The Ends Didn’t Justify the Means

Our complicity in the devastating war on crime

At the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson implored Republican voters to conduct a “cost-benefit analysis” of the criminal justice system. “Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts, and the prisons is drug related, and to what end?” Johnson asked a South Carolina audience in May. “We’re arresting 1.8 million a year in this country; we now have 2.3 million people behind bars in this country. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. I would ask people to look at this issue; see if they don’t come to the same conclusion that I did, and that is that 90 percent of the drug problem is prohibition-related.”

The ends of justice, Johnson argues, have not justified the means of prosecution. This issue of reason is a detailed brief in support of that thesis. A system designed to protect the innocent has instead become a menagerie to imprison them. A legal code designed to proscribe specific behavior has instead become a vast, vague, and unpredictable invitation to selective enforcement. Public servants who swear on the Constitution to uphold the highest principles of justice go out of their way to stop prisoners from using DNA evidence to show they were wrongly convicted. Even before you start debating the means of the four-decade crackdown on crime and drugs, it’s important to acknowledge that the ends are riddled with serious problems.

America has one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. More than 7 million people are under correctional supervision in this country. These staggering statistics—no other country comes close in percentage terms, let alone raw numbers—have serious consequences. For one thing, there is the fiscal cost: The corrections system lags only Medicaid in government spending growth on the state level. Yet most prisons are overcrowded, underserviced, and exponentially more dangerous than any decent society should tolerate.

Worse are the cascading social effects, some of which you might not initially expect. Although prison is overwhelmingly the province of men, black women in America’s inner cities have some of the highest HIV infection rates in the developed world. Why? Because their male partners contracted the virus behind bars, via consensual sex or rape, often going undiagnosed while serving out their terms.

Very few in our political and media classes are familiar with the communities most ravaged by crime and punishment. No politician ever lost an election by alienating the ex-con vote (in no small part because in a dozen states, ex-felons who have completed parole are still permanently barred from voting). It is no accident that the people most likely to languish behind bars—poor minorities, sex offenders, illegal immigrants—tend to be among the most reviled groups in American society.

To the extent that we even think about our prison population bomb, we have allowed ourselves to believe it’s an acceptable price to pay for the recent reduction in crime. But the rates of incarceration and crime aren’t so easily correlated, let alone quantified in terms of cause and effect. And the notion that we are keeping dangerous predators off the streets is belied by the fact that an estimated 1 million prisoners in the U.S. are serving time for nonviolent offenses, predominantly related to drugs.

The drug war is a leading supplier to the prison industry and the biggest inspiration for new ways to circumvent the Fourth Amendment. More than 800,000 people are still arrested each year for marijuana alone, despite the widespread misconception that pot has been largely decriminalized, and despite the fact that close to half of all Americans by now have smoked it, and more than half, by some surveys, favor legalizing it. We can thank the drug war for “stop-and-frisk” harassment of young New Yorkers, for the transfer of military equipment and tactics to local police departments, for wrong-door SWAT raids that kill innocents, for an entire shadow economy of dubious jailhouse snitching and back-room sentence reductions. Vanishingly few public officials even pretend anymore that the drug war can somehow be “won.”

Meanwhile, government at every level continues to run out of money. So conditions are becoming increasingly ripe for a Johnsonian cost-benefit analysis to conclude that drug prohibition needs to go the way of alcohol prohibition. It remains my hope, even my conviction, that these hardheaded arguments will reverse this evil policy during the next decade or two.

Yet we can’t assess the corrosive and life-destroying faults of the criminal justice system—and our complicity in creating them—merely by looking at the bottom line of a spreadsheet. Americans have created a system in which criminals who have served their sentences can still expect to remain incarcerated for life. Voters continue to reward prosecutors who are notorious for locking up innocent people. Our periodic national panics about terrorism and immigration have created a system where defendants do not have access to a public lawyer, prisoners can rot indefinitely, and 30-year residents of the U.S. can get deported for Reagan-era misdemeanors.

Why did all this happen? Because we let ourselves be OK with the ends justifying the means.

