There’s a lot of talk lately about the War on Drugs. Both Ted and I wrote articles about it, and both of our articles gave mention to a recent international panel that was convened to assess the effectiveness of the War on Drugs. Just the other day, my other esteemed colleague, Larry, wrote a piece about Operation Fast and Furious, a completely abject failure in said war, and the subject of legalization came up.
If human nature was such that the people at large could control themselves and not allow drugs to destroy their lives, then yes, legalization might work. The efficacy of legalization also hinges on human nature being less violently competitive. But because humans seem to have a habit of forming addictions, and because the criminal underground does not seem to believe in any rational notion of fair competition, I wholly reject the notion that legalizing drugs would end any portion of suffering.
One PR reader suggested that the violence surrounding drug cartels and the like is due to the fact that they’re forced underground. Because drugs are illegal, they are forced to do illegal things to keep up their livelihoods. The premise is that making drugs legal, “bringing it out in the open,” if I may loosely quote the reader, would then compel these cartels to compete out in the open less violently.
This line of thought relies heavily on a perception of the magnanimous nature of human beings. The cartels have been violent probably since their inception. They’re idea of competition is who can kill whom first, or who can send the grizzliest message to mitigate opposition. I can imagine that nearly every person that works for a cartel is fairly amoral.
So why do we think that the drug lords would suddenly be okay with open competition? Do we envision them as products of their environment, desperately waiting for drugs to be legal so they can discontinue all the bloodshed?
I highly doubt that any of them at this point have any compunction with murder, and seeing as how murder has proven an effective way for them to control their market, why would they abandon it simply because drugs would be legal? Sure, we could regulate it here in America and make it really difficult for American drug lords to kill people, but what about in countries like Mexico where they have absolutely zero fear of government sanction or law enforcement?
Think of this scenario. Drugs are legalized tomorrow, and home pot-growers everywhere are excited to bring their enterprises into the light of day. How many of them do you think would live long enough to get off the ground? How many of them would seriously try to make a name for themselves, knowing that they would become the target of cartel ire? They couldn’t hide it any longer because their sales of the drug would be a matter of public record due to the taxes that would certainly be levied.
If a large tobacco company were to get into the business then drug lords would likely have a much more difficult time in controlling the market due to the high-profile visibility inherent to a large corporation, but seeing as how the families of police officials turn up murdered to prove a point, I doubt that the families of Phillip-Morris would be off-limits. And who’s to say that the cartels would suddenly bring their business in the open anyway? Why would they want to submit to government oversight and pay taxes?
I think the short answer is that they wouldn’t. They would stay underground so that they could conduct business as usual. They would continue to murder, steal, and sabotage their competition.
As I mentioned in my comments on Larry’s article, should we legalize murder, stealing, and prostitution? Just as the War on Drugs has done little to stop the drug lords, law enforcement has done little to stop murderers, thieves, and whores. So instead of changing the way we operate, instead of trying to concoct more efficacious solutions, let’s just give up on it altogether since we can’t stop it. Perhaps people will stop wanting to kill each other so much if they know they’re allowed to do it?
That last sentiment is clearly illogical, so why would we think otherwise with drugs? I agree that the War on Drugs has been a failure. One can’t deny that fact when we plainly see the asinine machinations of our government as demonstrated in Operation Fast and Furious. Since I’m no authority on law enforcement, I won’t pretend to have any solutions to the problem other than to say that instead of abandoning the cause altogether, perhaps we should try to avoid an Operation 2 Fast 2 Furious.