The World Drug War
“We have seen the enemy, and it is us”. Never in modern history has this been so true. Government propaganda has cast not only dangerous criminals and traitors as the enemy, but every individual that lives under its jurisdiction. The wars against poverty, against drugs, against technology, against arms, and everything that the majority deems evil, are numbered without end.
Even in the middle of this war, most people do not oppose it. We permit an attitude of permissiveness about government intrusion to exist, which permits constant attacks against drug users and the subsistance of drug mafias. But who could honestly come up to a woman imprisoned away from her children because she was walking with marijuana in her pockets that she was arrested for the greater good ? Perhaps very disturbed people.
Blanking out on black markets
To put it plainly, this is a very bloody war, directly and indirectly. It is the single most deadly democratic measure in existence. In the United States alone, the war accounts for more than 15 000 deaths every year – 6 000 due to drug impurities, 5 000 by homicides (mostly by police officers) and 4 000 due to AIDS and the laws against the financing of syringe exchanges (Dr. Mary Ruwart, Milton Friedman, and Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California, San Francisco). That represents a full Olympic Stadium every three years. Not that we’ve seen the Olympic Stadium being full any time in recent history, but I’m just saying.
The cost in lives is not the whole picture. Approximately 1/4 of prisoners in the United States are serving a prison term for a drug law violation, which represents a half-million people. The influx of drug prisoners is of approximately 600 000 every year. The cost of holding all these innocent people between bars is around 9 billion dollars a year (DRCNet 07/00, Fraser Institute).
If the lives of countless millions have been affected by this war, it is not due to evil intentions. Everyone wants to live in a better society. Why then do they support the drug wars ?
As for most things in politics, the main problem is ignorance of basic economics. When laws are passed in order to curb the offer for a given product, as laws against drug production and trade have done, demand does not magically dissapear. Other people come in to take over the market, but the market is then a black market economy, that is, a market unconstrained by natural law. This means basically two things : that unless no one is able to take over offer curves, the product will not dissapear, and that the market will by necessity be less safe and command higher prices (as a consequence of this lack of safety) than a constrained market. We should also observe all the markings of the corporatism inherent in an anarchic system, because of already-existing mafia organisations.
The mechanisms regarding black markets are pretty much understood, especially now that we had the example of the original alcohol Prohibition, but they seem to be ignored by everyone. How could anyone think that more law enforcment could possibly solve the problems that the drug war itself has engendered ? One does not solve a problem by adding more problems.
Without the laws against drug production and trade, we shouldn’t expect any trouble, especially since drug production would once again fall mostly in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. There are no gang wars over aspirin. People are not selling aspirin in secret in school yards. People are not stealing in order to be able to afford aspirin. If drugs were legal again, we would not see any of these things either. The reason why people refuse to understand this simple fact is because they refuse to understand basic economics.
If we can stop the government’s use of social divisions and restore societal harmony, then more peaceful and private solutions to drug abuse will exist.
The World Drug War is not just a problem that concerns drug users, but it concerns all of us, simply because governments have decided to use it for its own ends. Any real or imagined war or emergency is always a prime occasion for any government to grab more power, and this one is no exception.
The laws that are passed in support of the drug war are numerous. Urine tests, highway check points, for alcohol as well, private property seizures on claims that they were acquired with drug profits, the popular suspicions against doing business with cash and money laundering, anti-gang laws, seizure of plant cultures, public censorship of drug information, and more, are amongst the consequences of drug war pressure.
The consequences of this mass of laws, and indeed of any mass of laws which seek to eradicate a class of victimless actions, is twofold. The most important is to undermine the basis of our free society by using the drug war to exert more control over our actions. In a normal setting, cultivating plants, laundering money, driving on the highways, making information available, would all be normal, mundane activites.
The other consequence is to replace the societal harmony by arbitrary divisions. Drug users, and people who support drug rights, become parias. They are soon confronted to the rest of society which follows the division in order to stay within legality and popular opinion. When the medias and organisations shout continually their hatred of drugs, taking a stand for “the enemy” can be a dicey proposition.
We should not be overly surprised by these encroachments on our rights. Just as the lawless black market will produce mafia corporatism, a lawless democratic government will produce self-righteous collectivism. As long as the government is allowed to encroach on our right to trade and associate freely, we should expect private interests to desire this encroachment.
Hatred of drug choice exists in society at large, not just in politics or political discussions. The most flagrant example is sports, especially during the Olympic Fraud. Olympic organisations peddle a hypocritical notion of purity in sports while they are themselves laced with scandals. Professional leagues chase drug users like the plague. International organisations like the United Nations do not hesitate to join in the persecution also, with its offices for “drug control” and drug fighting, which is doing victims abroad.
With such a strong opposition to drug choice, one might think that it will never end. Unfortunately, legalizing drugs is the only way by which we can effect a better world free from the consequences of law enforcment and black markets, and free from the guilt associated with being a drug user or pro-choice supporter. If we can stop the government’s use of social divisions and restore societal harmony, then more peaceful and private solutions to drug abuse will exist. Otherwise, our fight will come to naught.