Monday, 2 April 2012

The Drug War

"It is so easy to be wrong—and to persist in being wrong—when the costs of being wrong are paid by others."
Thomas Sowell

As a child you are told that once you grow up you'll be able to make your own decisions and live life the way you wish. The so called do-gooder's within society have other ideas, becoming your adult paternal replacement in whats known as the 'nanny state'. "You can't eat this, drink that, you should recycle this, don't smoke that", and so on. The machinations of the modern state have become the new religion, giving directives as a set of commandments for how people should live their lives. The war on drugs has been an ongoing crusade for decades for such people, it can never be won and is a prime example of the destruction caused by the nanny state. Rather than doing good, in typical Government fashion it is in fact crippling society. Every drug should be made legal just like alcohol or tobacco for all to use and consume.

Prohibition of Alcohol in 1920's America was a disaster. It lasted just over a decade and acomplished none its objectives. Rather than 'solve' the social ills associated with drink it caused more problems. It was a boom time for Organised Crime creating one of the most infamous Gangsters of all time, Al Capone, who prospered from Prohibition. Corruption was endemic across law enforcement. Alchol was still readily available and was further glamorised by its outlawed image. The American Government backtracked and repealed the law during the 1930's, allowing market forces once more to supply it freely.

The 'War on Drugs' is a repetition of histories mistakes, a war that can not be won and like all wars causes more issues than it seeks to solve. If we allowed the market to supply drugs today it would eradicate many social difficulties. 

The problem with sending products people wish to buy underground is their price inevitably rises. The demand doesn't go away and results in smuggling to get around the authorities. Production can not be ramped up the same way due to the limitations placed on distribution channels. Competition is stiffled as drug barons and cartels can restrict supply much easier and "strangle" competitors out of the business. Prices are just half the problem, you then have the end product and with drugs it becomes a danger to public health. When the government makes drugs illegal they are in fact the ones who cause far more innocent deaths than would happen if it were legal. Alchol is a drug, and a very dangerous one at that. Most of us know the dangers and thousands die every year. Yet due to its legal status we all know (or should know) our limits and what we can drink. This is due to the free market to ensure consistent product quality thereby enabling consumers to drink in relative safety. The problem happens when drugs are made illegal the product quality is driven down. All sorts of pollutants end up in the mix, dangerous substances that makes its way to the consumer. Needless deaths are caused with such reckless product control with the quantity of units also hard to determine, the consumer is never sure what they are taking. You are never quite sure of how potent the portion of drug will be. With alcohol or tobacco there is no such problem, the user is always aware.

The high price of illegal drugs usually lead to many users resorting to crime. These crimes are committed on innocent members of the public, that could be avoided if market forces were allowed to bring down costs. The Government throws more state resources to "solve" the ills diverting police resources to investigate such "wrongdoings". Turf wars within communities erupt caused by the restriction of free trade. Politicians don't live in such areas so are disconnected from such realities but the people who do live in such places are generally unaware that the Government is creating such problems by inciting the fictitious "War on Drugs".

Meanwhile end users continue to use drugs freely, despite having to play roulette on product quality. Teenagers go to clubs and don't even have to ask to find who is selling. Despite being in my late twenties its still the same as when I was a teenager, people asking me do I want any 'gear' (I've even been asked if I was selling which I found amusing). Anyone who has been to University knows someone who did weed, not just once or twice, but every day (possibly multiple times). Just like the old Soviet Bloc outlawing denim jeans people still bought them away from Government eyes. 

So what would a world look like where all drugs were made legal? Wouldn't we all be addicts, our children would all end up in prison and the fabric of society would fall at the seams? Hardly. There would probably be more drug users. There may even be more overdose deaths, but these outcomes would be determined by the action of the individuals themselves and would not effect innocent third parties. Smoking, drinking, eating fast food, joining the Army, doing skydiving, driving a car; all of these activities put an individuals health at risk however the individual knows the risks associated with their actions. There would be no innocent community torn apart from Drug related crimes. No innocent victim caught up in gang crossfire. Organised crimes influence would be greatly reduced to intimidate members of the public. Addicts could be helped more openly and not cast aside by society. The glamour of drugs would loose its appeal to young naive users.

Professional drug companies would take on production and units (like we have in alcohol) could inform the user how much of a substance is safe to use. Product quality would be assured through open competition and prices would be driven down substantially, so low income users would not resort to petty crimes to fund their addictions. This would stop wasting societies resources with repeat offenders (quite often drug related) being sent to prison. Developing Countries could have a legitimate product to sell overseas which assists people out of poverty.

Some people who believe in legalisation also state that it could raise additional Government revenue through taxation. This is where I disagree and think there should be no taxation on any drug (I've already stated that I think the state and tax will one day be obsolete so I think you could guess that anyway). Current Taxation on alcohol and tobacco is amoral. The people who pay the price are generally innocent children who have low income parents who smoke or drink. To make these products it costs next to nothing, however the Government artificially raises prices dictating that its for our own good. It never is. One of my partners Grandmothers smokes around 50-60 a day. She's been doing this for years and like many others the raising of the price due to higher taxes has never slowed her consumption down. In most cases this can lead families to avoid spending money on the children in the family. How can they buy books when they wish to smoke or drink? All essentials become that much harder to fit in when the alcohol price rises. There's only so much people can drink or smoke and generally they will do it regardless of price. The recent phenomenon is continuing to drink the same but at home before they go to the pub (or to drink harder substances). Rather than buy cigarettes it has become more common to buy roll-ups and bags of tobacco, again continuing consumption. The government like to claim they look after you, in reality they are punishing the most vulnerable in society.

So what do we have to fear from making drugs legal? Nothing. We should always give individuals full autonomy over their lives, making things illegal doesn't stop this. Of course if someone were to infringe on someone else's liberty and rights then this not acceptable but how would allowing people to take drugs be an infringement on others. We already allow open use of alcohol and tobacco, why not other drugs? I myself am not a drug user. I don't smoke and only drink the odd Guinness here and there. However I believe people should be free to choose, if not for their own sake but for all of our well-being.

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