Sunday, December 26, 2010

The War on Drugs - A Tea Party Perspective

I ask my fellow Tea Partiers and Americans in general to consider the lack of wisdom in our war on drugs. The news story that prompted me to return to this subject are the wikileaks involving the DEA. The extent to which a civilian law enforcement agency has come to operate an international intelligence gathering mission is astounding in its breath. It is also frightening in that we have historically built protections between agencies and the armed forces dedicated to defeating foreign foes, and domestic law enforcement agencies, to protect the rights of average American citizens. The cables reveal the extent to which drug trafficking is enriching foreign despots and the way in which these leaders seek to co-opt the DEA to do their dirty work for them.

So why is this a Tea Party issue? Here is my case:

  • Cost. The article points to the ubiquity of drug trafficking world wide. Effectively winning a war on an inanimate substance requires huge resources that we just don't have. Drug legalization would simultaneously put the drug kingpins out of business while vastly reducing the need for law enforcement spending on interdiction, etc. Those resources could be split between returning the money to the taxpayer and more effective policing elsewhere.
  • Control of the Border. The steady flow of narcotics across the border makes securing the border much more difficult. While the bandits that traffic in human beings are violent enough, adding the military paraphernalia of the drug cartels has made border enforcement a nightmare. The nation needs to solve the border security issue, the cross-border flow of drugs makes this that much more difficult.
  • Death. Americans keep dying in the war on drugs. Either innocent bystanders or government agents are regularly dying at the hands of the drug cartels. The money to pay for their weapons would dry up if drug manufacture were normalized.
  • Freedom. This is the ultimate Tea Party issue. We believe in free markets, except when we don't, like in the case of drugs. But drug use is not different in any significant way from alcohol or tobacco use (or Four Loko use) for that matter. We don't interfere with Americans' rights to recreational activities, even if some of them overindulge. When people overindulge, we hold them accountable and get them help, if necessary (and I don't mean government help, I mean the kind of help you give to friends.)
I would love to hear from Tea Party supporters as to why I am wrong about the war on drugs. But you better bring your best arguments, defending a "war" started by Nixon that we have been losing for almost 40 years is pretty tough.


  1. So long as there is a single place where the drug-pushers do not have total access to a single market-- including children whose parents do not want their ABILITY to choose stolen-- there will be an illegal market.

    You also ignore the non-drug lord crimes involved, since addicts generally don't manage a legal source of income. Then there's the human cost of lives destroyed, including the lives of those who happen to depend on those who are eaten alive by currently illegal drugs.

    Perhaps try arguing from places it's already at least defacto legal, rather than theory?

  2. Foxfier,
    Human lives are already being destroyed. The addicts need to steal because the cost of drugs is so high. Legalization would bring down the price. Treatment would be less difficult if the actual consumption were not illegal, making it easier for addicts to admit to the addiction and get help.
    In my job, if I were an alcohol abuser, admitted to it and got treatment, I would be granted sick leave to do so. If I said I had a narcotics problem, I would lose my clearance and be fired.
    As far as de facto legalization, this is not that helpful, because de jure legalization is necessary to build the infrastructure necessary to put the drug lords out of business.

    LCR, thanks for the link.

  3. The economics appear correct, and demand would increase--a lot. The upside of the (inefficiently fought?) war is that the number of addicts is much less than otherwise. Unfortunately, any illegal, yet lucrative enterprise will create its own black market. Looks like an almost impossible fight, being fought by an inefficient, corrupt organization whose budget will shrink if they win.