Would you torture a terrorist suspect if he could reveal enough information to prevent a ticking time bomb from exploding in a big city? That was the armchair interrogator’s debate question eight years ago, recently revived when a variety of U.S. intelligence sources finally pinpointed the hiding place of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. It was the intellectual successor of CNN anchor Bernard Shaw’s famous debate question to 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis: “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?’’

These questions are intended not to further discussion but to end it. Only a monster would oppose either final retribution or preventive action against those who murder innocents. Even though the examples are always and necessarily fictional, these are the ultimate in cost-benefit analysis and base emotionalism. The mind-set behind them has dominated America’s policies for using deadly government force for decades.

That’s why I’m grateful that Gary Johnson wasn’t the only libertarian-leaning candidate at the first GOP debate in South Carolina. Before the former New Mexico governor gave his hardheaded consequentialist answer to the drug war question, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has always been more interested in principle than pragmatism, gave perhaps the most unusual answer in presidential campaign history. When asked about legalizing heroin, Paul analogized personal drug use to freedom of religion. When the stunned panelist asked him whether he had indeed just cited heroin use as an example of liberty, Paul said yes.

“What you’re inferring is that if we legalize heroin tomorrow everybody would use heroin,” Paul said. “How many people would use heroin if it’s legal? I bet nobody here would use heroin or say, ‘Oh yeah, I want heroin, I need the government to protect me, so I need these laws.’ ” Shockingly—and refreshingly—the comment drew some of the biggest applause of the night.

Now that the ends of our criminal justice system have produced the kind of outrages documented throughout this special issue, it’s long past time to reform the means. But those changes won’t last unless we reform ourselves. It is an unpopular and even counterintuitive notion that the ends don’t justify the means, particularly when the ends turn out well. But real justice is not a popularity contest. 

Matt Welch (matt.welch@reason.com) is editor in chief of reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Weygand||

    Fitting this article runs on the day Plaxico Burress was released after a punishment that was out of scale for the crime.

  • The Hamilton||

    Welcome to Amnerika, ladies and gentlemen. Eff "drug warriors" of every stripe. You are worthless scum, setting this country down the path to ruin far quicker than any known dope.

    I hope you're proud of yourselves.

  • Juanita||

    " Indeed, as Editor in Chief Matt Welch argues in his column from our July issue, a system designed to protect the innocent has instead become a menagerie to imprison them."

    The people who chose to use these drugs ARE NOT INNOCENT.

  • Almanian||

    Welcome back, Juanita! Good to have your particular brand of stupid around again!

  • ||

    If the people who chose to use the drugs did not deliberately engage in action that put others at risk (such as driving a car under the influence) then why put them in prison?

  • sarcasmic||

    Because drugs are bad.
    They're bad because they're illegal and they're illegal because they're bad. If they weren't bad then they would be legal and if they were legal they wouldn't be bad.
    Just as slavery was not bad while it was legal because it was legal, and once it became illegal it became bad.
    Allowing blacks to share water fountains with whites was bad when it was illegal because it was illegal. Now the law has changed so it isn't bad anymore.

    law = morality

  • ||

    For the same reason we don't allow people to sell themselves into slavery. No man is an island: we all have obligations to our friends, family, and society at large. To the extent we enslave ourselves to drug use, we fail to meet those obligations. The illusion that drug use is a free choice is an absurdity when drug use is addictive. It is the opposite of free choice. Which is why legalize drug use is incompatible with the existence of a free society.

  • uuuh||

    What a nice, vaguely-worded and non-falsifiable statement you've got there. Why stop at drug use though?? Alcohol addiction? Caffeine addiction? Hell, I've read a lot of articles recently about video game/social networking addiction. Let's regulate and make a system of labyrinthine laws about these addictions too!

    Judging by the content of your post, it seems you suffer from a severe case of addiction to your own unfounded sense of self-righteousness. I'll be alerting the DEA to come and save you from yourself.

    Also, you absolutely CAN sell yourself into slavery. Look at the craigslist male-seeking-male personals sometime.

