This Saturday, CNN host and Space.com flopster Lou Dobbs weighed in on the drug war for The Washington Times. Channeling the what-me-worry ghosts of rich English lords sending young kids to die in World War I, the headline to Dobbs' pronounces that this is "a war worth fighting," even at the cost of $1 billion a month for the federal government alone (and let's not even get into the drug war's body count). As befits a money-show guru, Dobbs applies cost-benefit analysis, arguing that the ledger favors continuing the drug war.
While he grants that the ranks of legalizers include Nobel laureates in economics and starched shirts such as William F. Buckley, Dobbs clucks at those who "who choose to ignore the human devastation and the economic cost of the drug plague" and inveighs:
Many of them are pseudo-sophisticated Baby Boomers who consider themselves superior and hip in their wry, reckless disregard of the facts. They may also smoke marijuana, advocate its legalization, and rationalize cocaine by calling it a recreational drug.
He then trots out "facts" that show the drug war is a success, such as "the University of Michigan's 'Monitoring the Future' study,' [which shows that the percentage of high-school seniors who reported using any drug within the past month decreased from 39 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2001."
If Dobbs is interested in a true cost-benefit analysis, he might want to think about this: High school drug use started declining from the highs (er) reported by the Classes of 1978 and '79 years before the introduction of such demonstrably useless drug education programs such as DARE. Indeed, drug use among all Americans started to decline before, as Dobbs quotes drug czar John Walters, "we got serious in the '80s." The reasons for that are not self-evident, but it's wrong to assign responsibility to Reagan-era policies that didn't get cranked up until several years into the decline.
In fact, since drug education in schools became ubiquitous, the trend has generally gone the other way. Dobbs cites the 2001 Monitoring the Future data and compares it to '78, but fails to mention that in 1992, only 14.4 percent of high school seniors reported using an illegal drug in the past month, the survey's all-time low. Whatever money has been spent on such programs can be written off as wasted. And he might be interested in this May press release from the Monitoring the Future folks: "Student drug testing not effective in reducing drug use." That's more money spent on useless prohibitionist exercises.
Elsewhere in his op-ed, Dobbs writes that fewer acres of cocaine are being produced in Colombia (a good thing) but he doesn't quantify the cost of that at all, nor does he mention the drug-induced damage that's being done to American foreign policy.
Nor does he question why, despite increased funding, do drugs by all accounts continue to drop in price, gain in potency, and remain widely available. Instead, he concludes, "the job is only half done." The same could be said for his op-ed analysis.