Conservatives tend to assume that, unlike dirty, treasonous liberals, they are on the side of truth, justice, liberty and the American way. This is not without reason, as most of the time, they are. However, for nearly 30 years, conservatives have been guilty of one of the greatest abuses of American liberties in American history, and have actively abetted the growth of central government by their thoughtless support for the war on drugs.
As Jonah Goldberg pointed out in his excellent book, "Liberal Fascism," the use of military terminology to address domestic policy issues is a historically progressive concept, first articulated as a "moral equivalent to war" by William James, then put into action by the Italian fascists. From Benito Mussolini's "Battle of the Grains" to Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," the propagandistic justification of extreme policy measures had always been a hallmark of the Left, until it was foolishly adopted by conservatives at the behest of the Reagan administration. Of course, like every previous left-wing pseudo-war, the war on drugs has been a complete debacle, has cost billions of dollars without realizing a single one of its objectives, and has accomplished little more than increasing the size and scope of federal power.
There is nothing – absolutely nothing – conservative about the war on drugs. Conservativism is supposed to involve a certain regard for the traditions of the past, and for the greater part of American history, drugs were entirely legal. George Washington grew hemp. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. And, as everyone knows, the "Coca" in Coca-Cola refers to the extract of coca leaf that was once an ingredient in the popular drink. Coca-Cola was not entirely cocaine-free until 1929. And note that the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve and the federal income tax was closely followed by the 1914 ban on cocaine; the 63rd United States Congress was clearly not a Congress in which conservative principles dominated.
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Advocates for the drug war often hypothesize nightmare scenarios where the legalization of drugs will lead to chaos and total social breakdown, constructing fantasies about legions of chemically addled criminals preying upon the helpless citizenry while in search of their next high. But, as has been seen in Colombia and more recently in Mexico, it is actually the illegalization of drugs that causes social devastation, as the drug war's efforts to interdict supply only increases the price of drugs and therefore the profit of the criminal gangs willing to trade in them. As these profits grow, so too does the power of the drug-dealing criminals, until they are strong enough to directly contest local and state government authorities. Or, as is all too often the case, simply purchase and control them.
Americans should have learned their lesson from prohibition. The human demand for chemical stimulation is a demonstrable historical fact, and no amount of television ads or lecturing schoolchildren is going to significantly reduce that demand. The benefits of the drug war to the American people are trivial and their costs, in terms of money, human misery and liberty, are extraordinarily high. Thus, I was encouraged to read Pat Buchanan's recent article on WorldNetDaily, in which one of America's leading conservatives finally recognized the stark choice that so many conservatives have sought to avoid facing for three decades.
How does one win a drug war when millions of Americans who use recreational drugs are financing the cartels bribing, murdering and beheading to win the war and keep self-indulgent Americans supplied with drugs? There are two sure ways to end this war swiftly: Milton's way and Mao's way. Mao Zedong's communists killed users and suppliers alike, as social parasites. Milton Friedman's way is to decriminalize drugs and call off the war. Which is the greater evil? Legalized narcotics for America's young – or a failed state of 110,000 million on our southern border?
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The greater evil is eminently clear. The greater evil is the evil that requires repeated violations of the American Constitution, the continuous rape of American liberties, the pointless imprisonment of millions of harmless Americans and the probable collapse of the Mexican government. The fact that the Obama administration is now citing Mexico's narco war as an excuse to limit Second Amendment rights should suffice to prove to conservatives that the time has come to end the war on drugs. Yes, Mr. Buchanan, America must raise the white flag in the drug war.
And if America's young should elect to narcotize themselves into oblivion, is that not their right in a country that claims to be free? Considering the incredible amount of economic destruction that has occurred in only six weeks of Democratic rule, to say nothing of the massive debts which are being piled upon their generation, it's not as if they'll lack for good cause. Indeed, the thought of four more years of the ongoing presidential debacle might well encourage even the most staunch conservative drug warrior to think about firing up a fattie.