The Disingenuous Quagmire

While the Obama Administration continues to promote that staus quo in American drug war policy, more than a few people are viewing the rhetoric for exactly what it is – disingenuous:

Here’s why the “war” can’t be won: The U.S. is the largest capitalist economy in the world (at least for another decade or so), and drugs are the purest form of free-market capitalism in the world. Illicit drugs respect no laws, no borders, and no treaties. Drugs respond only to the first, immutable, and supreme law of capitalism—supply and demand.

If the Drug Enforcement Administration was to ever win this “war,” it would make a baldfaced lie out of the very bedrock principle our economic system is based on, not to mention the severe depression such a “victory” would trigger. Too many foot soldiers make a handsome living off of propagating this “war.”

Obama was forced to drink the DEA Kool-Aid upon assuming office, and by now he’s addicted. He can’t stop until the DEA stops. If interdiction worked, the price of drugs would go up due to the scarcity created (that old law of supply and demand again), but over the last few decades the price of a kilo of coke has gone down, not up.

A really-sane drug policy would shift funds from useless interdiction efforts and focus more on treatment, but that would signal that we’re giving up on the “war,” and we Americans don’t like to lose wars, do we? Not even those we can’t win. Also, because local police departments get to keep the cash they confiscate from drug dealers, they really are not all that interested in programs that might hurt their little crime-inspired enterprises. Indeed, it’s rumored that some law-enforcement agencies lie in wait for drug dealers to fatten their bankrolls before they move in to take them down—meanwhile allowing drugs to be sold—until it’s more profitable for their departments. In the street it’s called “fattenin’ frogs for snakes.”

As I’ve been saying at OB&B for awhile, the public law enforcement unions are among the largest supporters of the drug war. A policy shift will not happen until the power of public unions to lobby against public interests are limited.

But Mansfield Frazier isn’t the only one taking a sledgehammer to the Obama Administration’s logic. From Leonard Pitts, Jr.:

Similarly, it is a mystery how the manufacture and sale of a legal product could be “just as corrupting if not more corrupting than the status quo.” How could that be, given that there would no longer be a need for drug merchants to bribe judges, politicians and police for protection? What reason is there to believe a legal market in drugs would be any more prone to corruption than the legal markets in cigarettes and alcohol? Or, popcorn and chocolate?

The president’s reasoning is about as sturdy as a cardboard box in a monsoon. Even he must know — who can still deny? — that the drug war has failed. When it comes to quantifying that failure, several numbers are stark and edifying:

Forty-one. That’s how many years the “War” has raged.

Forty million-plus. That’s how many Americans have been arrested.

One trillion-plus. That’s the cost.

Two thousand, eight hundred. That’s the percentage by which drug use has risen.

One-point-three. That’s the percentage of Americans who were drug addicted in 1914.

One-point-three. That’s the percentage of Americans who are drug addicted now.

The numbers come from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of cops, judges, DEA agents and other drug warriors who are demanding an end to the drug war. Their statistics call to mind an old axiom: the definition of crazy is to continue doing the same thing but expecting a different result.

The drug war debate is only gaining momentum, and coming from both sides of the aisle. The more the debate rages, the more people will see, as these writers have, the disingenuous nature of the drug war and that the only real purpose it serves in America today is to placate special interests at the expense of the American people.

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