  • uuuh||

    Oh yeah, explain to me how the problem of a person trying to sell themselves into slavery would be sold by IMPRISONING them?

  • uuuh||

    *dammit, "would be SOLVED". slavery on the mind.

  • Hmmm||

    I'm a former drug addict and alcoholic. My drugs were cocaine and heroin, but my biggest addiction was to alcohol. An addict will find a way to abuse substances to change the way the feel, regardless of what laws or regulations are in place. The good news is the majority of people are not addicts. The majority of people who drink, try marijuana, cocaine, and even opiates do not become addicted to them. I became addicted because of personal choices I made. I ultimately quit them because of personal choices that I made. The government has no place in this equation other then protecting citizens from addicts who actually break non prohibition laws. With alcohol this primarily means drunk driving. With drugs it should primarily only mean drugged driving, but because prohibition drives drugs price exponentially up, in turn a whole host of property crime is created by the very drug prohibition that is suppose to protect us from crime.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    The people who chose to use these drugs ARE NOT INNOCENT.

    You're right. They're not innocent. They're guilty of crimes that SHOULDN'T BE.

  • ||

    What crime did they commit? Is "annoying Juanita" a felony?

  • ola||

    Preacher, meet choir.

  • Sku||

    “It is no accident that the people most likely to languish behind bars—poor minorities, sex offenders, illegal immigrants—tend to be among the most reviled groups in American society”

    Why would you lump minorities and illegal immigrants with SEX OFFENDERS?

  • Puffopadrino||

    Unfortunately in some states teens who send sexual photos to each other, a nineteen year old dating a sixteen year old and even public urinaters are now being labeled as "sex offenders".

  • Navarre||

    All too true. That is why truck drivers now keep a bottle in the cab. (don't tailgate my truck)

  • Greg Cosmos||

    I'm sure the Ron Paul line got so much applause because the audience was full of Ron Paul people ( and/or Ron Paul people are very loud). Don't get me wrong. I really WISH that "South Carolina" was cheering for heroin. But really it's certainly not a popular opinion. It should be.

  • ||

    Does anyone else appreciate the fact that the group that is mostly responsible for the increased criminalization of drug use, conservatives, are the ones that are now decrying the increased power of law enforcement because of it? Isn't this the same as everyone who favored the Patriot Act and increased airport security complaining about the TSA body scanners 9 years later?

  • ||

    Is it really that much of a stretch to think that a certain idea is a good one, but the implementation, not so good?

  • Mike||

    You miss the point. By dismissing conservatives as hypocritical, we can ignore any attempts to rein in government. When in reality that conservatives hypocrisy should be the *strongest* argument to liberals for more restrained government. Because every bit of power given to Obama will eventually be in the control of Sarah Palin or someone similar.

  • ||

    Kinda like how GWB made Obama the most powerful president in American history?

  • LarryA||

    Chicken, egg, chicken, egg, chicken...

  • Elbib||

    Day prison for the children, full prison for adults. America - what a country.

  • ||

    As a whole, I agree with the point in this, but I decided to post for a similar reason as Sku, this statement; “It is no accident that the people most likely to languish behind bars—poor minorities, sex offenders, illegal immigrants—tend to be among the most reviled groups in American society”.

    So we, the American people, revile poor minorities, sex offenders and illegal immigrants, therefore they are frequently imprisoned unfairly or for longer than other less reviled? You don't think that statement requires some justification? Additionally, like Sku pointed out, it seems inexplicable to group poor minorities, with those who have broken the law, and especially those who have violated other people. As if we hate people simply because they're poor, or brown, (and no, I'm not saying there aren't racist individuals in our midst).

    I support the idea that criminalizing risky or harmful behavior, when the only one risked is oneself, is wrong. I believe that we could make a significantly positive change in our country by decriminalizing drug use. However, I do not see the clear evidence of systemic racism in the enforcement of the current drug laws.

