Thursday, January 3, 2019

Similarities between the War on Drugs and Gun Control

There's a big discussion in our corner of the 'net, bigger than I remember seeing in quite a while.  It's about the War on Drugs, and there are two distinct camps (for shorthand, let's call them the anti-drug camp and the anti-war camp).  Both sides are arguing intelligently and passionately, and making excellent points.  But it seems to me that both camps are speaking past each other.

As background, here are some links you should go and read before you go any further here.  Read the comments, too, which are packed full o' Smart.

I may have kicked over the anthill here.

Aesop replied in the comments, and then posted about it at his place.

Co-blogger ASM826 commented on both posts, and then left a clarification.

Peter stepped in with some examples from his history dealing with prison inmates.  You really should read this.

Reader Bill emailed with what I was going to put up as a guest post on the subject but I wanted to jump in with an idea that might clarify my (and I expect ASM826's) position.  I'll put it up later today, but for now we can put him in the same camp as Aesop and Peter.  Basically their position is that drugs have metastasized in the underclass and that not only destroys the lives of drug users (problem the lesser) but leads to a lot of crime against the wider society (problem the greater).

All of them are precisely correct with all of this.  While Thomas Hobbes was pretty pessimistic when he wrote that Man's life is "nasty, brutish, and short" that's the song you hear when you look upon the drug culture in the underclass.  Lots of death, misery, and criminal predation on the general population.  Essentially their point is that this is a huge problem that effects far more than just the addicts and we as a society should do something about it.

ASM826 and I point out that the "War On Drugs" has been a fifty year failure.  I don't really see how any reasonable person can argue with this.  We've spent north of a Trillion (with a "T") dollars, we've seen the local police militarize to the point that they all get Ninja'ed up and form a stick for no-knock raids that just might be at the right address, and we see the local governments "arrest" assets without convicting (or even charging) citizens.  There's also been an explosion of the prison population (which I'm less concerned about since these are not exactly choir boys).  With all that, drugs are for sale on every street corner in the land and overdose deaths are skyrocketing.  ASM826 and I are basically taking the position that half a century of trying has been a disaster, and we should stop banging our heads against this wall.

Both sides are right about where we are as a society right now.  The difference in opinion is about what to do.  This is where the similarity to gun control comes in, at least as I've been yacking about it.  I have proposed two questions to ask gun controllers about their proposed "solutions".  The questions are designed to make people clarify their thinking.  The questions are:
Rule #1.  Can the person proposing the law state what they think the law will accomplish?  Most of the time it seems that they can't.  For example, what good would banning bump stocks do?  They were (maybe) used in one crime in the Republic's history.  Is the goal really to prevent something that has only happened once?  Really?

Rule #2.  Can the person proposing the law state how likely the law is to accomplish the goal from Rule #1?  Considering that you can make a bump stock from a string and a key ring, is it rational to ban bump stocks? 
I try to take a practical view of things, and so anything that provides reasonable answers to both questions sounds, well, reasonable.  This applies to both guns and drugs: if someone actually could come up with a gun control proposal that had reasonable answers to both of these you wouldn't get any "Muh Second Amendment" from me.  Of course, I can't think of any gun laws that answer both of these in a reasonable manner, so that's all theoretical.

But in the interest of putting my pixels where my mouth is, let me take a stab at providing answers to these questions from the "we should declare victory in the War on Drugs and go home" perspective.  The proposal is that most or perhaps all drugs be decriminalized, offered for sale, and taxed.

Rule #1.  Can the person proposing the law state what they think the law will accomplish?  This is intended to accomplish five specific things: 

  1. Remove the perceived need to militarization of the police forces, no-knock raids, asset forfeiture, controls on how much you can deposit at your bank, etc.  It's caustic for the Republic and it costs us a lot of money.  It's an anti-tyranny goal.
  2. Improve the purity of the drugs on the market which will reduce overdose deaths.  Food and Drug purity laws would apply and so the heroin that Joe Junkie buys at the local Alcohol Beverage and Drug Emporium wouldn't be the equivalent of bathtub gin.  His gin isn't adulterated (like it was during the Prohibition days) and his smack shouldn't be either.
  3. Lower the price of drugs, by eliminating the risk premium that must exist to cover expected loss from seizure, arrest, etc.  
  4. Eliminate the massive profits that are flowing to drug cartels, which fund a bunch (admittedly not all) of the violence associated with illegal drug use.
  5. Generate a tax revenue stream that can be targeted towards providing detox centers for drug users who want to fight their addiction.

