Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Let's Have A War On Dumb
George Melloan, deputy editor, international, of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, calls for an end to the War On Drugs:

Milton Friedman saw the problem. To the extent that authorities curtail supplies of marijuana, cocaine and heroin coming into the rich U.S. market, the retail price of these substances goes up, making the trade immensely profitable--tax-free, of course. The more the U.S. spends on interdiction, the more incentive it creates for taking the risk of running drugs.

In 1933, the U.S. finally gave up on the 13-year prohibition of alcohol--a drug that is by some measures more intoxicating and dangerous to health than marijuana. That effort to alter human behavior left a legacy of corruption, criminality, and deaths and blindness from the drinking of bad booze. America's use of alcohol went up after repeal but no serious person today suggests a repeat of the alcohol experiment. Yet prohibition is still being attempted, at great expense, for the small portion of the population--perhaps little more than 5%--who habitually use proscribed drugs.

Mind-altering drugs do of course cause problems. Their use contributes to crime, automobile accidents, work-force dropouts and family breakups. But the most common contributor to these social problems is not the illegal substances. It is alcohol. Society copes by punishing drunken misbehavior, offering rehabilitation programs and warning youths of the dangers. Most Americans drink moderately, however, creating no problems either for themselves or society.

Education can be an antidote for self-abuse. When it was finally proved that cigarettes were a health risk, smoking by young people dropped off and many started lecturing their parents about that bad habit. LSD came and then went after its dangers became evident. Heroin's addictive and debilitative powers are well-known enough to limit its use to a small population. Private educational programs about the risks of drug abuse have spread throughout the country with good effect.

Some doctors argue that the use of some drugs is too limited. Marijuana can help control nausea after chemotherapy, relieve multiple-sclerosis pain and help patients whose appetites have been lowered to a danger level by AIDS. Morphine, some say, is used too sparingly for easing the terrible pain of terminally ill cancer patients. It is argued that pot and cocaine use by inner-city youths is a self-prescribed medicine for the depression and despair that haunts their existence. Doctors prescribe Prozac for the same problems of the middle class.

So what's the alternative? An army of government employees now makes a living from the drug laws and has a rather conflictive interest in claiming both that the drug laws are working and that more money is needed. The challenge is issued: Do you favor legalization? In fact, most drugs are legal, including alcohol, tobacco and coffee and the great array of modern, life-saving drugs administered by doctors. To be precise, the question should be do you favor legalization or decriminalization of the sale and use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines?

A large percentage of Americans will probably say no, mainly because they are law-abiding people who maintain high moral and ethical standards and don't want to surrender to a small minority that flouts the laws, whether in the ghettos of Washington D.C. or Beverly Hills salons. The concern about damaging society's fabric is legitimate. But another question needs to be asked: Is that fabric being damaged now?

Posted by aalkon at February 27, 2006 7:27 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.advicegoddess.com/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/1119

Comments

I agree 100% that the "war on drugs" is futile. It's no different than prohibition, except we're spending a lot more money and a lot more people are dying.

I have two step-sons who are drug addicts. If it were alcohol, in come classes their lives would be pretty "normal". But since it's illegal drugs, that makes them criminals.

I think the main attraction is the idea of "forbidden fruit", and it all goes downhill from there.

There are some drugs, however, like Meth, that should not exist, ever. That's the problem.

Posted by: M J at February 27, 2006 7:33 AM

My sympathies, MJ. You might check out Peele.net and 7 Tools To Beat Addiction (by Stanton Peele).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 27, 2006 7:48 AM

"A large percentage of Americans will probably say no, mainly because they are law-abiding people who maintain high moral and ethical standards and don't want to surrender to a small minority that flouts the laws, whether in the ghettos of Washington D.C. or Beverly Hills salons."

Oh really ... didn't Thomas Jefferson say that when a government imposes unjust laws, it is a citizen's patriotic duty to break them? Maybe those sanctimonious do-gooders should get off their high horses (high moral and ethical standards, puh-leeze) and start doing their duty.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at February 27, 2006 8:25 AM

I wish somebody could tell me whose duty it is to get Jack Kevorkian out of jail, and what's taking so long.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 27, 2006 8:36 AM

"To be precise, the question should be do you favor legalization or decriminalization of the sale and use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines?"

I don't believe this should be the question at all. Decriminalization isn't what needs to be defended, but the idea of making these things illegal in the first place.

P.S. I'm with you (Amy) on the Jack Kevorkian thing - the laws are clearly screwed up on that issue, too.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at February 27, 2006 10:56 AM

>I don't believe this should be the question at all. Decriminalization isn't what needs to be defended, but the idea of making these things illegal in the first place.

Agreed. Illegality should be the exception, not the default conditions.

Posted by: Little Ted at February 27, 2006 1:17 PM

"There are some drugs, however, like Meth, that should not exist, ever."

It's not a bad treatment for narcolepsy. Beats nodding out behind the wheel and crashing into telephone poles.

Posted by: Lena at March 2, 2006 12:58 PM

Leave a comment