Skip to comments.[Updated With Correction]: Forty Years of Drug War Failure Represented in a Single Chart
Posted on 10/13/2012 8:06:22 AM PDT by Altariel
Via Drugsnotthugs.com and Reason's own Cynthia Bell.
UPDATE: A reader points out that the dollar amounts on the right Y axis don't add up to $1.5 trillion. The creator of the chart, documentary filmmaker Matt Groff, Tweeted the following in response to a question about where the $1.5 trillion figure comes from: "Short answer: chart shows only fed drug control, $1.5T refers to all costs assoc. w/ drug prohibition, blog on it shortly."
First off, I take the blame for not seeing the discrepancy. Shame on me.
But here's the funny thing: While the $1.5 trillion figure doesn't correspond to the numbers at right, it's actually low. In 2010, the AP put the 40-year tab of federal drug control spending at $1 trillion. But the massive federal drug control budget--for fiscal year 2013, it'll be $3.7 billion for interdiction, $9.4 billion for law enforcement, and $9.2 billion for early intervention--is actually a pretty small slice of the pie. States and municipalities have their own drug war expenses--investigating, trying, and locking up drug offenders--and those expenses actually dwarf what the federal government spends.
According to The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society, last published by the Department of Justice in 2011, enforcing illegal drug laws imposes an annual cost on the American criminal justice system of $56 billion; while incarceration of drug offenders poses an annual cost of $48 billion.
That's $104 billion spent annually by states and cities on two aspects of the drug war (and doesn't include treatment, public assistance, and a slew of other costs), compared to roughly $21 billion spent by the federal government. For $1.5 trillion to reflect just federal spending, the federal drug control budget would need to have been $37.5 billion a year, every year, for the last four decades. It's only slightly more than half that this year.
So, yes: There is a huge problem with the chart, in that 40 years of federal drug control spending does not add up to $1.5 trillion (though minus the "$1.5 trillion" in the middle of the image, the chart does accurately represent the growth of the federal drug control budget and the relatively flat rate of addiction to illicit substances). But even if the chart were designed to reflect "all costs associated with drug prohibition" over the last 40 years, with the right Y axis reflecting the growth of state and federal drug control spending, it would
still be wrong, because $1.5 trillion doesn't nearly cover it.
Update 2: Over at his blog, Matt Groff responds to concerns about his chart:
This graphic was initially not meant to stand on its own but rather illustrate an interviewees assertions about the costs and efficacy of drug prohibition. In a tight production schedule, I utilized a data set that I thought most accurately illustrated the nature and growth of the costs of the War on Drugs and that data is US federal drug control spending. But the $1.5 trillion figure, as mentioned by Jack Cole in his interview, accounts for many more costs, including state level costs, prison costs, lost productivity costs due to incarceration and others.
In general, government has no business interfering with an individual and his liberties as long as he does not interfere with the liberty of another.
Same here. The Third Amendment is the only part of the Bill of Rights that has not been corroded by the failed War on Drugs. Time to quit, or at least concentrate on the truly dangerous stuff like meth.
What an incredible waste of resources!
Can you imagine if they spent that money on education or rehab? Nevermind, the degradation of the rule of law by the millions that use marijuana that are functional, like functional alcoholics that we don’t put in prison.
Its just a racket for big business of prison system and LEA.Many LEA officers have come out year after year saying decriminalize SOME of the drugs that are not more lethal as alcohol and then keep the same regulations that apply to alcohol.
Prohibtion made the situation worse and we just keep doing it with drugs.Insanity.
And, no I don’t use any drugs.
Once you realize that war is the health of the state, then the reason for the WOD becomes self evident.
The entire global economy is based on a single premise: inflate credit-money aggregates in order to pay interest due accrued during the previous cycle.
There are only a few real asset sectors available for this application: war, health, housing, food, entertainment. We've tried them all, but are now looping back for seconds.
Can you possibly imagine what would happen to the economy if the WOD ended? Talk about tanks in the street - the financial system would literally implode.
