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Any $50-a-day crackhead can tell you why politicians of both major parties so blindly support America’s war on (some) drugs.
What is more perplexing/ discouraging/ frightening is why – in a purportedly free society – there is so little debate in our mainstream media about how and why our drug war is being fought after three decades of obvious failure.
It’s a shame, not to mention a national disgrace, that no important American magazine – or newspaper, or TV channel, or cable channel talking head – has found the brains and the guts to do what Britain’s Economist does on its cover this week: straightforwardly push for the legalization of drugs.
The venerable newsweekly, which counts nearly 500,000 subscribers to its American edition, has long been a brave, tireless and principled advocate of legalizing drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine. As it demonstrates in its 15-page survey of the “drugs trade,” the growing, selling, consuming and outlawing of illegal drugs around the world is a complex mix of economics, politics and world culture.
Though a legalizer, the Economist is not kidding itself about the downsides of illegal drugs or the bad people who traffic in them. It knows that if they are made legal they’ll become even cheaper, more available and probably will be used and abused by more people, including kids. It also knows drugs like heroin and cocaine can hurt individuals and society and understands why they arouse the “moral fury” of segments of society, the way divorce and drinking alcohol still can.
But the Economist’s argument for legalization, which it so Britly spells “legalisation,” rests equally on principle and practicality. As the magazine points out, basing a national drug policy on “moral outrage” – as America has done – is a terribly impractical idea.
Proof of that is America’s war on (some) drugs. It not only costs taxpayers about $40 billion a year, “it has eroded civil liberties, locked up unprecedented numbers of young blacks and Hispanics and corroded foreign policy.” It has proved “a dismal rerun” of Prohibition, America’s 13-year war against alcohol.
As for principle, the magazine refers all martini-drinking, nicotine-addicted, anti-drug warriors to John Stuart Mill, the great British 19th century liberal. Unlike today’s morally meddlesome and selectively puritanical liberals and conservatives, Mill truly believed that free adult individuals should be in charge of their own minds and bodies and not the state – even if they are doing themselves harm by smoking reefer or bungee-jumping.
Despite such radical talk and its obvious biases, the Economist’s package – as always – is reasoned, readable and rich with information. It doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. And it’s journalistically fair, whether it’s tracking the steadily falling street price of a kilo of heroin ($290,000), explaining the more humane approach of Switzerland’s heroin maintenance programs or urging America’s politicians to move toward a policy that treats drug addiction as a health problem not a criminal one.
None of the Economist’s arguments against the idiocies and inequities of the drug war are new. Neither is its case for legalization or its call for maximum individual sovereignty.
Sadly, its package is especially valuable mainly because America’s failed drug policy is so rarely debated.
Is prison the answer? Charles Colson explores that question and more in “Justice That Restores,” available in WorldNetDaily’s online store.