  • Untermensch||

    Why is crack cocaine (favored by blacks) punished much more harshly than cocaine powder (favored by whites)? Yes, many black leaders were in favor of disparately harsh policies early on, but they have watched those same policies have just a pernicious an effect on their communities as Jim Crow. Whether the lawmakers who made those laws had a racist intent, the results are laws that are applied in systematically racist ways: blacks are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than whites, even allowing for differentials in usage rates. So yes, there is indeed systematic de facto racism (even if none in intended).

    Think of it this way. If you're a (non-trailer trash) white girl who produces a sob story about your past drug use and wants to come clean you can find all sorts of people who talk about your bravery. If you're a black male, you will get no such sympathy. There is a tremendous disparity in the ways both the public and the law treat whites and blacks in this area. (Which isn't to say that whites don't get into trouble, but they are treated far more leniently in general.)

  • ||

    Yes, crack/cocaine law is in need of change, and is the only example I could think of that fits.

    As for the fact that some are more likely to get busted when caught, then other, based upon a wide range of reasons and personal biases is not systemic in my mind. Those individual choices were not guided by law, or in nearly all cases, training, but by the free choices of the individuals involved. And frankly, you're not going to get my worked up over the fact that some are more likely to be given mercy and some less. I unfortunately seem to fall into the less category, I just try to take that into account, and be more careful than some others would need to be. When I get caught and punished for breaking the law, it was my choice to do so, and whether the consequences are ones I consider fair or not, doesn't change the fact that I chose to take the risk.

  • Anecdotal ||

    I'm a white male who got in a decent amount of legal trouble during my drinking and drug using days ( not that long ago). I had to go through a host of drug and alcohol education classes as required by my probation. In these classes overwhelmingly the people there for marijuana were black or Hispanic. I myself was there for a DUI, but I was shocked at the disparity. Out of about 100 people there were about half whites who were there for DUI, domestic disputes and harder drug possession (opiate pills, cocaine, and Meth)... not a single white person was there for possession of marijuana. Out of about 40 blacks were there for possession of marijuana. Having been to a 90%+ white high school I know countless white majiana smokers. Like me many had marijuana related run ins with the law, but the vast majority had cops let them call there parents to get them and received only stern warnings. I myself was once arrested for marijuana, but that was only because I was already on probation. The numbers of blacks arressted and on probation for pot is a mind boggling waste of money and resources ... the numbers I've seen from my own expierence seem to suggest something is truly fucked up with the treatment of minority pot users... hell with all pot users, but the disparity seems to me to be legit.

  • I hear ya||

    Why is crack cocaine (favored by blacks) punished much more harshly than cocaine powder (favored by whites)?

    Oh, I don't know - maybe because people were being told that just one puff on a crack pipe would turn you into a desperate brain-addled thieving and whoring addict for life?

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    One racial aspect of the War On Drugs has been the emphasis on inner-city 'drug gangs'. Don't forget that the anti-drug panic of the late '80s-early '90s was contemporary with and linked to the anti-gang panic. And gangs have been, rightly or wrongly, associated in everyone's minds with Black and Latino neighbourhoods.
    So anti-drug law enforcement has been concentrated heavily in these minority areas, and Fourth Amendment rights and similar protections have been ignored most often in these areas.
    Because of this, poor minorities are far more likely to be stopped and searched, or to have their homes searched, and are therefore more likely to be arrested for possession than Whites or Wealthy Minorities, even when they are no more likely to possess drugs than Whites are.
    Also, poor minorities, and to a lesser degree, poor Whites, are also more likely to receive tougher sentences. There is a lot of debate over the reasons for that desparity, but there's no doubt that the desparity exists. The statistics are quite clear that poor minorities receive tougher sentences on average for the same crimes.

  • ||

    The wealthy get better lawyers. The poor get overworked public defenders, if anyone.

  • ||

    "I do not see the clear evidence of systemic racism in the enforcement of the current drug laws."

    This should get you started:

    http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/y/charts5.htm#in

  • ||

    I am all for legalization of drugs, but I do have a question.

    In a society like ours with a social safety net, (welfare state if you like) what obligation does society have to those who "can not handle their poop".