Laws about theft, driving under the influence, etc would fully apply to junkies who commit these crimes, just as they do today.  Peter, Aesop, and Bill are entirely correct that today these are not "victimless" crimes.

Rule #2.  Can the person proposing the law state how likely the law is to accomplish the goal from Rule #1?  Let's break these down by the five points above.

  1. No doubt some agencies will resist this - police unions, prison guard unions, the DEA, etc will rightly see the reduction of public funding as a threat to them.  However, this is more of a hinderance to getting decriminalization passed in Congress than in implementation.  In any case, I don't see any fundamental disagreement between the two camps in this as a goal.
  2. This seems a no-brainer, as the illegal drug market is replaced by a legal one.  It will be safer for both sellers and users, and legalization will probably attract big corporations who know how to mass produce pure products.  I'm not sure you'll see Superbowl advertisements for "The Champagne of heroin" but I don't think you need to for success here.
  3. This seems like an absolute no-brainer.  You are eliminating some very costly parts of the supply chain (machine guns, private armies, etc).  Not sure how big this is but it sure isn't zero.
  4. We saw this with the end of Prohibition.  Today's Al Capones are drug king pins.
  5. Tax money is notoriously fungible and is often diverted by politicians, but we see tax revenue streams from legal pot in places where it was legalized (e.g. Colorado).

So there you have it.  I may be wrong here, but at least I've shown my work (in admittedly excessive detail).  I'd like to see the same analysis from the other camp on what specifically they would do, and whether they expect it would work.


"Zack" said...

Borepatch = A+

Borepatch said...


Aesop said...

Sorry, sir: F.

And I'll break that grade down in detail, on my blog, only because trying to do it here in 4,096 character bites would probably kill me, and take a week. And frankly, be a rude intrusion.

But you've fairly staked out your position, and you deserve consideration of it, and an answer.

As to the suggestion, and mechanism, challenge accepted, and kudos for showing your work.

Beans said...

Under Question #1: Increasing Purity while lessening the side effects and potential oopsies…

Problem is, well, the drug users want the bad side effects. It's what they crave. Let's look at marijuana for a second. CBDs have been proven to be effective at appetite increase and mellowing the pain of cancer and the effect of cancer-fighting drugs upon the human body. It's one of the few real justifications for 'medical marijuana.' So Marinol was introduced. Controlled doses of CBD without any other chemicals or toxins. What do 'medical marijuana' users want? The scammers and the outright potheads want ever increasing levels of THC and other chemicals, increasing to the point of, as Aesop pointed out, people are actually overdosing on pot.

Then there's the weird 'reputation' thing. A drug dealer's stuff that gets a reputation for being dangerous is more sought out, more valuable. It's like the stupid thing with some alcohol users, who want the harshest and strongest stuff ever. But it's not just some drug users, it's most drug users that want the super-wowie. Part of it is the stupidity of the user, but part of it is the user's own body burning out from the toxins, and craving more and more of the toxins to get the same high. And this is also one of the reasons dealers cut their 'safe' heroin and cocaine with 'unsafe' levels of the various fentanyls, because their users want the harsher and stronger kick of doped hard drugs.

So the cleaner product argument is a false argument. Unfortunately.

The 'solution' of legalization must deal with this issue before I even begin to listen to any further arguments towards a non-criminal solution.

And, really, the only way to truly stop the drug 'epidemic' is to let it burn itself out, whether directly or indirectly.

Get caught with drugs? My solution to stop it is either prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, rigid prison sentences, loss of everything OR.. the person caught can take all their drugs at once, and no prosecution. Want drugs, really want drugs? Well, here's your one chance to experience all of your drugs.

This will kill off the dealers (who get caught) and the heavy drug dealers and, like a viral epidemic, the low-level users will eventually either clean up as their sources dry up, or graduate to stupid levels, get caught, go to jail or die.

