Blood Money

Posted on 20. Sep, 2009 by in Uncategorized

“One death is a tragedy. One thousand deaths is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin

More than 1,500 citizens have been slaughtered in Ciudad Juarez in the past year. On September 4, 18 people were lined up and executed in a drug treatment facility. Since January of 2007, almost 10,000 have died violently in Mexico.

In Afghanistan, the United States military is struggling to hold godforsaken mountains against a group of folks who would rather the last 600 years didn’t happen, much as the Soviets did in the 1980s.

Since 1964, various Colombian governments have fought paramilitary forces across the country. There have been abductions, assassinations, untold civilian suffering and blackmail against companies that do business in Colombia.

The cornerstone of this violence is the profits from the sale of drugs to addicts in the United States.

Libertarians have decried the United States’ War on Drugs as a War on Personal Freedom forever. David Simon’s quote in interview after interview, “What drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has,” neatly sums up the liberal opposition to drug prohibition. But where are the internationalists and conservatives?

For fiscal conservatives, a few simple facts ought to make the case: The budget for the Drug Enforcement Agency was $65 million in 1972. For 2009, the government flushed $2.6 billion down the toilet. Two friends who smoke pot on a regular basis say that the price of marijuana hasn’t changed in six years; the product has no natural price inflation, despite the fact that nearly 5,000 DEA agents are sworn to disrupt the sale of pot and other banned substances.

Internationalists, with their passion for globalization, should love the idea of drug legalization. Rather than have the tremendous profits from the sale of cocaine feed a four-decade long civil war in Colombia, imagine that the money went to a legitimate government that could supply services that would undercut the ideological discontent that allows paramilitary organizations to recruit the disaffected. Imagine impoverished poppy farmers in Afghanistan actually seeing cash for their labors instead of warlords blowing the proceeds on automatic weapons that kill American soldiers. Imagine Mexico not choking on the blood of its people, employing the billions of dollars now spent on hitmen and weapons smugglers towards some useful end.

For fiscal conservatives and internationalists on the fence, here are the words of Milton Friedman: “So long as large sums of money are involved-and they are bound to be if drugs are illegal-it is literally hopeless to expect to end the traffic or even to reduce seriously its scope. In drugs, as in other areas, persuasion and example are likely to be far more effective than the use of force to shape others in our image.”

It is true that drug use in America would almost certainly increase if drugs were legalized, which is not a good thing. Fabrizio Sarrica, in a report for the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, estimated the value of the global drug market between $600 and $800 billion. If governments were to legalize and tax this market, the funds would more than pay for the cost of drug treatment for additional addicts. That is a cold factual argument in support of a proposition with a dubious moral foundation, but our current, very moral situation has a warm argument (“Just say no!”) that ends with cold corpses in three countries whose friendship is important to America’s national interests and whose viability is threatened by our unwillingness to re-evaluate our disastrous policies.

That re-evaluation will not happen any time soon, for reasons of political calculus. Drug users do not vote. Drug dealers do not vote. Felons do not vote. Dead people in foreign countries do not vote. President Obama is a fan of “The Wire,” which was created by David Simon, who is quoted above. Being a bright guy, the president could not have missed the central premise of the show, that drug prohibition is a failure. Fans of “The Wire” vote more often than dead people in foreign countries, but not enough to overcome the backlash if the president or Congress moved to sanctify the heroin trade.

Because our society views the tragic cost of one human lost to drug addiction as paramount, we have assigned thousands in Mexico, Afghanistan and Colombia to the statistic pile. But then the road to Hell is always paved with good intentions.

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2 Responses to “Blood Money”

  1. Bill Harris

    21. Sep, 2009

    Debaters debate the two wars as if Nixon’s civil war on Woodstock Nation didn’t yet run amok. One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights or to Cuba for political prisoners. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to ongoing persecution of hippies, radicals, and non-whites under banner of the war on drugs. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

    The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as lives are flushed down expensive tubes. There’s trouble on the border. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. God didn’t screw up. Canadian Marc Emery sold seeds that enable American farmers to outcompete cartels with superior domestic herb. He is being extradited to prison, for doing what government wishes it could do, reduce demand for Mexican.

    The constitutionality of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) derives from an interstate commerce clause. Only by this authority does it reincarnate Al Capone, endanger homeland security, and throw good money after bad. Official policy is to eradicate, not tax, the number-one cash crop in the land. America rejected prohibition, but it’s back. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment. Father, forgive those who make it their business to know not what they do.

    Nixon promised that the Schafer Commission would support the criminalization of his enemies, but it didn’t. No matter, the witch-hunt was on. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA halted all research and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use, period.

    The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. Denial of entheogen sacrament to any American, for mediation of communion with his or her maker, precludes free exercise of religious liberty.

    Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

    Common-law must hold that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers decreed that the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.

  2. mrmarket

    28. Sep, 2009

    THANKS! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contests. Keep up the good work.