    Freedom including the freedom to overuse any drug (including booze) will always tax the safety net, giving "nanny state-rs" a reason to prohibit behaviours.

  • sarcasmic||

    How many people living off the safety net are currently addicts?

    I'll be ten percent or more of all the money going into the illegal drug trade originates from people living off the safety net.

    Illegal drugs are not only illegal, but tax subsidized.

  • ||

    Considering that most of our spending on the social safety net is spent on things like Social Security benefits, Medicare, etc., it is safe to say that much less than half of the Social Safety net is used, or would be used if drugs were legalized, to support people with substance addiction related problems. When a drug addict is receiving government assistance, that generally attracts a lot of media attention and outrage. But most of the people receiving government assistance are not people with substance abuse issues.

  • sarcasmic||

    Doesn't use = abuse?

    With the baby boomer smelly hippie generation joining the ranks of SS beneficiaries, won't some of that SS money be being used to by dope?

    And what about the local low (no)-income unwed mother housing development?

    How many people in those places are drug using deadbeats?

    I bet there's a lot of illegal drugs being purchased with tax dollars.

  • ||

    All the more reason to not use those same tax dollars to artificially raise the price!

  • ||

    Food stamps for dope, at 50% of face value.

  • LarryA||

    I'll bet ten percent or more of all the money going into the illegal drug trade originates from people living off the safety net.

    Nope. Consider how many kazillon dollars flow through the drug black market annually. There simply isn’t that much cash available in the “safety net.” There isn’t that much cash available in the whole ghetto. The only segments of society with enough money to fund the drug market are the middle to upper class. I believe that the majority of drug use happens in well-to-do neighborhoods, and that enforcement there is nearly non-existent.

  • Hooha||

    "In a society like ours with a social safety net, (welfare state if you like) what obligation does society have to those who "can not handle their poop"."

    A: None

    "Freedom including the freedom to overuse any drug (including booze) will always tax the safety net, giving "nanny state-rs" a reason to prohibit behaviours."

    A: You ask me, you've made an excellent argument here with your whole post for the abolition of our bullshit 'social safety net'.

  • ||

    Hooha,

    Agree completely, but the "social safety net" consists not only of cash transfers (Welfare SS etc.) but also services.

    Alcohol is legal but one of it's most destructive external effects, drunk driving is controlled not by prohibiting booze but by punishing DUI.

    But should a drunk need a new liver, should "the safety net" pay?

    In my opinion, the answer is no. But why then do we (as a matter of law) support people who choose to smoke to sue "Big Tobacco"? (Courts cost $$)

    I am in favor of legalization, just curious what the follow on effects will be.

    Legalize it!!

  • ||

    "Services" are also basically transfers, money is given to those providing the service as pay, when they otherwise (if the government "service" didn't exist) would actually need to get a job in a productive part of the economy that cant just confiscate its operating expenses from those who actually are providing goods and services there is a market for.

  • ||

    The black market it so overpriced that it would be trivial for a legal market to both undercut it and apply a pigovian tax high enough to fund the costs of dealing with externalities.

  • GSL||

    Why did all this happen? Because we let ourselves be OK with the ends justifying the means.

    This is okay, but misses the point a bit. The more relevant issue is this: "If someone is using drugs in their home and not bothering anybody, or someone else is peacefully cultivating them to sell to willing consumers, what right does the government have to stop them in the first place?" All of this country's problems with illegal drugs have their origin in conceding that right to the government, because governments can't stop victimless crimes without employing some pretty aggressive means.

  • sarcasmic||

    This country has a long history of using the law as a shied when antagonizing people we don't like.
    Then the "protected class" idea came about, and people could no longer use the law as a shield when antagonizing people for the color of their skin or where they were born.

    Drug users are not a protected class, and that makes them fair game.

  • ||

    Especially if their skin is the wrong color.

  • ||

    The more relevant issue is this: "If someone is doing something in their home and not hurting anybody, or someone else is peacefully creating products to sell to willing consumers, what right does the government have to stop them in the first place?" All of this country's problems with illegal drugs have their origin in conceding that right to the government, because governments can't stop victimless behaviour without employing some pretty aggressive means.