Follow the money, as they say.
Just another excuse to treat our neighbors as second class citizens.
Round em all up in the dead of night with grenades and machine guns!
IF it sounds a bit Krystanachtish it's because it is!
the wod is actually a war on the constitution and its beyond time for those of us on the right to embrace the idea of personal responsibility and freedom on this issue too.
I agree in part.
This notion of all prohibitio..all law enforcement has simply not worked.
people are going to get high...alcohol or weed or whatever
focusing on more dangerous drug use limitations seems logical
drug enforcement is now an industrial complex of competing groups whose lifeblood depends on pumping it up for more employees, more tech and more cash
same as women’s violence groups
sexual abuse groups
you name it...according to any everything is an epidemic
Where’s the chart for the cartel’s income?
I can’t say I’m in favor of legal recreational drugs but when you think of the violence on the border and throughout Mexico it is a pretty convincing argument for legalization.
Conservatives need to start taking the comittment to Liberty more seriously, or many Conservative “mmall/limited government” political mantras fall on some Conservatives desire to use the law for their own “social engineering” desires.
Christians in particular should actually listen to Jesus.
He was not a reformer of government, he sought that persons themselves should reform/repent (change their way of thinking).
He denied Satan’s offer for the keys to the kingdoms of the world - secular power.
He said that His kingdom was not of this world; that it was a kingdom He was preparing for you, not one He expected you to build for him.
And he said that when His kingdom reigned on earth it would be at a time when His law was written on our hearts, NOT when we had written our version of his law into secular government.
The one thing many of the “fringe” sects of Christianity have going for them is that they try to live by those teachings better than do most Christians. They live very moral Christian lives NOT because of what secular law tells them to do, but because their beliefs tell them to; and they don’t seek to use secular law to impose how they think we should live on others.
I think social Conservatives are mostly confused on this issue. Like all Conservatives they want “big government” to not impinge on their beliefs, but they occasionally are willing to use “big government” to try to get the law to tell others to do “the right thing”.
Seems to be one of those counter-intuitive things that maybe a society has to learn through the experience of hard knocks. Yet there is a principle at work here that when ignored seems to have negative effects on society:
a government has no right to interfere with an individual's freedom as long as he is not interfering with another's freedom.
I also find myself want to put in terms of "decriminalizing" rather than "legalizing" than drug abuse. I think it may be an important distinction simply because it's a statement of laissez-faire rather than an endorsement. Obviously, a healthy society doesn't want its members hurting themselves and can be an influence against self destruction. But not so obviously, the greater harm is in deciding to force another not to harm himself.
Amazing but true Friedman quote: "The role of the government is to protect the drug cartel." He also incisively explains how it is utterly immoral for "our" government to make a criminal out of someone and ruin his life in prison because he's caught carrying or smoking marijuana. The negatives of this kind of government intrusion and coercion far outweigh the positives.
Milton Friedman - short YouTube clip:
Milton Friedman - longer (but good) YouTube clip
In case you have not seen my idea before:
Last year I lost a dear relative who had paid into Medicare her entire life. When she got cancer the fedgov said that the treatment that would give her a shot at survival was too expensive considering her 75 years. They put her on hospice and pumped her full of morphine until she died.
Why dont we have hospice for drug addicts and alcoholics?
They have a terminal disease and most are not interested in treatment.
No, we should not legalize drugs.
When someone is picked up for possession or commits multiple DUIs we give them the choice of jail w/ rehab or drug abuse hospice.
The hospice supplies a bunk, three hot meals, and all the drugs they want. Any drug. For free, just like Grandma got.
The addict can opt to leave at any time if they go to rehab or jail as appropriate. If they stay, they must agree to mandatory birth control (dont need no crackbabies) and a DNR (do not resuscitate) order in case they OD.
The problem with drug addicts is that they try to recruit more users to fund their habit. They also are responsible for a large percentage of crime, prostitution, etc.
Terrorists, e.g., the Taliban, get their funding from drugs.
