THE WOODWARD REPORT
The War on Drugs is Immoral and Ineffective
By Brian Woodward
|The War On Drugs|
Despite increased efforts, manpower, and resources, the war on drugs has been a resounding failure. W.C. fields once quipped, “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” Not only does the government continue to fail in its crusade against drugs, it continues to perpetrate a policy of immense immorality. It has been over forty years since President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. What do we have to show for it? The United States has wasted over one trillion dollars, caused incarceration rates to exceed that of the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin, discriminated heavily against African-Americans, propped up the drug cartels, and allowed drug profits to flow into the pockets of al-Qaeda and other such terrorist groups.
The biggest success in the war on drugs has been the protection of drug cartel’s profits. In a standard legalized business, there are countless importers and exporters of a particular good. However, due to drug raids and seizures, the price of maintaining an operation has been driven up, forcing out small time distributors. This allows the only viable distributors to be those with enough money and resources to avoid interdiction efforts. These are the highly violent drug cartels that are flush with cash. By keeping goods out and arresting local distributors, the government keeps the price of these drugs up. What else could a monopolist want?
The production of drugs can be a very inexpensive endeavor when it is not necessary to take immense precautions to avoid interdiction. Thomas Sowell, the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, asserts that “if a user could support his habit for a few dollars a week, he would still be an addict, but would not have to steal, mug, or murder to support his habit.” Zealots are unable to realize that they are not God. They possess neither the license nor the capacity to dictate how others live.
Drug enforcement agencies like to dazzle the public with their alleged high rates of drug seizures. American law enforcement confiscated approximately 1.5 million kilograms of marijuana in 2007, up 30% from 2002. Their efforts were even better with cocaine. They seized 50% more in 2007 than in 2002, a colossal 150,000 kilograms of cocaine. However, a 2011 study published in the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies indicates that “despite these outstanding numbers, only an estimated 41.5% of all cocaine and 25% of all marijuana was intercepted globally in 2007. Consequently, interdiction efforts have failed to effectively dismantle the drug industry. Experts believe that seventy percent of a drug needs to be intercepted worldwide to substantially reduce the size of the industry.” In addition, the percentage of drugs intercepted is likely inflated due to the inability to account for the amount of drugs that are smuggled in undetected.
Experts indicate that in order to make an appreciable difference, confiscation would have to be doubled. Furthermore, interdiction spurs what experts refer to as a “balloon effect”. This posits that when confiscation efforts are expanded in a certain area, the producers simply change locations. When interception efforts increase in one region, production merely moves to another region, which, as a result, makes seizure operations ineffective.
The Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies study goes on to state, “Another fundamental problem of interdiction is that it actually increases the profits of, and therefore the violence within, the industry.” The working theory of enforcement agencies is that reducing the supply of drugs will force costs up and push usage down. This is naive and misguided. The reality is that the drug supply is generally inelastic, meaning that due to the addictive nature of drugs, demand is not increased or decreased significantly when price fluctuates.