The biggest ignored issue

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  • #51
Hurkyl
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How many of you that argue for legalization on the basis that it would destroy the drug cartels would support the re-enactment of prohibition once the cartels are destroyed?
 
  • #52
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Hurkyl said:
All I had meant to say in the post to which you responded was that the existence of drug use did not mean the war on drugs is failing -- that's why I just stated the point I meant to make and abandoned what I actually said.
Fair enough.
 
  • #53
loseyourname
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Hurkyl said:
On another note, you keep talking about how ineffective the war on drugs is... but when I've looked at the numbers, they show a huge drop in hard drug use (in the 80s, I think), and the numbers stayed down.
I don't know that there is really any way to verify this, but my guess is that the primary reason for the large drop in the late 80's was the extensive education efforts during the Reagan administration. I was in elementary school at the time and we were constantly bombarded with "Just Say No" slogans and DARE officials coming to our school to talk about the evils of drug usage. Red Ribbon Week and pledges to never use were big events. Granted, this is all anecdotal evidence, but from what I could tell as a child, the effort was largely successful.

The quarrel here isn't with the effectiveness of education efforts, but rather with attempts at reduction of supply abroad. The LA Times reported several days ago on the effectiveness of the war in Columbia, which was almost entirely financed by the US. They point out that production in that country declined by about 20%. What they fail to mention is that production in neighboring countries went up more than enough to compensate, and also that some of the largest victims of this war have been not only the farm-workers who grow and harvest the coca crop, but also completely innocent civilians living in the countryside who have been caught in the crossfire between druglords and the Columbian military.

It seems clear from a purely theoretical standpoint that the most effective way to fight a war on drugs is to fight demand, not supply. As long as people have the desire and the money to obtain illegal drugs, someone will find a way to supply them with what they want. The potential payoff is clearly enough to mitigate the risk for these people. Their continued efforts in spite of long prison sentences and wars fought against them by highly trained and funded soldiers bear this out.

Ultimately, in any capitalistic endeavor, it is the consumer that dictates the size of a market. This is just as true in black markets as it is in legal markets.
 
  • #54
russ_watters
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The best way to win any war is to first go after the command and control infrastructure, leaving the troops disorganized and uncoordinated, then go after the supply-chain, leaving them unable to fight. Then you don't have to kill the foot-soldiers, they'll surrender en masse (see Iraq, 1991).

Applied to the war on drugs, that means go after the organizational structure of the cartels. They are like large corporations and killing the leaders would severely affect their ability to operate. Going after their supply-chain is a two-fold problem: First and toughest is their money. Banks need to be made to be accountable for the money they have in their banks. I don't know why the Swiss think secrecy is a virtue - it isn't. The money needs to be siezed. Next is their infrastructure - specifically, the transportation networks. The Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard need to take the gloves off and go after the planes and ships that transport most of the drugs.

The way to fight to win is Tom Clancy style. But I know it isn't politically feasible - politicians are wusses.
 
  • #55
loseyourname
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I still contend that viewing this issue as a war on suppliers is the wrong way to look at it. The problem, as it exists in our own nation, is with drug users. Even if you completely get rid the world of the supply of every drug that is currently illegal, you won't rid this nation of an entire culture of people with a severe psychological affliction. Don't forget that many illegal drugs, such as ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, and heroin, were developed by medical researchers who were mostly attempting to cure people of psychological disorders. Furthermore, drugs such as marijuana and amphetamines have legitimate medical applications. Most drugs that are illegal also have closely related prescription counterparts (speed-ritalin, heroin-methodone/morphine, etc.) that also have potential for abuse and which many otherwise law-abiding citizens are addicted to. I've even been through a divorce caused by the addiction of my wife to vicodin, an addiction that started with a severe hip injury and a prescription.

There is an epidemic of dependency in the United States, both on legal and illegal medications (most serious drug usage ultimately boils down to self-medication) that won't be solved through military efforts. You might very win the war against Columbian drug-lords, but you will not win the more important war on a problem afflicting a large portion of the American citizenry.
 
  • #56
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Hurkyl said:
How many of you that argue for legalization on the basis that it would destroy the drug cartels would support the re-enactment of prohibition once the cartels are destroyed?
Well I, for one, would not be supporting that idea. Whenever you prohibit a very addictive substance you create a niche for exploiters of the addiction.
 