  • Some Guy||

    The means? Hell. The ends don't justify themselves.

  • no surprise here||

    The US criminal justice system is the inevitable consequence of a metastasizing government. It is merely a symptom of the real problem.

    It is no accident that the people most likely to languish behind bars—poor minorities, sex offenders, illegal immigrants—tend to be among the most reviled groups in American society

    That statement is so full of stupid it is almost not worth commenting on. It encapsulates the faulty logic that disproportionate representation of certain groups in prison populations somehow represents injustice or discriminatory pursuit or prosecution.

    poor minorities - leftist radicals have promoted racial hostility and encouraged anger and racial retribution by minorities at the same time they have tried to absolve minorities of personal responsibility for criminal activity by insisting that the real culprit is our unjust and oppressive society. Meanwhile race hustlers and lawyers have used the leftists' narrative to try to invert the victim/perpetrator relationship to the point where the law-abiding have lost much faith in the ability of our government to protect the innocent from predators. Even if you accept the premise that poor minorities are "reviled" by the American public, which I don't, it is the belligerence, backed by the sense of entitlement to be belligerent, that is the cause. Promote a color-blind sense of personal responsibility to solve the problem.

    sex offenders - sex offenses create a sense of personal violation that exceeds most other crimes. It would be no surprise if sex offenders were pursued more vigorously than other criminals. What exactly is wrong with reviling sex offenders?

    illegal immigrants - perhaps Reason should drop their ideologically-driven, blind-to-reality insistence that illegal immigrants don't commit crimes with any greater frequency than others. I don't buy the notion that illegal immigrants are "reviled". Resented maybe for "taking jobs" or for not playing by the rules of our society, i.e. for not obeying the law, but not "reviled".

  • sarcasmic||

    "It encapsulates the faulty logic that disproportionate representation of certain groups in prison populations somehow represents injustice or discriminatory pursuit or prosecution."

    Just because institutionalized racism is illegal doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Police can't harass members of protected classes because they don't like them. That's illegal.

    However it is perfectly acceptable to harass members of protected classes and use the "I smelled dope" defense.

    Prosecutors can put extra effort into drug cases involving protected classes and claim to be "tough on drugs".

    Happens all the time.

  • Cytotoxic||

    perhaps Reason should drop their ideologically-driven, blind-to-reality insistence that illegal immigrants don't commit crimes with any greater frequency than others.

    If you actually believe this then you shouldn't talk about being blind to reality.

  • MJ||

    "What exactly is wrong with reviling sex offenders?"

    "Sex Offense" covers a very broad range of illegal activities, the worst of which are quite heinous (rape), to tasteless but relatively harmless (drunken public urination). Sex offender does not always mean that the person is a monster.

  • J_L_B||

    You all miss why drugs remain illegal.

    The idealistic argument is the government is responsible for the health and safety of its citizens, and even things they willingly do to themselves that compromise their health and safety must be stopped; but the realistic argument is that drug charges are a back door to convict people we otherwise couldn't convict for other more serious crimes.

    Cops and prosecutors often find drug convictions a useful way to hold people they're almost certain committed X crime, but don't have the evidence to convict for that particular crime. It provides them with 1) getting someone they believe is dangerous off the streets, 2) giving them more time to form a case on the more serious charge.

    This also stems from the belief that if you do or deal drugs you are all around bad, probably having killed, raped, or set something on fire somewhere in the past.

  • sarcasmic||

    "This also stems from the belief that if you do or deal drugs you are all around bad"

    If you do drugs then you do not respect the law for the law's sake.

    If you do not respect that drugs are bad because the government says so, then the rationale is that you have no morality.
    The idea that you can have your own morality that differs from the law doesn't occur in the mind of a drug warrior.

  • J_L_B||

    I think they believe more in a correlation.

    If you do drugs you also rape, murder, rob banks, burglarize, set things on fire, rob people at gunpoint to feed your habit, etc.

