View Full Version : "The Economist" on the Drug War
It may seem distasteful to think of drugs as a business, responding to normal economic signals. To do so, however, is not to deny the fact that the drugs trade rewards some of the world's nastiest people and most disagreeable countries. Nor is it to underestimate the harm that misuse of drugs can do to the health of individuals, or the moral fury that drug-taking can arouse. For many people, indeed, the debate is a moral one, akin to debates about allowing divorce, say, or abortion. But moral outrage has turned out to be a poor basis for policy.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the United States. Here is the world's most expensive drugs policy, absorbing $35 billion-40 billion a year of taxpayers' cash. It has eroded civil liberties, locked up unprecedented numbers of young blacks and Hispanics, and corroded foreign policy. It has proved a dismal rerun of America's attempt, in 1920-33, to prohibit the sale of alcohol. That experiment—not copied in any other big country—inflated alcohol prices, promoted bootleg suppliers, encouraged the spread of guns and crime, increased hard-liquor drinking and corrupted a quarter of the federal enforcement agents, all within a decade. Half a century from now, America's current drugs policy may seem just as perverse as Prohibition.
This article appears in the 7/28-8/3 issue of The Economist, and sheds much light on the nature of the Drug War, albeit familiar light. I do not yet have a copy of the magazine, and pulled this from the link above, which I found via an article in the current Week Online (#196, 7/27/2001) at www.drcnet.org
A friend of mine is relating to me the harrowing tale of her own weekend; having left the big bad city (Seattle) to visit her family in a nearby small town, she was hauled from her car at gunpoint, robbed, and locked in a small shed as four apparent button-men sought the weasel in a drug deal gone bad. I don't have the whole story, yet, but there are two ironic things I would like to note of the Drug War:
* In 1996, I spent the afternoon over coffee and joints with a dealer in Oregon whom I hardly knew at all. During the course of the afternoon, he mentioned to me three times that he was going to go over to a client's house and "shoot his big toe off." What for? Eighty bucks. Strange: in the more dedicated (Eugene, Oregon hippy stratum) and urban (Seattle, Washington stoners) markets, I don't encounter violence. It was in the off-market, Salem, that I met my first armed-and-dangerous weed dealer. The current tale my friend relates reinforces my notion that it is unstable markets in smaller demographic groups that are the least sophisticated, the most clumsy, and the most brutal. (This is not reflected in a recent NYC murder of a pot dealer; the cops are calling it drug-related, even though the drugs were left and the cash stolen. Hmm ....)
* None of it would happen at all if marijuana and other substances deemed too dangerous for human judgement were legal, and left to human judgement. Such as the toe-shooting idea: eighty bucks--one quarter of an ounce. If it was legal, you'd be shooting someone's toe off for the cost of a pack of cigarettes, maybe two. Say, ten bucks.
Let me also note, in reference to that second point, that a recent article at DRCNet puts the federal price tag on a kilogram of heroin, diluted to 40% purity, is worth approximately US$290,000 on the streets. Given that figure, considering the value of cocaine, and bearing in mind that unless the world's governments are messing with the precious metals marijuana costs more than gold ....
Considering that drug addicts in this country, in order to get help, must first confess to felonies ....
Considering that violence in the drug subculture is tied to two specific factors--poverty and education ....
Considering that the effect of the US Drug War has been devastating to women and ethnic minorities ....
Considering that it's $40 billion for domestic enforcement (an Economist number that seems low), billions in international enforcement, and a growing military commitment to assaulting South American trade ....
Considering that last year, US officials invaded the Oglala in a pot raid ....
Considering the militarization of police departments ....
I propose we end the American Drug War immediately. It's so bad that we have soldiers in Colombia, screaming diplomats giving the Aussies crap, and law enforcement on both sides of the US-Canadian border pointing fingers at one another while the drugs keep flowing. (I recall a recent MSNBC special on marijuana in which a Canadian law enforcement official offered an embittered thank-you to the marijauna exporters--for the cocaine, heroin, and other things that come in ... anyone who watched the special will easily note that he did not mention the money, the information, the public attention of a great city with great buds: yes, tourists come to check out your buds, people ... it's a lose-lose situation as long as it's illegal. Vancouver had, at one point--and may still--a problem with junkies dying on the street. Legalize and you can prevent random accidental overdoses like that. Most fatal overdoses come from overshooting too pure a product, since nobody expects purity in a black market.)
The Drug War must end. It's a human imperative.
Hey Tiassa, I AGREE. Talk is cheap. What is the plan???
