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A conservative wavelet of Drug Policy Reform discussion

Some interesting discussions going on on the conservative side of the internet.
Pajamas Media links to a fascinating piece at Austin Bay, which was inspired by an email from a reader.
This all got kicked off with this post about a Creators Syndicate Column on immigration, which included:

U.S. demand for illegal narcotics feeds Mexican corruption. Narcotics trafficking negatively affects political and economic conditions in Mexico (and thus has an impact on immigration). Getting real control of the borders means curbing America’s appetite for illegal drugs.

Glenn Reynolds responded to that:

Or just legalizing them, putting the narcotics lords out of business.

Ah, yes.
But the Austin Bay reader goes much further with a very well crafted argument that gets to the heart of the failure of prohibition (even if done with an extra bit of negativity toward drug users).

“Getting real control of the borders means curbing America’s appetite for illegal drugs.” Take an old GP’s word on the subject as an honest of the fact that nothing in the power of the United States government (or in the power of those governments of the several States) can achieve this end. First, it is not “America’s appetite for illegal drugs” but rather the desires (and in a slender minority of cases the *need*) for psychoactive substances — everything from alcohol and tobacco through the various chemicals covered by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, and the many inhalants used for “huffing” to induce cerebral hypoxia — that makes up this “appetite.” Think of the epidemiology in terms of political economics. Just as macroeconomic trends are created by millions of discrete microeconomic decisions, aggregate public health problems are defined by millions of individual cases. […]
Government is an agency armed and engined for the exercise of the police power in civil society and in international affairs. Its functions are punitive, and it can be described as persuasive only in that one is “persuaded” when somebody points a pistol at one’s head. It is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. And you can’t force a person to stifle his appetite for alcohol, tobacco, “controlled substances,” or toxic inhalants if he truly wants them. It’s impossible to prevent efforts at self-destructively perverse behavior even when you’ve got an individual in a prison cell on a 24-hour-a-day suicide watch. The exercise of the police power to such an end is not only intrinsically ineffective but ultimately destructive to civil society. It not only puts that government into a state of war with a huge portion of the same population it’s constituted to serve but also guarantees that the officers of that government will be corrupted either by the manifold opportunities to profit from the desire for the prohibited substances or a corrosively fanatical zeal for the exercise of normative control. What’s worse? Government as prostitute or government as dominatrix? You’re readily able to make a comparison as regards the matter of illegal drugs. What we’re getting right now is *both*

Excellent job articulating the fundamental failure of the concept of a drug war.

The Controlled Substances Act and all other precedent and subsequent legislation at all levels – federal, state, and local – must be repealed and replaced by nothing whatsoever. Let the dopers have what they want, brought to them at market-clearing prices which will drop so low that the drug “Lords” of the worldwide criminal economy will see their profits disappear into thin air. De-incentivize the drug trade, allow the drug addicts who won’t save themselves to crash and burn (which they’ll do anyway), and absolve all government agencies of any responsibility for cleaning up any of the self-inflicted woundings the drug addicts suffer. The rest of the First World will rapidly follow suit. Only American idiocy in this regard has really held them in the “War on Drugs.” The productivity of the First World nations will no longer be channelled into Third World criminal enterprises. FARC and Hugo Chavez will be de-funded. The drug gangs of Central Asia will have markets of such vastly reduced profitability that they will not be able to secure the manpower and material resources to continue militarily significant operations. And there are thousands of other examples of changes for the better that I can leave to you as an exercise for the student. Consider the global impact of organized crime (including criminal regimes masquerading as diplomatically recognized governments) deprived of the financial resources they presently gain as the result of their activities in drug trafficking. Let the drug addicts crash and burn. The prolongation of their survival is not worth the perversion of civil government and the destruction of civil society that the “war on drugs” has been inflicting upon these United States for the past century and more.

Now that may be attractive to a certain conservative viewpoint — no doubt there will be liberals with a different concern about those drug addicts crashing and burning. But the great thing is that this solution still allows liberal approaches to address those concerns without the baggage of prohibition.

Punish criminal and negligent behavior resulting from drug-induced impairment (much as we punish acts of negligence or violence when a malefactor injures someone under the influence of alcoholic inebriation), but otherwise leave the drug addict to suffer the fate he has chosen for himself.

Exactly. Some extraordinary stuff, and Austin Bay seems to be in basic agreement.
I’d love to see this discussion continued and expanded throughout all areas of the blogging community.
“bullet” In a separate story, Free Republic has a good discussion going on Radley Balko’s article Government Goons Murder Puppies!.

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