Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Joe Califano and Bill Bennett – the éminences grises of American scolds and busybodies – predict that if drugs were legalized “needle parks” would sprout up like weeds throughout America, each one possibly becoming “a grotesque tourist attraction.” Let’s assume that this prediction is accurate. And let’s generously grant also the accuracy of many of Califano’s and Bennett’s other predictions.
We must still ask, as compared to what? The “what” includes not only whatever difficult-to-measure (but easy to fantasize about) blessings we enjoy as a result of the ‘war on drugs’; the “what” includes also the current observable reality of this ‘war.’
Would needle parks be worse than the lethal violence that is an artifact of the drug war? (Note that salespeople and delivery drivers for the likes of the Miller Brewing Co. and the Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery do not today, unlike alcohol suppliers during Prohibition, pack heat.) Would the exercise by some people of the freedom to dissipate their lives with drugs be more wicked than the widespread practice of civil asset forfeiture – a lawless ‘legal’ maneuver, used mainly in the ‘war on drugs,’ by which state and local governments and Uncle Sam routinely steal the property of people merely suspected (though often never convicted) of committing drug offenses?
And would an increase in health problems caused by drug use be more lamentable than the infamous ‘drug war’ exception to the Fourth amendment – an exception that injects government officials with the most dangerously addictive narcotic of all: power?
Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to these questions suffers hallucinations far more bizarre than the wacky mind-distortions induced by LSD or anything else that can be purchased easily today in any city or town in America.
UPDATE: My friend Reuvain Borchardt sends to me, by e-mail, the following line in response to the above: “and don’t forget the drug war exception to federalism by Justice Scalia (Gonzales v. Raich).” Indeed. All manner of government lawlessness is fueled by attempts to police against ‘vice.’