Posts Tagged ‘Drug War’

1.  I’m not a big fan of CNN but it occasionally produces an interesting piece.  This one on a surrogate who rescued a baby with birth defects from the natural parents (or so she thought!) who wanted the baby aborted is a must-read and raises a lot of interesting questions about law and ethics.  It also highlights how states are still relevant actors in our lives despite the encroachments of the federal government (and see #3 below).

2.  One of the great benefits of government spending cuts (including the sequester) is that politicians and bureaucrats have to think more seriously about trade-offs.  Of course, the sequester cuts are absolutely tiny – as Nick Gillespie at Reason nicely points out – and thus don’t pinch those folks enough.  But this piece at the USNI site notes one potential benefit – the Navy may have to reduce its efforts in support of the drug war.  Of course, the article makes it sound like the possible shift is a bad one but this is yet another war the US won’t be winning.

3.  As citizens and visitors to the Tar Heel State know too well, North Carolina has a state liquor monopoly.  In this white paper, lawyer Jeannette Doran of the NCICL “addresses whether North Carolina’s monopoly system violates the State Constitutional provision which declares and mandates: ‘monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.'”  Here is a nice quotation from the conclusion of this short paper:

It is dangerous to permit the State to engage in monopolistic activity. To tolerate a government-sanctioned monopoly by any entity, including the State itself, is “contrary to the genius of a free state”, according to the common sense of our Constitution. If the State is given wide discretion to monopolize spirituous liquor sales on the justification that it is doing so to protect public health and safety, there is little constitutional barrier to the monopolization of other products and services.

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This piece doesn’t really contain anything all that new for those of us who have followed the debate on the drug war, but it is nice to see two prominent economists (Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy) making the case against it in a big paper of record such as the Wall Street Journal.  Here is a snippet, but I recommend the whole piece:

The direct monetary cost to American taxpayers of the war on drugs includes spending on police, the court personnel used to try drug users and traffickers, and the guards and other resources spent on imprisoning and punishing those convicted of drug offenses. Total current spending is estimated at over $40 billion a year.

The more interesting debate is (or should be) over the question of whether recreational drug use of one sort or another is immoral.  Since I drink alcohol socially in a limited fashion, my revealed preferences suggest I’m not opposed to some recreational use of drugs.  Moreover, I utilize caffeine as a performance enhancing drug — meaning, I have enjoyed drinking soda the way others use coffee.  But I’ve never used an illegal drug in my life and have abstained for much more than legal and prudential considerations.  I’d like to have something deeper to say on this at some point but am still thinking through some facets of the issue.  A starting point is that I generally don’t see drug use as consistent with human flourishing, especially in terms of the exercise and maintenance of the most important human faculty: reason.

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At The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead makes a prediction about the future of the drug war. Unlike many libertarians and legalization activists (whom he calls the “Stoner Lobby”), he believes that legalization would be a disaster – but that continuing the drug war would be a catastrophe. As a “least bad” option, he believes that what ought to and will eventually happen is legalization of supply combined with strict, perhaps even harsh, demand-side measures. His arguments against public control of the supply of hard drugs, as attempted briefly in Switzerland and advocated by some moderate legalization activists, are interesting and difficult to refute.

As a challenge to both sides of the debate, this piece is worth a read. I am not so sure that the demand for hard drugs is anywhere near as price-elastic as he believes, however.

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Jonah Goldberg is absolutely right today (I don’t get to say that too often!).

I’m not a binary partisan, but if I were advising the Republican Party, I would  tell them it would be foolish to divert any political attention right now from economic issues (such as spending and debt), the growth of government (size and scope), and government failure/corruption.  Of course, as a political scientist, I am prone to think the bigger macro variables have the most sway – so a lot of this strategizing and messaging isn’t as important as you might think.  But if they are working on the margins, then don’t push pocketbook voters away with social issues from either a conservative or libertarian perspective (unless you can tie them into the larger narrative of government run amok).  And I say this as someone who has very strong preferences on social issues and personal freedom issues*

I would guess that Republican party operatives get this.  And for what it is worth (n=1, so perhaps not much), I made the case for this position recently to a very well-connected Republican insider, and he agreed. 

*(For example, I favor drug legalization even though I think it is immoral to use or abuse most currently illegal drugs).

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