Video: Documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki discusses his latest film, which details the failure of U.S. drug policy.
Libertarians are often caricatured as caring only about legalizing marijuana and ending the broader War on Drugs. And, to be fair, stereotypes don't come out of nowhere. There are, however, reasons why folks of all political stripes ought to take an interest in this subject. The following bullet points are, by now, old hat, but as filmmaker Eugene Jarecki readies his documentary on the Drug War for release (see video above), they bear repeating.
- If you are concerned about the United States federal budget deficit and debt, you should care about the Drug War. Whether you think that the money spent on futile attempts at enforcing the nation's drug laws would be better spent elsewhere, or whether you would support the taxation of legalized drugs such as marijuana, this issue ought to be on your mind. Consider, for instance, this graph (from here), which will concentrate the mind of any deficit hawk:
- If you are concerned about crime, safety, and the fact that the United States has the largest prison population in the world, you should care about the Drug War. The Drug War, just like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, imprisons non-violent adults for voluntarily selling, buying, or possessing certain substances, while creating a population of violent criminals who rob and murder to protect their territory and supplies. Legalize (or at least decriminalize) these substances and this violence will rapidly dissipate, as will the United States' prison population.
- If you are concerned about poverty and inequality, you should care about the Drug War. Poor folks in the inner city (and especially those from minority backgrounds) are disproportionately affected by the Drug War and the violence it inspires. The nation's school system can hardly be expected to save the children who come out of the neighborhoods most heavily blighted by this violence. So even if you'd prefer to lock up all the adults for any connection to the drug trade and continue the status quo, consider that, by doing so, you're simultaneously setting up the next generation of criminals.
- If you are concerned about national security and the strength of U.S. borders, you should care about the Drug War. To date, more than 50,000 people in Mexico have been killed in the war between drug cartels and the Mexican government. If you're not yet concerned about a failed narco-state on America's southern doorstep, you might want to think about getting concerned soon.
- And finally, if you believe that what other folks put into their bodies - whether it be Doritos tacos from Taco Bell, nicotine from Lucky Strike, or weed from Jackson County, Oregon - is none of your business, then you should care about the Drug War.
So what should be done? Well, these suggestions from the Cato Handbook for Policymakers would be a good place to start:
- Greatly de-emphasize counternarcotics activities in Afghanistan, since they undermine America’s much more important struggle against al Qaeda and the Taliban;
- Stop pressuring the government of Mexico to escalate the war on drugs, since that policy is leading to a dangerous upsurge in violence that threatens to destabilize the country;
- Recognize that the "supply-side" campaign against cocaine and other drugs from the Andean region has produced few lasting gains, an inevitable outcome since global demand for such drugs continues to grow;
- Accept the decriminalization and harm-reduction strategies adopted by the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries as a better model for dealing with the problem of drug abuse; and
- Move toward abandoning entirely the failed prohibitionist model regarding drugs.