25 Years Ago President George Bush Waved a Bag of Crack in Our Faces. What Good Came of It?


The explainers over at Vox sum up something we of the libertarian ilk have known for a long time–the war on drugs not only sucks on any conceivable ethical or moral ground, it also doesn't achieve its pretended goals.


The occasion is the 25th anniversary of the day then President George Bush waved a bag of crack cocaine allegedly obtained across the street from his house in America's faces, and vowed to escalate and already long-lasting and already failed war on drugs.

The results, via Vox:

Twenty-five years later, the increased efforts don't seem to have affected illicit drug use across the country.

New data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released September 4, shows illicit drug use is actually up compared to one decade ago. (The federal survey underwent major methodological changes in 2002, so it's difficult to compare trends for all Americans prior to that year.)

The Monitoring the Future survey, which tracks illicit drug use among high school students, found drug use has greatly fluctuated over the past few decades. In 1975, four years after former President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, 30.7 percent of high school seniors reported having used illicit drugs in the past month. In 1989, the year of Bush's speech, the rate was 19.7 percent. In 2013, it was back up to 25.5 percent.

But ooo, what if we weren't waging war on drugs? What then, druggy?

Isaac Campos, a drug historian at the University of Cincinnati, points to the late 19th century, when hard drugs such as cocaine, which was relatively new at the time, were almost entirely unregulated. "We had the perfect storm for a wave of drug abuse," Campos said. "Even then, within a system far less regulated than anyone advocates for today — a system of radical legalization — we know that rates of abuse were not significantly higher than they have been in the last decade or so."

Add in all the money spent and all the lives disrupted to that lack of efficacy, and you've got a government program for the ages, the nature of statism laid bare.