I agree with much of what you had to say, I do think you're overstating the matter when you use the following:
Vancouver had, at one point--and may still--a problem with junkies dying on the street. Legalize and you can prevent random accidental overdoses like that. Perhaps you're just too young to remember alcoholics dying on the streets, both from 'overdosing' and inclement weather, to realize that the situation has been around for a long time and legalization is not the answer. Some of us aren't that young.
Thank you both ... there will always be much to consider.
Perhaps you're just too young to remember alcoholics dying on the streets, both from 'overdosing' and inclement weather, to realize that the situation has been around for a long time and legalization is not the answer.The problem is a little different when we compare heroin to alcohol. As I noted with the $290,000 stat, the kilo of heroin is, perhaps, 40% pure (I'll go as high as 60%, but that's my own speculation).
What happens at this point happened in Portland, Oregon, in the early-mid 90's. An unusual number of junkies turned up dead for a short period, and then the trend mysteriously stopped. The forensic connection between the dead was the purity of heroin: absolutely pure. Remember the Schwarzzeneggar/DeVito film Twins? The quote went something like, "You're just some dumb schmuck who got lucky and found something and you don't know what to do with it." This was the Portland PD's explanation: that a one-time dealer scored a quantity of fine heroin by some circumstance of accident (it's always possible, what with police corruption and other factors returning confiscated drugs to the streets) and dealt off as quickly as possible, and without cutting the heroin. The junkies, accustomed to bad product, loaded up their syringes in the usual manner, and gave themselves between two and three times the usual dose.
This problem will largely disappear when drugs are legal and regulated; the purity issue will be tantamount to the alcohol issue of drinking Absolut versus homemade everclear. Sure, people will still be on the black market with unstable product, but the number of addicts and the number of overdose casualties will come down.
So what to do about it? The question of the day, of sorts. The short outline:
1) Legalize: Benefits include quality control, tax revenues, and more accurate consumption-related data (including work-related accidents, drug-induced car wrecks, domestic violence, &c.).
2) Educate: Part of the current problem with the Drug War is that the indoctrinated children eventually discover that they were lied to. It's easy to tell the ones who never figure this out: they still insist on a scenario which seems to declare the violence of drug prohibition to be unique among prohibitions, though history shows this isn't true. In the end, the lack of education has the effect of augmenting the number of poor decisions made in reactionary states. How many times have I had to advise my friends that just because marijuana won't kill you the way they said doesn't mean coke won't make your brain explode. To the other, I've never known a coke casualty, either, despite the statistics. I've known a couple of heroin casualties, and at least one meth casualty, and also a host of faces and names that have drifted off into obscurity for whom I can only hope for the best. Education will also help parents of at-risk kids: only three or so years ago, a private firm introduced a drug test for your kids--sneak into their room at night, cut a lock of their hair, package it, send it to the company, and they will allegedly tell you what drugs your children are using. This kind of violation of trust, while seemingly necessary in some parents' minds, flies in the face of the familial respect taught many young people, and encourages them only to break further away from the familial norm. Education will fix a lot of what's wrong with drug use.
3) Rehabilitation: It seems like a litany here--addicts presently must confess to crimes in order to get treatment. To receive addiction treatment for any of a number of substances acknowledges that the addict has behaved illegally. This mindset is not conducive to rehabilitation.
4) Economy: Like most social ills, drug abuse finds much of its cause nested amid economic issues. There is a catch-22 here: Economic equalization will reduce these social ills; reduction of these social ills will help economic equalization. But please realize that among the most destitute of society, sniffing Testor's glue is a preferable state of existence to reality.
5) Amnesty: Set the drug-war prisoners free--that is, all possession, distribution, and use offenses officially overlooked. The crimes against property and life must necessarily stand, for being high is no excuse for murder, as such. But right now, as the number of prison beds devoted to possession, distribution, and use increases, the number of prison beds for crimes against property and life dwindles--and this is amid a trend of building prisons faster than schools.
Legalization is the necessary step. Education is the key. A stronger Economy will discourage drug abuse, and Rehabilitation will be an easier step to take under legalization. The Amnesty? Hey, right now violent criminals are seeing their sentences cut short to accommodate those nasty hippies taking up the bedspace. 25 years for carrying a joint and my girlfriend's Tylox prescription (her jacket tied around my waist, and she walking arm-in-arm with me)? I can go out and rape your sister at knifepoint in a parking lot and get a lot less time for that. Isn't there something amiss with that? Especially when you consider that I'll get out before my minimum for parole because there's too many dope smokers needing accommodation?
But there it is, sir ... I submit to you the compressed outline for what has to happen to help people live in harmony with their drugs. I will remind here that marijuana became illegal, for any practical purpose, in 1937 in the US, and that the UN has pledged the end of species Cannabis by 2010. We apparently know better than extraneous nature why that plant is on this earth; coca and opium, as well.