    The belief is that by locking you up, we probably also locked up the guy who committed some unsolved crime sometime in the past.

  • ||

    Yea, except so many cops then go home to smoke a bowl after a hard day's work.

    While I've no evidence to support the old cliche that cops have the best pot, the three different cops I've smoked with over my life had much better pot than I ever did.

  • ||

    Or the US military. Amphetamines and barbiturates are just dandy for fighter jet pilots.

  • Razor Ray||

    Who are we trying to rehab? And how does a sex offender figure into this argument? If you molest/rape you should DIE! If you kill without justification you should DIE! If you drink and drive, smoke weed and drive and you kill someone you should DIE! Do we really believe that letting out the majority of these convicted felons will make anything any better? Come on. Ron Paul wants legal heroin until that legal heroin comes in the form of a minority kicking in his backdoor for more heroin. Hypocrites!

  • Gibby||

    "Ron Paul wants legal heroin until that legal heroin comes in the form of a minority kicking in his backdoor for more heroin. Hypocrites!"

    FIX!!!

  • ||

    Booze is legal and cheap and not many crimes are committed to buy it as less dramatic actions can secure the $$ to buy it. (like begging collecting cans, day labor) Heroin cost major bucks now, meaning that major crimes are needed to buy it. If heroin was cheap, less need to steal.

  • ||

    Why would Ron Paul have heroin in his house? The addict could just go to the nearest pharmacy or monopoly store or whatever.

  • ||

    Wow, they don't call you Razor Ray for nothing!

    18 year old male that sleep with with his 17 year old girlfriend, and then gets convicted of statutory rape and added to public sex offender lists for the rest of his life, well he did sleep with a child - he should DIE!

    12 year old child playing doctor with 11 year old child - he should DIE.

    (two cases of actual sex offenders in NV)

    There are many degrees of impropriety that fall under the umbrella term of sex offense. I hope you were only thinking of those guilty of actual sexual assault...not that I'd agree with you then either, but you'd appear less barbaric.

  • ||

    I am in favor of legalizing all drugs, but what if:

    Big Pharma developed a new drug called "addicto". One dose of "addicto(TM)" and you gotta have it everyday.

    First thirty tablets are free (we promise rapid weight loss and more energy), then it costs $100.00 per day. Try to quit? Without "DeAddicto(TM)" you will die a horrible death. Cost of DeAddicto? $100,000.00.

    If drugs are legal, what actions by suppliers / manufactures are illegal? How can those be enforced?

  • ||

    Why should sci-fi hypotheticals be a relevant consideration for drug policy? Besides, even accepting the hypothetical, I can't imagine many people would be excited about jumping into that situation.

    If drugs are legal, what actions by suppliers / manufactures are illegal? How can those be enforced?

    Some drugs most certainly legal right now, and it's not exactly difficult to think of rules and regulations that have been imposed on the manufacture, sale, etc of those substances. Enforcing basic safety in a legal market is the last thing we need to worry about.

  • LarryA||

    If drugs are legal, what actions by suppliers / manufactures are illegal? How can those be enforced?

    It’s a hell of a lot easier to write and enforce regulations affecting legal drug suppliers and manufacturers than it is to even monitor illegal black market dealers.

  • Whiskey Jim||

    Forget the cost-benefit analysis until step 2.

    Let us begin with the first question: What does it do our sense of freedom and cultural psychology to criminalize an activity that 90+% of the population engages in?

    We are beyond stupid now. We are being hurtful.

  • JohnD||

    " an activity that 90+% of the population engages in?" Really?

    What poll or study did that come from?

    What a freaking moron!

  • Russ 2000||

    I bet nobody here would use heroin or say, ‘Oh yeah, I want heroin, I need the government to protect me, so I need these laws.’ ”

    Shockingly, this is EXACTLY what a significant percentage of cigarette smokers say when drumming up support for smoking bans and higher cigarette taxes. I don;t think it's the majority of smokers feeling that way, but there IS a feeling of "protect me from myself" from a number of them.