Will Brown said...

May I suggest an editorial change regarding Rule 2? Edit to read: Can the person proposing the law state the legal and/or regulatory changes considered necessary for the law to accomplish the goal from Rule #1?

Provides specificity to the clarity, as it were.

Acts of legislation or regulation should be discouraged from being virtue signals in support of the proposer/supporter, to the extent that can be encouraged. I submit that my edit would tend toward that end if nothing else.

Further on Rule 2; your point 2 there under fails to take advantage of the Portugal experience at its fullest. Does Portuguese advertising offer inducements to drug use? If so, under what legal/regulatory constraints and/or implied obligations of the advertisement purchaser or product provider? Wouldn't it seem likely that US legalization efforts would also include this aspect of the legislative model? Simply pointing out the mechanisms employed by the Portuguese legislative model to manufacture, distribute, and market the products would more effectively address this point.

Old NFO said...

Look at Colorado... They 'legalized' pot, set up taxation, etc. purer product and all that. The result? An even bigger illegal drug trade than before, more DUIs, more homeless, more crime, etc.

waepnedmann said...

Bill AKA waepnedmann.
The ant hill:
I noticed that the three commenters, Aesop, Peter, and myself, who were relegated to the pro-war on drugs camp have their opinions formed by having been in the trenches on this so-called war.

Aesop on the front lines in an ER
I have a step-son who retired out as a paramedic in Richmond, CA.
You literally cannot conceive of what medical personnel not only witness, but with which they live and wake up to in their dreams.
PTSD is not only found in soldiers.

Peter as a prison Chaplin.

Myself: Twice my employment involved drug users and they damage they do: once as an MP in the Army (I was actually the NCOIC acting, for two months, at the maximum security cell bloc for an area confinement facility. Some of the troops returning stateside from The Land of Bad Things had drug problems and drug problems morphed into behavioral problems.

Near the end of my working life I found myself in need of employment. I was hired by the probation department for the rural county in which had grown up.
I worked there for twelve years with juveniles before being disabled out.
I was a sworn peace officer, but my job title was "Counselor".
I have heard of the probation department called, "Social Workers With an Attitude."
I did not start out or end up as a social worker. I just needed a job.
I had to remind myself, on many occasions, that these young people, some of whom had committed vicious crimes, were still a child of God, and my job was not to punish them.
Most people who work in the criminal justice system, from street cops to judges, become, at least secretly, hardened, cynical, racist, and discouraged.
We had a REALLY good probation officer that when Obama established the stimulus program found money for juveniles to be hired on at local businesses who who start them into a sort of apprenticeship program.
I was excited.
He was excited.
The kids got their first paychecks, went out and bought dope, and then, of course, failed their first drug test mandated by their employmers.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who begged protection from the do-gooders.
There is the law of unintended consequences and then there intentional harm inflicted by the progressives such as LBJ which was exposed by his famous statement regarding the desired results of the impliminatation of his War on Poverty.
Spare me the do-gooders.
And spare me being categorized as supporting the war on drugs as it is being waged.
Either figuratively bomb Hai-Phong harbor and the northern railroads and win the war or totally exit and let Darwin winnow humanity.
End every speech with the equivalent of "Carthage must be destroyed!" and know that it took two hundred years to destroy Carthage.
The Japanese took four generations to prepare their population to fight WWII.
This is a battle of morality.
Until the people do not have desire/need for drugs the war on drugs is a losing proposition.
This is fourth generation warfare inverted: instill the morality in our people such that they will have the morale to endure the generations of battle required to conquer the desire in an individual to achieve the altered state that drugs bring.
This will take propaganda, playing to people's emotions, the whole progressive playbook!
We got all the way back to:
Do we believe we should be free to choose?
Do we believe we know better than the other guy, because we are sooo much smarter and we know what is best and should tell them what to do for their own good?

Regarding my stance on the law I will quote an Irish Proverb:
"There is no human condition so terrible that the arrival of a police officer cannot make it worse."
I would qualify that with: It all depends on the cop, but calling the cops should not be a first option in most conflicts.

Old lawyer axiom: Only amateurs go to court.

Sevesteen said...

