The Benefits of the War on Drugs

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Some ironic sophistry from Crispin Sartwell on why we must keep drugs illegal. An excerpt:

If you think we've got a wasteful bureaucracy now, just wait until the American state is the cocaine kingpin. The government can't even deliver hurricane aid, much less heroin to all the Americans who need it.

At any rate, like any decent proponent of American capitalism, I would far prefer to see Afghan warlords and Mexican organized crime figures make the money and provide these key medical services. The American government will simply use the increased revenue to fund the war/torture machine.
………
Now I hear your objection. You're saying that the drug issue is not primarily practical but is a matter of principle. You're saying that no government has the right to tell people what they can and cannot put into their own bodies.

You're saying that if a government has such a right, there is no power that it does not in principle possess, that to interfere that intimately with the basic conduct of each person with regard to their own lives is to claim unlimited despotic power.
………
Well, of course you're right about that. But in public policy debates, we have to be practical. And practically speaking, turning the drug supply chain over to the bureaucracy while increasing the tax base and the credibility of the law would simply be disastrous.

NEXT: The Wrong Man

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  1. or we could decriminalize drugs. Then the government wouldn’t have to make a stand on what its citizens could and couldn’t put in their bodies while leaving revenues where they belong–with the afghan warlords (or, rather, the people who added value to the land with their own labor).

  2. Who said anything about legalization turning over the drug supply chain to the government? Did the government start distributing alchohol when prohibition was lifted?

  3. Did the government start distributing alchohol when prohibition was lifted?

    Yep. And in many states they still do. Never seen an ABC store?

  4. I guess it’s a valid point pragmatically speaking, but it falls apart logically—unless the end result is the simple criminalization of everything we let the government tax—which is, pretty much, everything, every transaction, every business deal, every fucking little fart we squeeze out.

    This is, simply, a dangerous, dangerous rationale…and it ignores the dollar costs of the WOD, as well as the non-monetarycosts as well. Tell some guy who’s spending his days rotting in prison because The State doesn’t approve of the particular drug he was using…tell him that he needs to keep rotting away in jail just so that we can starve the beast a little bit more.

    Bleck! The government will get our money one way or another. The government taxes fuckin’ EVERYTHING, so…unless my revenue stream suddenly skyrockets, I’ll have to cut back on OTHER taxable items in order to afford my weekly fix of 7-11-brand blow.

  5. [i]Yep. And in many states they still do. Never seen an ABC store?[/i]

    Yeah, and I should have remembered being that I am in one of the two states with a monopoly on liquor stores (Pennsylvania). Granted its inconvenient and expensive to buy a bottle of Jameson here, but its still a long shot from an Orwellian government beaurocracy delivering shots of Heroin to addicts every week, which is what the original writer seemed to think would happen.

  6. pure strawman, we want a Philp Moris/Anhieser Bush type to do the distributing.

  7. Want to make drugs legal? Which drugs? Maybe the synthetic heroin that one dose turned each user into a Parkinsonian patient. These people are now all wards of the state. So a few creaps made their millions, and we (tax payers) get to pay the hospital and medical bills for thousands of people for the rest of their miserable lives.

    Legal for whom? 21 year olds? 18 year olds? 12 year olds? Any age threshold (where under is illegal and over is OKey Dokey) will create the same problem we have now. Almost half of the present drug addicts are under 21. So everyone over the legal sells “Illegally” to those under.

    What company would take on the liability? Pfizer? Lilly? 1/2 of all heart attacks and strokes for people under 45 are from the use of cocaine. Of coarse the companies who manufacture the drugs are liable… right? Or do we transfer the liability to tax payers (Government)? Just what I want my tax dollars paying for is some creap who took way too much cocaine and stroked out his brain and can’t talk or walk and needs millions in medical care.

    If you think. And I mean think about legalizing drugs… it is only insane to propose that as a solution.

  8. Decriminalizing drugs will just make matters worse. The drug trade will continue to be in hands of criminals. Drug quality will not improve significantly so there will still be people dying from bad drugs. Because trafficking remains criminalised, countries such as Columbia and Afghanistan will remain war torn.

    Decriminalization is the selfish, cowardly option. The only solution is legalization.

