Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting high with Darwin and Keynes

The war on drugs. Oh yes, it's a nasty endless little war, one that's filling our prisons with small-time users/entrepreneurs and costing the taxpayers billions. It's a war that hasn't helped our poor addicted countrymen one iota, and it's a war for which win-happy Bush has not yet declared victory. But neither has he hung his head in defeat, which he certainly should.

The DEA bigwigs ought to be lamenting the indisputable fact that its decades-long fight against drugs is not working. In fact, it's making things worse. After spending more than six billion dollars to cripple the Medellin and Cali cartels, the IBM and General Motors of the drug industry, cocaine production and trafficking in Colombia has actually increased. Hundreds of smaller and more efficient cartels have filled the void left by the blue chip cartels, kind of like the dot.com explosion, except the brilliant, creative, innovators happen to run drugs. And the DEA hasn't a clue who they are or how to stop them.

The war on drugs has penalized and incarcerated thousands of small-time drug dealers/users, the weak and dumb, the poor souls who would never be counted among the fittest in a Darwinian assessment. Years of artificial selection have given rise to the super drug-dealer, the one who, like the virulent bacteria that have arisen from overuse of antibiotics, is more efficient, more cunning, more innovative and much more difficult to eradicate. How can politicians hope to win a war with a strategy that ensures that only the most efficient and creative drug traffickers survive?

The relentless persecution of small-time drug dealers has decreased the supply of drugs on our streets. I suppose this can be seen as a good thing. However, the demand remains. Thus, according to accepted economic theory, interdiction has supported higher prices for the super dealers and provided incentive for more traffickers to enter the drug economy.

Alas, the war on drugs has been a complete waste of time and money. It's time for the DEA to huddle in the war room and come up with a new strategic plan. They should bring in some new generals, hopefully with public health backgrounds. They might even want to get off their moral steeds and decriminalize recreational drug use, thereby decreasing the demand for illegal drugs. They might decide to throw their allotted resources at dangerous criminals and our underlying social problems and let the small-time stoners be. That is if success is truly their goal.

After all, wouldn't it make sense to address the underlying demand for drugs? Shouldn't the DEA stop focusing on supply and address the unchanged demand for illicit drugs? Of course, this would mean funding public health initiatives and educational programs which are not nearly as fun as fighting a war against cagey dark-skinned enemies in exotic foreign locales. No, the men in suits aren't really interested in giving up their fat federal budgets in order to win the struggle against drug abuse. The war is too much fun.

So we will keep building expensive prisons and filling them disproportionately with people of color, too poor to make waves. We'll keep propping up the super-drug dealers we've created. We'll ask Congress for $1.4 billion to fight the drug-crazed Mexicans from Merida, the enemy du jour. And we'll rejoice that, as is true for all of our wars, there is no end in sight.

6 comments:

Swiss Miss said...

How Republicans hate black males:

From http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0881455.html

"About 10.4% of the entire African-American male population in the United States aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated, by far the largest racial or ethnic group—by comparison, 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in that same age group were incarcerated. According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute in 2002, the number of black men in prison has grown to five times the rate it was twenty years ago. Today, more African-American men are in jail than in college. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college. In 1980, there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college."

No wonder we no longer need affirmative action. There will soon be no black males left to hire.

Marie Walden said...

Swissy Missy....I don't think it's Republicans alone. I think black males are treated poorly by the system no matter who's in charge.

It would be interesting to know how many young black males are incarcerated on drug charges. I'll try to find out.

Swiss Miss said...

I'm sure that's true, Mango. I was just indirectly commenting on the fact that the change since 1980 has been stark, and since 1980, we've had mostly Republican administrations.

The evil resides in the stupid drug laws that have been crafted under Republican administrations and the desire of the public to be "hard on crime" and the same expectation that we hold for our elected politicians without acknowledging or giving a shit about the social ramifications of what that means or what the crime is. The American people are just as much to blame as the politicians.

Marie Walden said...

You're right. The swaggering drugstore cowboy law-and-order mentality of our current political leadership started with Reagan, the California rancher.

Marie Walden said...

I read on Alternet that federal sentencing guidelines give equal punishment to those possessing 5 grams of crack (poor users) as to those possessing 500 grams of cocaine (rich dealers).

Our equitable legal system gives me warm fuzzies every day.

T.R. said...

brilliant, brilliant, brilliant