Destruction is not the only solution.
Obviously you feel strongly about Canabis. The plan is sound. The next step is in implementation. Do you feel strongly about the issue to work on the implementation of your plan? Do we have any members who will support such a plan?
OR are you debating for the sake of debate? If not
Then we can go to the next phase - that is implementation of the plan.
I'm not going to dance with you again after the way you botched your end of the Chinese Drug War conversation. But I will point out something I related at the time:
I still remember how much it upset me when Oscar, a Black heroine addict, hit the streets after having been incarcerated for 'boosting' ('shoplifting' in the common vernacular) and was dead within six hours from an OD thanks to the purer shit that was making its way onto the streets. He was a pretty decent sort. Oh, and that was back in the '60's, in New York State - so what happened in Oregon was just a replay, though a few years later (quite a few, I would imagine). So again, what's new? The above took place quite a while ago, like maybe before you were born.
Guess things happen a lot later on the West Coast and you seem to like playing the same record over and over again.
However you wish to reinforce yourself, fine. But you seem to be missing the point. You have compared alcohol and heroin use in order to dismiss the point, despite the fact that the source article for this present thread addresses the spectre of our Constitutional Prohibition, as well. So I'm left wondering what the hell your point is. You have pointed out what we already know: that Prohibition is bad for society, with your little Oscar story.
The simple fact is that in the Chinese Drug War thread, you held the stance that it's no business of yours what happens to other people. That's fine. Then shut the hell up and go hide under your rock, old man.
It seems that you're only willing to examine the comparison 'twixt the problems of heroin and alcohol in order to avoid giving any consideration to the state of the society around you, and to mask that indifference to human beings by being an insulting old fart. We know you're a cold bastard: it's your right to be one.
In the meantime, start yourself your own thread about how much you hate people and wish they would either make your own life easier or go away. It seems the only purpose other people have in the context of your posts. I know it's easier to feel you're doing something right by maintaining the status quo, but to consciously maintain it indicates that you give a damn about the subject, and, once again, that damn seems to be taking the form of your lack of human compassion. Get over yourself and stop wasting people's time.
I mean, seriously: In the Chinese Drug War thread you avoided the question of whether these people are actually guilty, an ethical question posed by many international groups. Futhermore, you dodged the question of whether you believe everything your government tells you, so my assumption is that, since you trust the Chinese government, you must also trust every word that came from the mouths of Clinton, Reagan, two Bushes, a Carter, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy ... should I just continue all the way back to George III for you, maybe give you a nostalgic bender for your own lost youth? The end result is that you're pissing away your credibility in an attempt to justify your dismissive attitude.
Here, in this thread, you're trying to avoid the issue by comparing heroin and alcohol-related deaths. And, here in this thread, you're ignoring the posited reasons why that comparison is invalid. It seems that the only thing you can come up with is a few age-based insults. Try harder, old man, or don't try at all.
Do you ever have anything useful to contribute?
I won't, of course, be holding my breath.
Show us what you've got, old fart. Show us the wisdom of the ages, and not some bitterness cultivated to hide your disappointment in your own flagging youth and sense of vision.
I just want to say that I loved your post and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I'd like to invite you to post your opinion to my groups as well:
Did you happen to see the histories of the drug war on the History Channel? They were excellent and show that nearly all drug laws were made in a roundabout way (to get away with what is essentially unconstitutional) in order to discriminate against some particular group of foreignors - which makes them all the more nasty.
There was also a nice Justice Files that has been repeated recently that includes Howard Marks - the British "gentleman" marijuana dealer.
I'm not going to dance with you again after the way you botched your end of the Chinese Drug War conversation. But I will point out something I related at the time:
I missed this discussion, I hope you won't mind my comments based upon little information:
I still remember how much it upset me when Oscar, a Black heroine addict, hit the streets after having been incarcerated for 'boosting' ('shoplifting' in the common vernacular) and was dead within six hours from an OD thanks to the purer shit that was making its way onto the streets. He was a pretty decent sort. Oh, and that was back in the '60's, in New York State - so what happened in Oregon was just a replay, though a few years later (quite a few, I would imagine).
Chagur - why is this relevant? The point is not that drugs do not do damage to people - certainly they do - whether cigarettes, alcohol, mj or a prescription from a doctor...
The point is that the decision to partake of a substance is an individual's and not a government's.
I missed this discussion, I hope you won't mind my comments based upon little information: I was going to refer you back to my post, I did add a link to the original discussion, but I see that you apparently found it.
Too bad you didn't read it all. Hopefully you read enough to see the relevance of the 'Oscar' incident that I related. If not, go back and read the rest when you have more time.
