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?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.
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Lower the price of drugs, by eliminating the risk premium that must exist to cover expected loss from seizure, arrest, etc.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We saw this with the end of Prohibition. Today's Al Capones are drug king pins.
- 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.