To fight or not to fight – this is the question
A recent article in The Economist stirred up quite a discussion in the Net about the usefulness of the “War on Drugs”, or the efforts of the international community to stop the influx, distribution, and use of illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. The article presented a very pessimistic view of the issue, and suggested that we would be better off if we just gave up the fight and legalized the use of substances currently considered illicit. They argue that the war is costing us too much while producing no tangible results, and that the same amount of money could be better used to educate people about drugs and to treat additcts. Many bloggers, including Juniorprof, of all the people, have picked up on the subject, mostly supporting the article. Hell, even I, who have always been opposed to legalization of even soft drugs, thought for a moment “Hey, maybe they are right!”. But then after this brief moment of insanity, I came to my senses.
WHAT????? Legalize cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine???? Let me quote some statistics: an estimated 3 million people in the US currently suffer from serious drug problems. That’s 1 in every 100 citizens, whose life is seriously impaired by use of illicit drugs. There is no doubt that drug use would increase after legalization – even the authors of the article don’t deny that. We don’t even have a ball park estimate by how much it would increase, but let’s say that it is 10%, which would be an extremely optimistic estimate. That would mean that by legalizing drugs you are basically condemning one in every 1000 otherwise perfectly healthy people to a serious debilitating disease which deprives them of their free will, distorts their perception of reality, and results sooner or later in a terrible humiliating death. Not only that – my prediction is that it is the children who would suffer the most. Hard drugs, such as crack, are not easy to come by for high school kids nowadays. Sure, if you really want to get them, you will, but for most kids the scare of talking to a dealer and the high price are enough of a deterrent. If these drugs were legalized, they would become as easily accessible to these kids as alcohol is right now – that is very easily. Would you rather your child/little brother/nephew got drunk with beer on their prom night and in the worst case scenario vomited all over the place, or that he or she got high on crack and died of overdose?
These deliberations aside, the statement that we are losing the War on Drugs, is simply FALSE. It all depends on how you define “losing”. If losing means being unable to completely eliminate the drug problem, than yes, we are losing. On the other hand, we are successful at keeping drugs hard to come by and expensive, we are preventing some poor kids from being lured into the vicious circle of addiction, we are saving some families from the terrible fate that is dependence of one of its members. In that way, we are winning. We should be thankful to all the people that fight this war for us – they are helping fend off evil that is drug dependence, and they are paying for it dearly, sometimes even with their lives. Saying that their noble efforts make no economic sense is not a good way to express our gratitude! The articles such as the one in The Economist show how much our money-driven thinking and tendency to put a number on everything makes us forget the basic differences between right and wrong.
If you are still not persuaded, let me ask you this question: If a group of terrorists said they would cease all violent actions if you agreed to poison one citizen in every thousand with a known deadly neurotoxin, would you even start to negotiate? The mythical Athenian hero Theseus would know the answer to that question. Are we going to have the guts to follow his example? Or are we going to listen to all these pseudo-economists and hippie-libertarians and just give up?
As for the arguments for drug legalization, I’ve heard them all – they range from total bullshit through conventional wisdom strawmen to libertarian “I should be able to hurt myself if I want to” rants. If there are real logical arguments against the war on drugs, I am not aware of them, so please be so kind as to enlighten me.