Free Market Solutions
Part 2: Illicit Drugs
I am not in favor of the use of drugs. I do not take any sort of illicit drugs nor have ever done or will ever do such thing. However, ever since the war on drugs began, no manly effort has ever been able to abolish the use of illegal drugs and quite frankly, I do not think that any effort man makes to eliminate this market will ever be profitable. As a matter of fact, the expenses made by this war have been in the trillions and have not solved any real crime at all. In addition, statistics actually show that drug abuse has not been declining in any way whatsoever.
The first major drug battling campaign since Richard Nixon was in the 1980s. When this crackdown started running crime against property, like theft, increased. This occurred because there was a shift of public resources from working against property crimes to drug prohibition enforcement. Every policy has inevitable tradeoffs. If you are going to take resources and use them to fight illicit drugs, there will be a shortage when battling against property crimes or other sorts.
Have you ever asked yourself why the government dedicates itself so much into drug enforcement when it is a victimless crime? In other words, no one is injured, but the person who voluntarily uses the drug. Therefore, no one reports a crime. Unless, someone who is using an illegal drug calls 911 and tells them, “Hey, why don’t you come and get me, I’m smoking some pot, sniffing some cocaine, and injecting myself some heroin. The address is…”
When you have no idea who is drugging themselves you must search profoundly to get to the person committing the crime against their own body. The search power has to be employed aggressively, with violence, and overzealously for police to find any of these crimes at all. Meanwhile, numerous surveys state that judges believe false testimony declaring that the legitimacy of the searches is a common occurrence. Hence, when the police breaks down your door, enters with guns pointing at you, screaming to get on the ground, grabbing you by force, cuffing you, and taking away your property, it is part of a routine search that simply does not care if you are innocent or not.
There are roughly 1.4 million drug arrests per year, more than half of which are not incarcerated or proven guilty. Data also shows that 80% of people who lose their property in this manner are never charged with a criminal offense. When someone is found to be innocent, they have to go through the trouble of suing the government to get their property back.
Paul Craig Roberts, formerly of the Reagan administration, said that the “main result” of implementing these laws has been “the routine confiscation of the assets of the innocent.” They take away your property that supposedly has been associated with drugs and you are guilty until you prove your innocence (opposite of “you are innocent until proven otherwise”). In different terms, Americans can be stripped of their property without a warrant, but on the basis of a mere probable cause. These unreasonable searches and seizures that take place without a based foundation of proof hinder civil rights and the privacy rights to one’s home. They hamper the rights you have of being “innocent until proven guilty”.
Even so, people see the news and continue to say, “Wow, the government is really doing a good job to fight the illicit drug market, they are making lots of arrests. I think that the illicit drug market is coming to its end.” You see, when people want something they will obtain it at all costs. It is very difficult to compete against the free market and the will of a determined person. If people are capable of getting drugs in high security prisons, they will most likely get them anywhere else.
Let us face reality and uncover the nucleus of the problem; corruption exists. To understand what I am about to say a little better, remember that the free market has a price system and a feedback mechanism that comes through prices. Thus, if a private security firm took care of the crimes in society they would know what the people need. Nevertheless, the government doesn’t have a feedback mechanism. Hence, they do not even know how many police officers we need per town and which specific crimes to investigate for the people. When it is about drug gangs, the police perfectly know what they want. Why? Well, gangs pay cops a nice salary to protect their territory from competition. He, who pays better, will eliminate the competition by killing it or putting it in jail. This is how economists David Rasmussen and Bruce Benson put it: “The illicit drug market is probably the most lucrative source of police corruption that has ever existed in the United States.”
It might pretty well seem obvious that corruption is the one responsible for not stopping the illicit drug market, but don’t be too quick to draw conclusions. Of course corruption has the biggest piece of the cake, but there are other factors that influence the incapability of stopping this market. The General Accounting Office said, “Arrests and seizures are significant only when they help raise costs and risks enough to deter traffickers, and there is no indication they are approaching that point.” In different words, to stop drug trafficking you must put fear in the traffickers, something that has never been achieved.
Judge Volney Brown on the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement Effort in San Diego recalled in the 1990s something his office did to try to stop heroin trafficking in the city during the 1970s. They chose to arrest all 39 major heroin dealers through a series of raids in a single day. Their goal was reached and they succeeded in putting all of them in jail. In the next week, it was practically impossible to obtain heroin in San Diego. After two weeks, however, the supply began to reappear and a month later, the trafficking was back to its original level. The only difference was that the authorities had no idea who was selling the heroin.
They could have spent billions of dollars in the fight, but it would not have mattered. Anything they could have done, would have not been relevant to reduce the drug market. Judge Brown said that they had not been able to make any substantial dent whatsoever in the drug’s market or in its demand. In order to achieve such triumph, it would be necessary to prevent the importation or production of 75% of all drugs, a figure that not even in the wildest dreams has been remotely approached. What man tries to do and the arguments it can present against illicit drugs to eliminate this market, do not achieve anything, it is almost impossible for us to extinguish it.
In the end, there are people in the bureaucracy that consider the war on drugs a personal interest. The reason is that many of them have a salary that depends on the existence of the war. Those people will be the first to make sure the market keeps running and lobby for the war on drugs to continue.
The government has only wasted trillions of dollars in this war and achieved no reward for society. The drug war began in the early 1970s and forty years later, students still use illegal drugs at the same rate of 1970. The only difference is that drug overdoses have been rising steadily throughout the years.