The War of Drugs is a dividing line between Conservatives and Libertarians. As a Libertarian, I do not support the War of Drugs, but the average Conservative does support it, as they feel that the government has a role in protecting the civil society, and may infringe on some private behavior to do so. Since this is a dividing issue, I know I will ruffle the feathers of some who I normally can find common ground with on issues of economics and limited government. I simply ask that you consider my stance with an open mind.
For the record, I don’t do any sort of drugs aside from the occasional over-the-counter stuff for colds and allergies. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette in my entire life, so rest assured that I am not some pothead trying to legalize drugs so that I can get high.
The following video is an interview with Milton Friedman, who’s widely revered as recent history’s strongest advocate of capitalism and freedom. He served as an economic adviser to President Reagan, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. Below the video, I’ve combined several bullet points that the video discusses regarding the Prohibition of drugs.
- Prohibition does NOT eliminate supply
- Prohibition creates gang violence
- Prohibition distorts normal free markets
- Prohibition drives people from mild drugs to strong drugs
- Prohibition CREATES drugs like crack
- Prohibition is responsible for tens of thousands of murders every year
- Prohibition destroys inner-cities,
- Prohibition turns citizens into criminals
- Prohibition PROTECTS large drug cartels
- Prohibition criminalizes those who aren’t hurting anyone (the majority of drug arrests are for simple possession).
- Prohibition creates a precedent for the government to regulate private behavior simply because they believe it is undesirable. If fact, Prohibition HAS done just that, leading to smoking bans, seat-belt and helmet laws, gambling bans, trans fat bans, gun bans, etc. Eventually leading to today when the government is regulating the thermostats in our homes and what light bulbs we can use. Once you give the government permission to criminalize private behavior, the government simply will never stop.
Although ending Prohibition would lead to more people becoming drug addicts, those people are NOT victims, as they have chosen to take the drugs themselves. The child who’s murdered in a drive-by shooting between drug gangs IS a victim. Since the Prohibition of drugs leads directly to tens of thousands of additional murders every year, you’re simply trading tragedies. I have far less pity for the addict who chose to take drugs than for the innocent bystanders caught in inner-city crossfire between the gang wars that Prohibition enables.
Do I think that heroin should be able to be purchased at Wal-Mart in the candy aisle? Absolutely not! We can decriminalize drugs, while still regulating the sale of said drugs, just as we do with cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs.
What about the addicts? Well, what about the alcoholics? What about those who are addicted to coffee? What about people who are addicted to World of Warcraft? The Prohibition of drugs doesn’t eliminate addiction, and in fact, doesn’t even eliminate the supply of drugs in the first place. Even WITH the Prohibition, we still have to deal with drug addicts already, and as already stated, Prohibition drives users to harder drugs, which are far more addicting in the first place.
Prohibition of alcohol was repealed for good reasons. Unfortunately, that was a time when the government required the consent of the governed, and actually had to amend the Constitution to ban things. Nowadays, the government can just ban, regulate, and outlaw anything it wants to without having to worry about going through the process of amending the Constitution. Why have the Republicans (who are supposed to be the party of limited Constitutional government) conceded on the issue of requiring a Constitutional amendment for the government to ban things? Because it was Richard Nixon (a Republican) who started the War of Drugs in the first place.
If we want to end things like Obamacare, Cap-and-Trade, and other government overreaches into our private lives, we have to be consistent, and stand for the Constitution, even in cases where we disagree with the behavior. If we’re willing to ignore the Constitution in cases where we agree with the motives of the government, we’re screwed. If we think its okay for the government to regulate private behavior in the form of drugs, how can we argue that it’s unconstitutional for the government to force us to buy health care, to be a certain weight, or to take away our salt?