I agree with almost all of your arguments, but there's a bigger reason--if I'm not free to decide what can and can't go into my body, I'm less free.

Recreational drugs? Not my thing, but I should be allowed.
Motorcycle without a helmet? Not my thing, but I should be allowed.
Full Auto? I don't care much, but I should be allowed.

Motorcycle on drugs? Shooting while high? That's endangering others even if it's just beer.

And to make it more difficult or impossible for legitimate pain patients to get enough drugs because other people enjoy getting high? That's borderline evil. Relieving involuntary suffering is far more important to me than the natural consequences of recreational users' poor decisions.

Daniel Barger said...

The "War On Drugs" and the "War On Guns" are both just two facets in the ongoing REAL WAR being waged by political parasites from both sides. That war is "The War On Freedom". It's ALL part of the never ending efforts by power hungry politicians to destroy free America and ENSLAVE US so they can RULE US.

B said...

I'll go for your long as along with that, you stop spending money "Helping" those social programs, no addiction programs, no medical care (no Narcan, no support when you trash your liver into Cirrhosis, etc) no "intervention" at all. Let 'em live or die in their lifestyle. IF they do drugs and overdose, yeah, that's too bad. If they can't hold a job because they can't pass a piss test, then they can starve. If they are high and cause injury or death, toss 'em in the klink forever or until death. This, BTW, includes alcohol.

If we are gonna end the "war on (some) drugs, then we also need to stop mollycoddling the users, and let 'em deal with the consequences of their choices.

Rick C said...

"Motorcycle without a helmet? Not my thing, but I should be allowed."

OK, but your insurance rate's going to skyrocket, and if you cancel it and get into an accident, nobody has to patch you up if you can't pay.

McChuck said...

If 90% of A leads to B, and 90% of B leads to C, and we don't want C to happen, we must eliminate (or reduce) either A or B.

It's just this simple, people. Drug laws weren't instituted a bit over a century ago because we cared about what the druggies were doing to themselves. We put these laws in place because of what the druggies were doing to everyone else around them. Starving, filthy children. Theft. Robbery. Murder. Vagrancy, with all that accompanies it. This was all the result of legal drugs in the late 19th century.

People do not live in a vacuum. One moment inexorably follows the last. Decisions have consequences. Actions have repercussions. Traffic deaths have tripled since Colorado legalized pot. Los Angeles can't get anybody to sell legal pot, because the black market will always be more profitable than jumping through regulatory hoops and paying taxes.

Don't forget - you always get more of what you pay for.

Glen Filthie said...

I am seeing a pattern emerging. It's like watching the Gulf War: the guys that were there doing the heavy lifting are telling a way different story from the reporters and news correspondents here at home.

I used to shoot at the club with cops and ERT guys who got to go out and scrape kids off the pavement and guardrails at ungodly hours of the night. And then tell the family later. Or they had to call Dad at work and ask him why his daughter had $35,000 dollars stashed in her locker at school with a large stash of drugs. Or bury their buddies who were on the wrong end of an addict at the wrong time. They all respond the same way. I can see why they want to gun up, and live for the shift where all that happens is coffee and a donut. You can't pit Officer Friendly against the drug trade armed with nothing more than a flashlight and a .38.

The actural victims responses vary a bit. Some are in with the police and first responders - and some... I got into it with a prominent gun blogger years ago - most of you guys probly read his stuff too. His little brother was an addict and got into trouble young. He burned down the house they were all living in as kids. He died young. And yet, the fella was libertarian to the end. I guess he survived having a drug addicted loon in the family so maybe the rest of us should harden up and suck it up because rights! Civil liberties! And BFYTW!!! I wish I had a dime for every time somebody said that to me, HAR HAR HAR! I'd be a rich man!

You need to check out the Z Man's podcast, BP. In it, he compares the ancient Greeks to modern America rather than the Romans. Drugs will not destroy our civilization but they will certainly help the process along.

ASM826 said...

A quick check of traffic death rates in Colorado do not show a tripling of traffic fatalities since legalization of pot. When making up statistics, it helps to keep them realistic. I might not have checked if a 5% or 12% increase had been cited. But I figured a 300% rise in traffic fatalities would be front page news all over the country.