I Wonder If They’re Yellow

Drugs are apparently being imported into the US by submarines:

Although they captured 129 tons of cocaine on its way to the U.S. last year, the Coast Guard thinks that close to 500 tons could now be making it through. “My staff watches multi-ton loads go by,” Rear Adm. Charles D. Michel told The Times. Part of the problem is a new class of fully submersible craft, three of which have been seized in recent weeks. (Before, the subs were only semi-submersible, depending on a snorkel to bring in air for the engine.) These new drug-running subs are capable of carrying up to ten tons of cocaine at a time and can run from Ecuador to Los Angeles without coming up for air. On top of it all, officials are also worried that these subs could be used by terrorists. [Emphasis added.]

Let me see if I get this straight:  We have a costly federal policy to slow down or possibly eliminate drug use.  While this policy has been in place, drug usage has increased, which is the exact opposite effect intended by the policy.  This has occurred in spite of the price of drugs increasing by the ban (in terms of direct cost, risk, and seeking alternatives).  In sum, we’ve spent a lot of tax money making the problem not go away.
Furthermore, basic economic principles would suggest that there is a causal link between an increase in government spending on the war on drugs and the increase in drug usage and its attendant ill social costs.  By making certain drugs illegal, the price of such drugs generally increases because supply is limited.  However, the increasing prices attract new suppliers who rush to capitalize on the high prices.  Some of these suppliers inevitably get weeded out of the supply chain by law enforcement, which creates perpetual supply shortages, and consequently perpetually high prices, which perpetually attracts new suppliers.
Additionally, this causes consumers to seek legal alternatives to drugs, which means going to legal but riskier alternatives.  Going from, say, pot to alcohol is one example of this. Another is the production of brand-new compounds that manage to escape bans since they were not previously made illegal due to their non-existence.  Alternatively, some people turn from expensive illegal drugs to cheap illegal drugs (this is the main theory as to why meth became popular).
Thus, not only has the war on drugs failed, it was never winnable in the first place.  The incentive structure set in place never dealt with the fundamental issue:  demand.  By attacking supply, the federal government ensured that drug prices would go up and that there would be a steady stream of interchangeable suppliers, while simultaneously encouraging consumers to try risky but legal alternatives, or riskier, cheaper, illegal alternatives.
And what is the result of this mess?  Not only has drug use increased, and not only are taxpayers on the hook for an unwinnable war (the hallmark of an empire, if I’m not mistaken), but the federal government has subsidized the development of enemy weapons.

Now, I’m not necessarily inclined to think that every appeal to national security is completely valid when it comes to determining policy, but it can’t be denied that federal policy has been responsible for subsidizing the development of cheap submarines that could hypothetically be used in attacks against the US.    Furthermore, the war on drugs has required that federal government constantly intervene in other nation’s affairs—particularly South American nations—which increases the odds of a terrorist attack.  Thus, federal policy has done its damnedest to ensure that the US is not only more likely to be attacked by terrorists, but it has also subsidized the terrorists’ weapon development program in the interim.
The best solution to this complete failure of a policy is to call it quits.  Doubling down on the war on drugs doesn’t change the incentive structure of the drug market, and will thus only make the problem worse.  The federal government is inept anyway, so expecting it to clean up its mess is a pipe dream.  Therefore, the best solution is for the government to stop, and in so doing stop making the problem worse.

1 comment to I Wonder If They’re Yellow

  • Malcolm Kyle

    Ending prohibition would greatly reduce, even almost eliminate, the market in illegal narcotics, cause a reduction in the number of users and addicts, greatly curtail drug related illness and deaths, reduce societal harm from problematic abusers, and bring about an enormous reduction in the presence and influence of organized crime. The people who use drugs are our own children, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, and our neighbors. By allowing all adults safe and controlled legal access to psychoactive substances, we will not only greatly reduce the dangers for both them and ourselves but also greatly minimize the possibility of ‘peer-initiation’ and sales to minors.

    If you sincerely believe that prohibition is a dangerous and counter-productive policy then you can stop helping to enforce it. You are entitled—required even—to act according to your conscience!

    * It only takes one juror to prevent a guilty verdict.
    * You are not lawfully required to disclose your voting intention before taking your seat on a jury.
    * You are also not required to give a reason to the other jurors on your position when voting. Simply state that you find the accused not guilty!
    * Jurors must understand that it is their opinion, their vote. If the Judge and the other jurors disapprove, too bad. There is no punishment for having a dissenting opinion.

    “It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” —John Adams

    We must create what we can no longer afford to wait for: PLEASE VOTE TO ACQUIT!

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