    By and large, the Sweedish government distributes alcohol and that is a very sad state of affairs.

  9. Any age threshold (where under is illegal and over is OKey Dokey) will create the same problem we have now.

    So . . . we have exactly the same problem now that we will have after legalization? Then what, pray tell, is the point of the war on drugs?

  10. Yes, Warren, we do want private purveyors of drugs, but that will never happen. Assuming, of course, that drugs are ever legalized in the first place. What we’ll get is the government’s methadone distribution program, on, well, meth (or steroids).

  11. Okay, so there’s a lot of government involvement in the alcohol trade. Too much, as a good libertarian, I’ll agree.

    Still, would anyone here prefer we go back to total alcohol prohibition?

    The silence is deafening.

  12. Decriminalization is the selfish, cowardly option. The only solution is legalization.

    I also have a problem with decriminalization is that most places that have “decriminalized” pot still prohibit trafficking. So in order to indulge your legal right to pot you still have to find someone willing to break the law to supply you with it. That should be troubling to those who value the rule of law.

    While the Nevada proposition, with its heavy regulation, might not be every libertarians cup of tea, it at least has the virtue of creating a fully open and legal market.

  13. Dr. Jensen, you’ve clearly been on a steady diet of propoganda supporting the utterly failed New Prohibition.

    Drugs (like alcoholic beverages during the Old Prohibition) have become more dangerous in response to criminalization. Legalizing them will (like alcoholic beverages after the Old Prohibition) result in some cases of abuse, but more responsible usage overall than was the case during Prohibition (either one).

    As for responsibility for the destroyed husks that remain after the drugs have taken their toll, again, look to legal alcohol and nicotine for the models, I’d guess.

  14. is that most places s/b in that most places

  15. Of coarse the companies who manufacture the drugs are liable… right? Or do we transfer the liability to tax payers (Government)? Just what I want my tax dollars paying for is some creap who took way too much cocaine and stroked out his brain and can’t talk or walk and needs millions in medical care

    Far better for the government to pay for those addicts to be in jail or in rehab than in a hospital, right? Because that’s much cheaper than paying for medical care, especially if the “creap” [sic] has medical insurance and pays for their own care. Whatever.

  16. “If you think. And I mean think about legalizing drugs… it is only insane to propose that as a solution.”

    Yes, because I love living in a world where my 4th Amendment rights mean little or nothing. Where my 2nd Amendment rights have been continually beaten like a red-headed stepchild in a pathetic attempt to disarm drug dealeres.Where a dyslexic, steroid-juiced cop on a SWAT Team will possibly kick in the door to my home when he fucks up trying to read the address on the warrant for the neighbors. And a world where medical doctors are afraid of being punished by the DEA if they prescribe “too much” pain killer to a terminal patient, lest they become an addict.

    And hey, only a criminal would object to having to put their name in a government-run database in order to buy cold medication.

    Weeeeee! The war on drugs is awesome! Can we have some more?

  17. I think decriminalization is a fine partway step. Half a loaf is better than none! But it’s only a partway step, not a substitute for legalization.

  18. Jensen, I’m going to give you the benefit of te doubt and hope that you’re not a troll:

    “Want to make drugs legal? Which drugs? Maybe the synthetic heroin that one dose turned each user into a Parkinsonian patient. These people are now all wards of the state. So a few creaps made their millions, and we (tax payers) get to pay the hospital and medical bills for thousands of people for the rest of their miserable lives.”

    But if that happens anyway, what does criminalizing them do, other than drive them underground? In a world where one couldn’t get prosecuted for simply possessing or selling drugs, it would be easier for the victims to seek justice via the justice system, rather than through vigilante means, or none at all. Alcohol is a great example: now that most alcohol is legal and available, how many evil bootleggers do you see selling their blindness-causing poisong ‘shine? If people have legal, safer alternatives – alternatives that have been proven safer by the free market – then the occurance of these unsafe drugs will plummet. If you can get a sixer of budweiser that you know is safe to drink, why would most reasonable folks bother risking their lives with outhouse moonshine? Your argument smacks of very little understanding of logic or the human tendency regarding risk/reward models.

