You are here
Home > Perspective > Getting high with Darwin and Keynes

Getting high with Darwin and Keynes

stop the war on drugsThe 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.

Leave a Reply

Top