Thursday, March 20, 2014

Drug War as Black Market Problem

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf examines the testimony of U.S. Southern Command's head and makes an excellent point about the "drug war," which is that it can be more usefully viewed as a black market problem rather than a drug problem.

He uses it to push legalization:

Why doesn't the testimony note, as I just did, that the black market in drugs that prohibition creates exacerbates nearly every way in which transnational crime hurts us? 
Kelly isn't to blame. He doesn't make policy. He tries to carry it out. But the policy that he's been given is as doomed to fail as it always has been. Prohibition may make some (though not all) people inclined to addiction safer in some ways. But it makes all of us less safe in other ways, and wreaks havoc in foreign countries. It would be nice if hearings on U.S. drug policy acknowledged such tradeoffs.

You don't need to support legalization to benefit from the logic. Even you oppose legalization, this requires you to more clearly justify the immense amounts of money being thrown at the problem, much of it going into the pockets of defense contractors. If it is seen as an amorphous drug war, then the solution is to keep throwing money until drugs go away, which is never.

In other words, it is not enough to tout the latest "record" interdiction because those records keep getting broken. You need to show how how the current strategy is preferable to all other possible strategies. Instead, the mindset is "this is the only policy and so we need to keep paying more until we achieve its stated goals."


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