    “Legal for whom? 21 year olds? 18 year olds? 12 year olds? Any age threshold (where under is illegal and over is OKey Dokey) will create the same problem we have now. Almost half of the present drug addicts are under 21. So everyone over the legal sells “Illegally” to those under.”

    This is completely besides the point—I’ll go so far as to call obfuscation on this one. Just because we have an age limit on alcohol & tobacco sales, that is not an argument for prohibition. Just because I can’t buy a gun when I’m 12 years old is no reason to prohibit gun sales to adults. And, to tie into my last point, when drugs become safer because of the free market, even if the kids do get their hands on drugs, those drugs will be, on the whole, safer as well. This is just plain ol’ common sense.

    “What company would take on the liability? Pfizer? Lilly? 1/2 of all heart attacks and strokes for people under 45 are from the use of cocaine. Of coarse the companies who manufacture the drugs are liable… right? Or do we transfer the liability to tax payers (Government)? Just what I want my tax dollars paying for is some creap who took way too much cocaine and stroked out his brain and can’t talk or walk and needs millions in medical care.”

    Who takes on the liability for drunk driving cases? Anheiser-Busch? Of course not. And regarding the taxpayers being liable, sure, that’s an argument…against the welfare state, not against legalization. Again, look at alcohol prohibition/legalization, and you’ll see what happens.

    “If you think. And I mean think about legalizing drugs… it is only insane to propose that as a solution.”

    I’m sure there were folks like you in the 1920’s. Doomsayers who have no faith in the ability of human beings to be rational, and no faith in the ability of the free market to correct such problems.

    What you fail to acknowledge in any way, shape or form, is the rather basic fact that much of the problems that we have with drugs, including violence, overdosing, etc., are in large part a result of criminalization. Any fool knows that it’s easier to regulate a market when it’s legal and in the open. Any fool knows that many of the problems with black markets get naturally sorted out by free-market capitalism if they are allowed.

    Your seeimngly conscious refusal to even acknowledge these facts makes me think that you are none other than…Beauro-Bot! Ruun, kids, RUN!

  19. Dear doctor, you are supposed to be in the business of improving our health – that doesn’t mean kicking us around with you patented WoD jackboots.

    Dr. Jensen’s ‘arguments’ (ho, ho) against legalization are pathetic and dishonest. Dismissing rational people as ‘insane’ is a typical War on Drugs tactic. Drug warriors do it because their arguments are so full of holes. They are unable to debate the subject so they rule all their critics insane. (search for ‘Sandra Kanck’ in Google news for a recent example of exactly that tactic).

    There is no “synthetic heroin that one dose turned each user into a Parkinsonian patient”. There are several bad processes (performed by half-educated ‘kitchen chemists’) for making illegal drugs that create foul substances which have bad effects on people. That wouldn’t happen if drugs were legal because the same quality control standards applied to pharmaceutics would now be used.

    Legal for whom? – adults of course.

    What company would take on the liability? – A company simply factors in the insurance costs just as large pharmaceutical businesses do now. Liability only makes the drugs a little more expensive. Government taxation will make them far more so. Even then, legal drugs will be better quality and healthier than current illegal ones (and, in many cases, healthier than current legal recreational drugs).

    Let us decide how we want to live. We are not all slobbering wannabe drug addicts, eager to wreck our health. We are sane individuals, able to make rational choices, who, unfortunately, vote in governments that want to treat us like children.

    I fear decriminalisation because I don’t see it as a half-way step but as a final step.

  20. Decriminalizing drugs will just make matters worse. The drug trade will continue to be in hands of criminals…

    Why? For the same reason that after Prohibition, the alcohol/brewing industry continues to be run by gangsters?

    Regarding the article: I agree with what others have said — for some reason Sartwell assumes the government would be actively involved in distributing drugs and running the market. There is no reason this should be so.

  21. “Regarding the article: I agree with what others have said — for some reason Sartwell assumes the government would be actively involved in distributing drugs and running the market. There is no reason this should be so.”

    Agreed. The article wasn’t worth the energy used to fluoresce the pixels on my monitors.

