In an article entitled “A War You Can Stop”, David Frum a resident at the American Enterprise Institute argues that drug users are to blame for gang violence and the devastation that is currently ongoing in Mexico and in border states such as Arizona, whose capital city, Phoenix, was second in the world last year in kidnappings, second only to Mexico City.
Frum says: “Every time a North American indulges in illegal drug use, that user subsidizes and incentivizes the gangsters who dump charred, decapitated bodies in Mexico’s cities. It’s our buying that creates the profits for which the gangsters kill. An estimated 2.8% of American adults and 2.3% of Canadians use cocaine at least once a year. If they quit, they’d put the gangsters out of business. This is one war that ordinary individuals have the power to stop. So here’s a challenge next time you meet a campus peace activist. Ask them: What are you doing to put an end to this murderous trade?”
I agree with Frum that if Americans would stop using drugs, the drug lords in Mexico would stop making drugs for export to the United States, and there would be less drug related killings in the United States.
Realistically, can we expect that Americans stop using drugs? For anyone who truly believes that drugs can be successfully eradicated in the United States, I ask you this one question: How can we possibly keep drugs out of the hands of free men and women when inmates (who have very limited rights and freedom) can get drugs in prisons?
I doubt there’s much debate among the well educated that drugs are detrimental to a drug user’s health, but can we stop drug use any better than we can stop people from over eating, over exercising, bulimia, gambling, or any number of behaviors which are detrimental to physical and mental well being? If someone wants drugs, they will get drugs: End of story. Until we find a way to affect free will, we must accept that some people will want to use drugs.
What if instead of fighting the drug war by trying to end demand and throw suppliers in prison, we allowed Americans to produce and sell drugs? What if we used good old fashioned competition to drive Mexican drug lords out of business?
Today, drug s are sold at a massive premium to cost of production in order to cover the costs of drug seizures, death squads like the ones mentioned in Frum’s article, and other risks associated with dealing in an illicit industry. That premium makes drugs a desirable business to nefarious people: people who would stop at nothing – not even murder – in order to sell their products and protect their business.
If drugs were decriminalized in the United States, the prices would drop, the quality of drugs would increase, and the war on drugs would no longer exist. Best of all, nefarious people who currently run the drug businesses couldn’t afford to carry on as they do now, and they couldn’t fund the death squads and purchase of government officials that currently wreak havoc on civil societies around the world.
The single quickest way to end the war on drugs is to simply end the war on drugs: decriminalize drug use/production, tax the sale of drugs, and allow Americans the freedom to choose what they do with their bodies. If we really wanted to, we could take all the profits from taxing drugs and put those monies towards drug prevention and education programs.
If we end the war on drugs, we’re still faced with the same education and prevention problems that we face today; however, we don’t have to expend the resources on the drug war: Our prisons would not be overrun with criminals whose only crime is drug use; Our law enforcement officers would not die in gunfights with drug lords, gangs would have to find other means of funding their violence; Drug-related kidnappings would decrease; and, most of all, we’d be allowing people to choose for themselves if they wanted to use drugs.
Frum and I both agree this is a war to be fought economically – a war to be fought using the power of economics and incentives. Where we disagree is on which incentives to use in the fight. Frum wants to essentially guilt people into ending their drug use. I want to unleash the power of the free market on drugs, so that every individual has an incentive to start a business selling drugs, until competition has reduced the profit of the drug business such that the extraordinary profits that buy off our law enforcement agencies and corrupt our country cease to exist. We can always fight to win the hearts and minds of those prone to drug use, but wouldn’t that be easier to do if we weren’t squandering our resources and the lives lost in the drug war fighting a war that has no end?
See Frum’s full article here: