Skip to comments.Have We Lost the Drug Wars?
Posted on 01/08/2013 10:59:00 AM PST by Kaslin
Forty-odd (exceedingly odd, I might add) years ago, who would have envisioned a national war against drugs? Nobody took drugs -- nobody you knew, nobody but jazz musicians and funny foreign folk. Then, after a while, it came to seem that everybody did. Drugs became a new front in the war on an old social culture that was taking hard licks aplenty in those days.
I still don't understand why people take drugs. Can't they just pour themselves a nice shot of bourbon? On the other hand, as Gary S. Becker and Kevin M. Murphy argue, in a lucid piece for the Wall Street Journal's Review section, prison populations have quintupled since 1980, in large degree thanks to laws meant to decrease drug usage by prohibiting it; 50,000 Mexicans may have died since 2006 in their country's war against traffickers, and addiction has probably increased.
Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Murphy, a University of Chicago colleague, argue for putting decriminalization of drugs on the table for national consideration. The federal war on drugs, which commenced in 1971, was supposed to discourage use by punishing the sale and consumption of drugs. It hasn't worked quite that way.
"[T]he harder governments push the fight," the two argue, "the higher drug prices become to compensate the greater risks. That leads to larger profits for traffickers who avoid being punished." It can likewise lead "dealers to respond with higher levels of violence and corruption." In the meantime, Becker and Murphy point out, various states have decriminalized marijuana use or softened enforcement of existing prohibitions. Barely two months ago, voters in Colorado and Washington made their own jurisdictions hospitable to the friendly consumption of a joint.
The two economists say full decriminalization of drugs would, among other things, "lower drug prices, reduce the role of criminals in producing and selling drugs, improve many inner-city neighborhoods, [and] encourage more minority students in the U.S. to finish high school." To the Journal's question, "Have we lost the war on drugs?" 89.8 percent of readers replied, "Yes."
One isn't deeply surprised to hear it. National tides seem presently to be running in favor of abortion and gay marriage -- two more elements of the culture wars that began, contemporaneously, with the battle for the right to puff pot. Swimming against powerful tides is no politician's idea of a participatory sport. Conceivably, armed with practical (i.e., $$$$$$) reasons for decriminalizing drugs, advocates of such a policy course will prevail. We can then sit around wondering what all the fuss was about.
What it was about -- you had to have been there to remember now -- was the defense of cultural inhibitions. Sounds awful, doesn't it?
As the counterculture saw things, inhibitions -- voluntary, self-imposed restraints -- dammed up self-expression, self-realization. They dammed up a lot more than that, in truth: much of it in serious need of restraint and prevention.
The old pre-1960s culture assigned a higher role to the head than to the heart. Veneration of instincts risked the overthrow of social guardrails that inhibited bad, harmful and anti-social impulses. The drug culture that began in the '60s elevated to general popularity various practices, modes, devices, and so forth that moved instinct -- bad or good, who cared? -- to the top of the scale of values. There was a recklessness about the enterprise -- do whatever turns you on, man! -- incompatible with sober thought: which was fine with an era that had had it, frankly, with sober thought.
Drugs are very much a part of our time and culture, which is why the war on drugs looks more and more like a losing proposition. The point compellingly advanced by Becker and Murphy may win out over the next decade. If so, the drug gangs may disappear, the prisons disgorge tens of thousands. Will things in general be as good as they might have been had the culture walked a different path 40 years ago -- the path of civilized "inhibition"? Ah. We get down here to brass tacks.
“Have we lost the drug wars?”
Not nearly as much as you might think. When cops arrest someone for most any crime, and they are in possession, they often drop the other charges and prosecute for possession, since it is easier to prove.
IOW, the drug charge is often a form of plea bargaining that makes the courts run more efficiently. If drugs were made legal, then those other charges would be filed. I'm not sure prison populations would drop greatly.
The article makes it sound like most people in prison are non-violent non-criminal folks who got caught with a joint. There are some, no doubt, but they are certainly the exception.
Fiscal Conservatism and Social Conservatism are linked.
With the Great Society, the government established ground rules: personal responsibility doesn’t matter. Work ethic doesn’t matter. School and family do not matter. Do whatever you want — the government has tons of money and will do whatever it can to help you maintain a lifestyle that is fun and void of all responsibility.
Any Fiscal Conservative should read the above and say, “We need to cut back the government.”
And any Social Conservative should read the above and say, “It’s no wonder so many people have gotten involved in drugs over the past 40 or 50 years.”
One could say that “we’ve lost the drug war” — but I think it is more important to note that we’ve lost the “limited government” part of our heritage. With fewer social programs, we’d probably have a whole lot less reason to worry about people taking drugs.
I don't think this author has a firm grasp on the subject about which he writes.
The war is not against drugs anyway. The war is against the little guys trying to compete against the official government black-market drug trade.
Yes, they vote Democrat.
Nope. Nobody mentioned gay marriage back then, or even imagined it. It was the sexual revolution that started at the same time, and gay marriage is just the latest stage in the Rev.
40 years ago was 1973 - the year the DEA was created, so clearly drug use had already been growing for a while. Maybe the author missed the sixties?? :)
The drug war was lost back in the 1950s with the Beatniks and the 1960s with the Hippies,
and the 1970s with the Counter Culture movement began a systematic destruction of all things we consider normal up until today.
We lost our war on alcohol in the near absence of social programs. And why are we "worrying" about people taking drugs in any case?
Only jazz musicians and funny foreigners took drugs 40 years ago? This after the hippies. And it’s not as if drugs suddenly became illegal in 1971, though that may be when the war ramped up and got its name. Who could have envisioned a national war on drugs back then? Everyone who was alive during Prohibition or had heard of it, which was everyone.
This is a remarkably poorly written article.
Depends on the intent:
If the purpose was to keep people from taking drugs, yes, we lost it a long time ago.
If it was to create a whole new class of criminals to control (as described in a quote from Atlas Shrugs posted on FR many times), then no. It’s working perfectly.
depends upon your idea of victory...
have we stemmed the flow of and use of illegal drugs...NO..
have we given up our liberties, 4th amendment rights and slowly turned our country into a police state... YES
Do you believe they voted this town dry?
Well you won’t believe it when I tell you why
The mayor and his cousin and the chief of police
have the bootlegging all nailed down
Do you believe this town?
In 1948 I was still 4 yrs away from being old enough to join the Corps—had never heard of MJ—but one afternoon I picked up the daily news and there was sleepy-eyed robert mitcum busted!
The world began changing faster not that long after that...
Whoa! Great Minds, and only 8 seconds apart....
So, the outcome is that thieves and thugs get a free pass on their thieving and thuggery. Doesn't sound like a terribly good idea to me.
He does, however, seem to have a finely honed sense of sarcasm.
Years ago. Decades.