  22. Dr. Jensen: Learn how to fucking spell before you start propagandizing on this board. “Of Coarse” [sic] I don’t know how you can type while busy pulling statistics OUT OF YOUR ASS!

    I work for a large medical institution in Pa., and the stat you were thinking of is 1/2 of all heart attacks for people under 45 is caused by Obesity. – Time Magazine, November issue

    Fuck off you tyrant

  23. Dammit! He’s a Doctor, not a spelling bee champion!

  24. Isaac, I apologize. I misread your post. I took “decriminalization” to mean the same as “legalization.” After reading your 2:14 PM post, and rereading your original post more carefully, I understand what you mean, and I agree.

  25. Oh, I would like to predict that it’s unlikely Dr. Jensen will even deign to respond, but if (s)he does, the response will be delivered in that condescendingly smarmy tone that only someone with a PhD can muster.

    Cheerio, I’m off to lunch.

  26. I was struck by the “half of all heart attacks” comment by Dr. Jensen. At first I thought “Wow!” but then the skeptical scientist in me stepped up and I thought I’d look into it. Well, Dr., the scalpel cuts both ways.

    First, it appears that the study I believe that the good doctor mis-cites (authored by another good doctor, Adnan I. Qureshi, M.D.) states that “cocaine MAY account for one-fourth of all NON-FATAL heart attacks”. Others who reference the original study are careful only to varying degrees in the strengths of their assertions when they quote that stat ranging from using phrases like “scientists reckon that” up to the full confidence asserted by people in drug policy positions and offices. So Dr. Jensen’s statement is presented as being more strong in connotation than the study author’s statement, not to mention that his numbers are of by a factor of two.

    Plus, if there’s money to be made, I believe that big drug companies would (and should, in a society with a true free-market economy) jump on the chance to meet the demand. Heck, it could even be taxed. (OK – that’s not very liberatarian of me; I apologize) And many things have minimum ages associated with them. What’s so definitive about 16 (driving), 13 (movies with less cussing and sexual situations than in most middle schools), or 19 (being eligible for the NBA draft)? If there’s a belief that there should be some cutoff, someone has to be brave and set a boundary.

    Distortions like this, intentional or otherwise, only fuel hysteria amongst uber-conservatives and rote acceptance by less-than-resourceful people. Moreover, the posed argument doesn’t actually address the issue here, namely, whether it should permitted for an individual in a free society to assume that risk. If risk was the only factor necessary to determine the legality of an activity, then people who smoke, drink, or do home improvement projects in their bathrooms would all be criminals.

    I propose that we immediately decriminalize the acts gutter cleaing and driving on 4 hours of sleep to make more room in prisons for judgemental, self-serving people in positions of authority who misuse statistics, the third and highest form of lying.

  27. Dr. Jensen must have prescribed himself a big dosage of ComplacentEX (R)

  28. ever notice the “do you own yourself” argument is never effective? i’d think it’d be the most emotionally simplistic and driving of all pro-drug messages, but…it ain’t.

  29. Please note, the poster Isaac and I are two different people.

    Our opinions, on this issue at least, appear to be identical.

  30. Gee, am I the only one who thought the whole point of the article was to mock drug prohibition? I thought the warning that it was ironic sophistry was a good clue.

    I for one enjoyed the article.

  31. juggler, funny you said that. Similarly, when i first read the good dr. jensen’s rant i took it as complete sarcasm. Partly because of his poor grammar/spelling/use of statistics, and partly because of the content. I can never wrap my brain around the fact that there are so many people out there who actually think like that.

  32. HappyJugg, I also read it as stern satire.

    Steve

  33. So should we make alcohol illegal again becuase it funds the “war/torture machine”?

    (rant)
    Why can’t people stay focused on the problem?

    Most people don’t have a problem with immigrants –
    but they do have if a problem with them (supposedly) getting a free ride. Instead of attacking the welfare state, nope. Gotta put up a wall on our border.

    Most people don’t have a problem with personal smoking – but they do have a problem of paying for someone’s health problems that could result. Attack the medical welfare we provide? Nope – gotta go after ALL the smokers.
    (end rant)

  34. I think Sartwell’s column was a pretty clever way to take some of the hysteria out of the war on drugs.

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