    And while I'd bet there was no one in the room at the time Paul said it that feels that way, I would bet there are a number of heroin junkies that WISH it was harder to get in the first place and support the drug war because of it.

  • MJ||

    Yes, the most emotional arguments for smoking bans in public places I have heard have come from friends who are ex-smokers. They apparently don't think they can handle the temptation of catching a whiff of tobacco smoke.

  • JT Florida||

    Even though many in that South Carolina audience applauded when Ron Paul asked if those folks would use herion if it was legal, I doubt he would recieve nearly as much, if any, applause if he had argued that someone should be able to take heroin while sitting on the curbside of Main Street in front of a school bus and a church thrift store. I think the people who applauded assumed that Ron Paul meant if heroin were legal people would be restricted to using it inside their homes. Similarly, I think there are many who are fine with people smoking tobacco in their homes, but feel it is inappropriate on Main Street in front of a school bus and a church thrift store.

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  • H.L. Mencken||

    The average American is a ninth-rate coward for whom liberty is a frightening concept and wants nothing to do with it.

    The only liberty an inferior man really cherishes is the liberty to quit work, stretch out in the sun, and scratch himself.

  • H.L. Mencken||

    What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace -- the peace of a trustee in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take -- his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact. A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a) from his superiors, (b) from his equals, and (c) from himself. This last service, under democracy, is commonly the most esteemed of them all.

  • ||

    It's sad because it's true.

  • ||

    Who is this "ourselves" Matt refers to? I do not take any responsibility whatsoever for the fact that most Americans are imbeciles and care little about the truth of things. I have no idea how to go about reforming "ourselves". Just as with our idiotic empire of American hegemony. Nothing will change until we spend ourselves broke and hit bottom. The truth is "ourselves" are just plain too stupid to save ourselves and "we" deserve what we get.

  • ||

    I take exception to those incarceration figures. China and maybe even N. Korea have more prisoners than us. If they don't, it's because they execute for drug offenses.

  • ||

    "China and maybe even N. Korea have more prisoners than us."

    Wrong. China has fewer prisoners, and fewer by far per capita.

    "If they don't, it's because they execute for drug offenses."

    China's execution rate is abominable but it wouldn't account for even 1/1000th of the difference.

  • fyngyrz||

    Justice? We no longer have justice. We have process -- at most. Ugly, unfair and monetarily biased process.

    We have a judiciary that has confused the notion of leniency with unfairness; the notion of bargaining with calender-clearing; and the notion of "law" made by idiots with "right" enforceable by rote.

    It is no wonder that law, from the officer on the street through congress, right up to members of the supreme court, is known to intelligent citizens as a morass of unfair, immoral, and self-serving trickery.

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  • ||

    You should exsplaine how the drug laws are diferent foe the use of different formulations of a drug. Crack Cocaine posesion is treated harsher that powderd or cooked cocain-- why- The monority community asked for stiffer laws and penalties for its use.It is used more in the urban area than the suburban area hence differing incarceration rates

  • ||

    If this fine article is any indication of relief from draconian America, I might insert this postscript of Michigan annals of law: After 170+ years of Sunday morning "blue law" against alcohol the state has without fanfare eliminated that prohibition. To wit: This relief will come but not until the current crew of paid, perked and pensioned personnel are retired.

  • restaurant chinezesc||

    Seven million people imprisoned in USA? There are countries in the world that do not have this population.

  • cum sa slabesc||

    If this fine article is any indication of relief from draconian America, I might insert this postscript of Michigan annals of law: After 170+ years of Sunday morning "blue law" against alcohol the state has without fanfare eliminated that prohibition. To wit: This relief will come but not until the current crew of paid, perked and pensioned personnel are retired.

  • caderea parului||

    Don't buy the story.... sorry!

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  • slabeste usor||

    All politicians are the same. Lies, lies and more lies.

  • Diete de slabire||

    Great article, but there are some aspects which were highlighted

  • Scheletul Uman||

    Seven million people imprisoned in USA. Wow! Great article! Congratulation!

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