It would cause such havock as our country has never seen? Really? How? It seems to me that Prohibition was repealed in this country largely because of the massive increase in social violence that occurred under Prohibition.
Imagine trying to solve the worlds problems stoned............whee!Given the amount of introspection, retrospection, and otherwise taking place among stoners, I'd give better odds at solutions being found once everyone has gotten sick of the artificial stumbling blocks of society. The last several years have been good to my intellectual and spiritual development, and I actually do solve problems better these days than before because of the methods I realized while stoned. What problems do you specifically see that fall into the realm of objectivism and not superstition?
Imagine trying to get everyone who is stoned going the same direction?This as opposed to ...? Again, I have to ask you to be a little more specific; the generalities of your superstitions are difficult to respond to because they have no basis.
It would ruin the economy, because the productivity of the workers would go down, way down!!! You cannot demonstrate this. As a starter, I shall endeavor to find a link to the University of Chicago/NORC, which performed a study of workplace accidents and drugs; they found no significant difference, though this was a study of working people who used drugs, and did not enter into the idea of using drugs at work.
Im against drug legalizationSure, it's your tax money to waste. But I'm willing to bet cash that there are people in your life who you don't know are stoned because you can't tell the difference. Apparently, they're so much more dangerous than the sober ones and the heavy drinkers that they should go to jail just for smoking a joint? So you can waste your tax money however you want, but I fail to understand why you would want to use it to hurt people. Keep building more and more prisons to house the users if you want; soon, the only ones left to deal with in society will be the armed robbers, the child molesters, the stalkers, and a heavily armed, scared population that has no prison space to house these deviants.
And you can look forward to however many more years of manufactured culture: Santana or Papa Roach? It's your call. $10 oil-painting seascapes at the Red Lion expo, or really good art? These are, of course, subjective, but a Muzak culture is just fine by me; I'll just smoke some dope and leave y'all alone. Oh, but leaving y'all alone would be soooooo dangerous, wouldn't it?
By all means, sir, justify your superstitions.
I'm going to depart from the usual theme:
Start making sense.
Or else just let it go and save both of us the agony of watching you realize the importance of your having nothing important to say.
The point is that the decision to partake of a substance is an individual's and not a government's.Good soul, I believe you have it exactly.
I did, unfortunately, miss the History Channel specials. I'm sure I'll get another chance to catch them; MSNBC did a weird special a few weeks back on the Canada-US marijuana trade that would have been somewhat enlightening except, for all the good information they offered, little of it was new to me; I did get a comic benefit from it though--it's a celebratory time when you can talk about buying, smoking, and selling marijuana openly on a news program.
And, speaking of celebrations, let's throw our hands up for civil liberties. In Oregon, in 1995, the state courts ruled that field sobriety tests, because they are admissable evidence collected in search of a crime to prosecute, fall under the scope of the Miranda Act; you are entitled to a reading of your rights and the presence of a lawyer for a breathalyzer. At any rate, the Oregon courts have apparently topped themselves. I caught a news article the other day informing me that police in Oregon now have to tell you they're police officers before they ask you to buy or sell drugs, buy or sell sex, &c. And there's also been a reestablishment in the courts of late of the curtilege of one's home; I believe it was also in Oregon that low-altitude IR fly-by searches required warrants, and the ruling was broad enough to cover optical listening devices, such as a laser aimed against a windowpane to measure the sound vibrations and listen into a conversation taking place inside your home. Looks like John Ashcroft is going to have his hands busy if he intends to escalate the Drug War via the AG's office.
I haven't yet given your link a look-see; I'll check it tomorrow, as it's getting late enough that I'd rather not start anything tremendously new.
Your kind words are much appreciated: I offer the words of Emma Goldman: Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to Liberty.
It's not like you're espousing dangerous, offensive, or bigoted superstitions. I just tend to think you're examining the data set from a different perspective which tends toward priorities other than effect and result. It's not like you threatened to stamp out a culture or endorsed murder. And I have yet to hear you say that something is scientifically valid because it can't be demonstrated. And it doesn't seem to be out of disdain for other human beings that you've chosen the stance you have.
The Drug War is an issue close to me for obvious reasons, but since it is a civil affair, it must be communicated to people in a manner that will address their notions of civil responsibility. Burying you eyebrow-deep in a shite-slinging contest has no purpose. I'd like to think there are answers to the issues you addressed in your last post relevant to the topic, but I'm waiting for you to be more specific.
I can assume reasons motivating your expressed position, but as Sciforums demonstrates, all I'm arguing against there is my assumption of what you think.
In that sense, sorry to bump you down on the shite list, but if it's a slow day and nobody else is being ridiculous, I'm can certainly bend my criteria and try to find some time to amuse you with an apoplectic fit. ;)