AEI's Qualms About the War on Drugs

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I tend to agree with Julian that the publication of AEI's new report on drug policy is significant. In addition to the points Julian mentions, it steps on drug warriors' toes by noting that "Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), the only widely adopted prevention program, has been repeatedly demonstrated to be ineffective"; that "even though marijuana is by far the most widely used illicit drug, its negative consequences are dwarfed by those of other drugs"; and that "most people who try illicit drugs use them only a few times and neither suffer nor cause any serious identifiable damage." And that's just in the introduction.

One author of the report is Peter Reuter, a data-driven drug policy scholar who has long approached the status quo with skepticism, taking a neither-hawk-nor-dove stance on the drug war. (The 2001 book he co-authored with Robert J. MacCoun is titled Drug War Heresies.) The other author of the AEI report is David Boyum, who has served on the board of the Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin, published by the American Federation of Scientists, which is not shy about criticizing current policy either. So AEI must have known when it commissioned the report that it would not get the sort of prohibitionist cheerleading the Heritage Foundation tends to produce.

Which lends more significance to something I heard at AEI's recent annual dinner. When the keynote speaker, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, regretted that "repression takes priority over persuasion in the war on drugs," maybe a dozen people in an audience of 1,500 or so applauded. A witness later informed me that AEI President Christopher DeMuth was one of them.

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  1. Just when you think you have conservatives figured out… the non-fundie kind, I mean.

  2. No matter how good, authoritative or just plain right the study is, for proof of the lack of impact it will have one need look no further than the current Schiavo mess.

    Nobody – least of all politicians – wants rational policy. Hystrionics and handwringing are the currency of choice and emotional reactions fuel that drive any action on capital hill.

    You can’t get people to vote of you can’t get them emotional…and you can’t get them emotional unless someone or something is the demon.

    One possible idea (and I’m not saying I like this option) is that the Conservatives will move the issue toward sanity by painting liberals as anti-rational on drug policy.

    I’m not holding my breath. Anti-drug serves BOTH parties whenever they need a nameless, faceless straw-man-of-evil.

  3. A witness later informed me that AEI President Christopher DeMuth was one of them.

    quality over quantity

  4. FYI, Heritage doesn’t really do _anything_ on illegal drugs, prohibitionist cheerleading or anything. Not, at least, for a good many years.

  5. The War on Drugs is a meme illustrating as clearly and definitively as do dinosaurs that creationists have their heads way up where the sun don’t shine.

  6. madpad, “You can’t get people to vote of you can’t get them emotional…and you can’t get them emotional unless someone or something is the demon.”

    The Probability Broach (one of my favorite books) illustrates this point very well. In it, everyone pretty much ignores the government until a crisis looms, then they get involved. If our government didn’t create problems for itself to fix, would anyone pay attention to it?

  7. If Teri Schiavo was also suffering from some debilitating disease other than a broken brain – cancer, severe arthritis, anything that can cause great pain – her doctors would be IVing enough opiates or opiate-substitutes into her to make the whole feeding-tube kerfuffle moot.

    Then the Feds would come after the docs for “overdosing their patient.”

    Kevin

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