the cartels? Who has the expertise needed to run a cocaine/heroin business or the contacts necessary to establish a drug pipeline from Afghanistan, the Golden Triangle, or Colombia (not Columbia). Who is going to make sure that coca farmers in the Andes aren’t coerced into selling to cartels and not legal distributors. Remember the cartels can get to their sources a lot quicker because they are actually located where their sources are.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Also, how exactly in your (presumably drug-addled) brain did you conclude that because I don’t think heroin or other hard drugs should be legal that I am responsible for enacting and enforcing policies that kill innocent Afghans, Brazilians, and Colombians. The failure of the drug war in Mexico has a lot to do with the incompetence and inefficiency of the Mexican government (the Mecca of patronage and corporatism) and the fact that they didn’t start addressing the problem until the cartels were already enormously powerful.

Three final points:
1) I am not a “drug warrior”. Look at my other posts about pot and changing the criminal code for drug offenses and repeat that claim with a straight face.
2) It’s “your”, not “you’re”. Mistakes like that really bother me.
3) Before you go trumpeting the virtues of legalizing heroin, PCP, meth, and crack and pushing for OTC purchases of vicodin, oxycontin, morphine, and percocet, ask yourself if you would want to live in a neighborhood where everybody used drugs.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I sincerely apologize for omitting question marks in my 10:28 post.

MWG June 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm

“Ok, so who is going to start producing (il)legal drugs in lieu of the cartels? Who has the expertise needed to run a cocaine/heroin business or the contacts necessary to establish a drug pipeline from Afghanistan, the Golden Triangle, or Colombia (not Columbia).”

Utterly irrelevant. Just b/c you don’t know who would legally produce the stuff doesn’t mean there aren’t literally thousands of people and companies who could collaborate to produce and distribute. Drugs, particularly cocaine and MJ aren’t that hard to produce.

MWG June 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

“The failure of the drug war in Mexico has a lot to do with the incompetence and inefficiency of the Mexican government ”

No, it’s a result of a corrupt government. Corruption fueled by inflated profits from the production and distribution of illegal drugs.

1) Yes, saw your list of penalties. You are a drug warrior.

2) Meh.

3) As long as no one tramples on my rights, I have no problem with what you do in the confines of your own home. By the way, Portugal decriminalized drug use and saw a DECREASE in the use of hard drugs.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Whoa, did you just propose the death penalty for drug violations? I favor:
1) Legalize pot
2) Keep heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, opium, meth, lsd, and club drugs illegal
3) First offense users of illegal drugs/pot by minors: $2,500 fine or 45 days in prison
Second offense: $5,000 fine or 90 days in prison, plus mandatory treatment to be paid for by the offender, or if they can’t afford it, to be administered in prison
4) Third offense: 1-5 years in prison (three strikes and you’re out)
5) Dealing any amount: 10-25 years in prison, more if to minors
6)Those imprisoned for drug violations would be required to pass drug tests weekly or monthly throughout their term and attend rehab regularly in order to be released early or on time.
7) Possession above the legal limit of pot or illegal distribution of pot would be subject to the same penalties as illegal drug possession, but not distribution. (ie generally treated like alcohol or tobacco use by minors)

vikingvista June 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hopefully the emergence of resources like Silkroad and Bitcoin will make these debates between status quo control freaks and reformist control freaks moot.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm

If you want to end drug violence, you have to take away demand for drugs. Arrest and imprison distributors for long periods of time while prescribing fines and mandatory rehab for ordinary users. Economic development will also take away the allure of both dealing and using drugs, which is strongest in blighted inner city areas. Put these programs into place, and you will have fewer users and fewer distributors, causing the drug market to shrivel up into insignificance.

MWG June 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

So… basically the status quo.

Brad Hutchings June 18, 2011 at 1:10 am

Anyone who’s been on a college campus for four years has seen plenty of demand for drugs and plenty of supply for drugs that meet without any violence. If you want to reduce drug violence — it’s silly to think you could “end” it — you need to remove the police from the equation. They are the factor that makes violence a viable option in these trades.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm

How are current government sponsored attempts to develop inner cities going? The DC city council tried to block Wal Mart from opening a store in DC. There is absolutely nothing coming out of Congress or the White House that will improve conditions in areas with drug violence. The status quo involves higher taxes to pay for more useless government programs to end poverty that will see their budgets pissed away by corrupt politicians.

MattW June 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm

If drugs were legal then they would be produced and sold by big businesses not by drug kingpins. Legal businesses would use legal methods of competition and enforcement of property rights the exact same way that alcohol and cigarette companies do, and the violent enforcement of illegal entities would simply go away.

I also think that legal drugs would be safer, with dosage recommendations or limits or something, no weird and dangerous mixers, and that type off stuff.

If drugs were legal they could be taxed somewhat, and that way the idiot users would be subsidizing my use of public services somewhat, same way alcohol and cigarette users do (yes, taxing might incur some illegal production/distribution, but until it happens and there’s proof of how much and my best guess is that it’s not enough to cause violence, again like alcohol/cigarettes).

Also, if drugs were made legal, The Wire producers would make a 6th season.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Why hasn’t the illegality of drugs stopped producers of The Wire from making the first five seasons?

MattW June 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder said he wants more Wire, and David Simon said if Justice Dept ends the war on drugs, they’ll do more.

tdp June 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm


Ken Royall June 18, 2011 at 2:21 am

Legalization would probably begin and end with Marijuana. There is no political momentum to legalize hard street drugs like crystal meth and others. Any attempt to do so would go nowhere. The millions who have seen lives destroyed by drug abuse (as I have) will not support legalization across the board.

And no, the damage is not confined to only the addict. Watch a couple of episodes of Intervention for an example of how one abuser can destroy an entire family. Then of course the labyrinth for the testing and treatment of addicts, with much of the cost burden being shouldered by employers and taxpayers. These programs will not be abolished, they may even be expanded.

If pot is made legal, there will still be illegal sales to minors and others to undercut the high priced, heavily taxed, government approved pot. There will also be crimes related to being high while driving or on the job. Many cities and municipalities will attempt to prevent pot stores from opening, again leaving the market to the illegal pushers.

Before long some lawyers will start suing those selling pot for all sorts of reasons, just as they do legitimate drug makers and tobacco companies. The newly legalized drug will become regulated and restricted in many ways, which will only drive illegal sales even more.

Cigarettes and booze are legal (as they should be), but the legalization of them has hardly eliminated the social costs of people abusing them. And so it will be with pot. Libertarians seem to think drug legalization is the holy grail, it is not. It would free up the police to hassle us for other reasons and it might clean up the court dockets a bit. It is hard to say if there would be a net savings to the taxpayer, especially if you think it all through.

Many areas of the country have decriminalized pot already, I am not seeing the miraculous results Libertarians are constantly touting. The people I know that buy legal pot still buy it illegally because there is a restriction on how much they can buy legally. In short, government will screw up the process of legalization like they do everything else and the benefits will be minimal at best.

Ryan Vann June 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Complete red herring. All the current lives destroyed by drugs are done so under a criminalized paradigm. Thus the social costs are entirely irrelevant, because they will exist (most likely in the same magnitude, which is low by the way) in either case.

tdp June 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Just like all current lives destroyed by alcohol and tobacco are done under a criminalized paradigm because they’re illegal oh wait…

vikingvista June 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Didn’t he say they would exist either way? You misread.

Scott G June 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

My last comment didn’t appear. Testing another out here.

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