Removing the addicts defunds the narcos from Afganistan to our own cities. Crooked pols and cops will lose out.
We could save not only on prisons, but also on medical care, the war on drugs, and the damage wrought by crime.
The libertarian side of me says, If they want to kill themselves, who are we to stand in their way?
The conservative side of me says, I dont want them in my neighborhood.
So our society is FORCING Grandma to shoot up morphine while we spend thousands saving the life of a crackhead who ODs. The crackhead would LOVE to shoot up morphine every day.
Once again, why dont we allow the addicts to opt for hospice where they can party until they croak?
I agree that people should be responsible for their own actions. with Obamacare the “too expensive” line will be closer to 65, not 75.
The idea of letting addicts just use the drugs they want to is similar to how we deal with alcohol, now, if a person wants to sit at home and drink himself to death, there is no law against that. Only if they drive drunk do we TRY to limit that or give some consequences or if they sell alcohol to minors. there is rehab and Aa for those that want help.
Your idea won’t work for addicts —hospice—for only 2 reasons:
1. You need a diagnosis of terminal illness within a year or so time frame.
2. The addicts into hospice will not be compliant and will cause problems for hospice facilities.
With the choice of jail or rehab, that is very often not the case. If they are selling, or in some cases possession, they go to prison, in most, not all states. Most do not have the lawyers that the actors or singers have.
So you're going to give people the choice between jail and drug abuse hospice for marijuana or alcohol possession?
Why not simply follow the Constitution and let each state regulate intrastate drug policies?
I did not mention what to do about legalizing MJ. Alcohol is legal; DUI is not.
Your point about the states is interesting. Maybe a state could set up their own hospice system. I hear a lot of “the states are laboratories for trying out new policies”.
What I envision is a hospice for the most serious drug addicts who are the ones causing the most problems in our society.
BTW, when I came up with the idea, I was sure that it was original. Then I found out that Denmark already does something similar.
No kidding about the “not compliant”.
I would expect the hospice to be a very violent, wild place. When you concentrate the Cream of the Crap and give them all the drugs they want....
I expect them to party themselves to death in short order. A self-solving problem.
As for the year terminal rule, change the rule.
Colorado and Washington have ballot measures to legalize mj, both of which hold slight leads in the polls. Suppose one or both passes. Should fedgov keep hands off?
Most drug users use on a casual or recreational basis; diehard addicts are the minority by far. So your hospice system seems rather inappropriate.
I’d say legalize drugs entirely and let the situation organically resolve itself.
Unless we are going to have selective enforcement of federal law, I would say, “Change the federal law to allow states to “experiment””.
That said, I would cut the fed funds for the DEA and direct them to concentrate on the big fish who import the deadliest drugs.
For example, the largest drug money launderer in America has continued his very lucrative business for over 20 years through dim and pubbie administrations without an investigation. Newspaper reporters have privately told me that the operation is well known, but their editors have forbidden them to investigate or write about what they know.
The corruption of the system by bribes and intimidation are the core of our problem. For example, why did the fedgov suddenly decide to crack down on California’s medical MJ outlets? Could it be because the cartels were seeing a drop in sales?
To me, this is the MOST important reason to attack the demand for drugs. Take the profit out of heroin and you hurt the Taliban, organized crime, crooked pols, crooked cops, et al.
The libertarian in me says “legalize”, but that is politically impossible.
The path back to Constitutional freedoms will take a generation of fighting in the political arena.
One step at a time seems possible.
IOW, piss on the Tenth Amendment. Let big daddy fedgov use the expansive Commerce Clause to ‘allow’ states to experiment as much or little as it sees fit.
I find it interesting that there is such strong libertarian/Constitutionalist sentiment on FR. A while back, anyone advocating loosening our drug prohibitions would get flamed.
I am happy that this is happening on FR and in the Republican Party. The country is becoming more liberty oriented and that is very positive.
I expect it tracks drug war spending - as PapaNew quoted Milton Friedman, "The role of the government is to protect the drug cartel."