  • #57
russ_watters
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loseyourname, we just have two fundamentally different views of the problem. Your view is that the problem is drug use, my view is that the problem is drug crime. Ironically, your view is shared by the drug-legalization types (or, perhaps, they mix the two). If drugs should be legalized, that implies usage isn't a problem - just the crime associated with its trade. Its contradictory.
 
  • #58
BobG
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russ_watters said:
The best way to win any war is to first go after the command and control infrastructure, leaving the troops disorganized and uncoordinated, then go after the supply-chain, leaving them unable to fight. Then you don't have to kill the foot-soldiers, they'll surrender en masse (see Iraq, 1991).

Applied to the war on drugs, that means go after the organizational structure of the cartels. They are like large corporations and killing the leaders would severely affect their ability to operate. Going after their supply-chain is a two-fold problem: First and toughest is their money. Banks need to be made to be accountable for the money they have in their banks. I don't know why the Swiss think secrecy is a virtue - it isn't. The money needs to be siezed. Next is their infrastructure - specifically, the transportation networks. The Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard need to take the gloves off and go after the planes and ships that transport most of the drugs.

The way to fight to win is Tom Clancy style. But I know it isn't politically feasible - politicians are wusses.
The biggest problem I see with this is that there isn't just one organized drug cartel. You take one down, you just improve life for other groups, often from completely different regions of the world (for example, heroin can come from Latin America or from Asia or Eastern Europe).

On the flip side, we need to do a better job monitoring what comes across our borders, regardless of whether it's drugs, weapons, or people. In other words, fighting to prevent drugs from the entering the country isn't as expensive as it looks on the surface.

Realistically, guarding the borders isn't going to stop 100% of drug smuggling anymore than it will stop 100% of terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country, but there is something to be said for making the whole enterprise a little riskier and encouraging 'the enemy' to keep things small.

Domestically, I agree prosecuting a minor drug like marijuana is worthless. It's no more a 'gateway drug' than alcohol, if not for its illegality which introduces users to an 'exotic' criminal element.

[There's an interesting case before the Supreme Court about California's medicinal marijuana use - interesting, because a majority of justices seem conflicted between their historical view on states' rights and their personal views on this particular issue - could Scalia wind up deciding California should be able to legalize medicinal use while Stevens decides California shouldn't be able to? Will Reinquist wind up going to California to ease the side effects of his chemotherapy? And why can terminally ill cancer patients get morphine, but can't get marijuana or heroin?]

I'd have a hard time legalizing something like crack cocaine or heroin for general use, though. In general, regulating distribution of all 'dangerous' drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, etc. does serve a useful purpose, especially your strong drugs that are also highly addictive, such as crack cocaine, heroin, and morphine.
 
  • #59
loseyourname
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russ_watters said:
loseyourname, we just have two fundamentally different views of the problem. Your view is that the problem is drug use, my view is that the problem is drug crime. Ironically, your view is shared by the drug-legalization types (or, perhaps, they mix the two). If drugs should be legalized, that implies usage isn't a problem - just the crime associated with its trade. Its contradictory.
Well, I actually don't view usage alone as a problem. The problem is addiction. There are casual users out there who have never had any more of a problem that the average guy that has a couple of beers when he watches Monday Night Football. In fact, there are even a few examples of addicts who remained perfectly functioning members of society and never caused any trouble for anyone. The most notable example I can think of was a former dean of the Yale Medical School who spent all of his working life addicted to morphine. The key, of course, was that he had a steady, reliable, and regulated supply.

The only way I can really advance my view over yours is to point out what I did before: even if you rid the entire world of all suppliers and all supply, we would still be left with a very large society of disfunctional people that would simply find some other way to drown out their issues, whether it be a newfound addiction to gambling or sex. Heck, we might just see the sales of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication go through the roof (both of which, of course, do have the potential for abuse). You're only exchanging one problem for another.
 
  • #60
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russ_watters said:
loseyourname, we just have two fundamentally different views of the problem. Your view is that the problem is drug use, my view is that the problem is drug crime. Ironically, your view is shared by the drug-legalization types (or, perhaps, they mix the two). If drugs should be legalized, that implies usage isn't a problem - just the crime associated with its trade. Its contradictory.
You apparently just do not believe that legalizing drugs could bring down drug related crime and drug use.
 
  • #61
plover
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russ_watters said:
my view is that the problem is drug crime.
I thought you implied earlier that your view was that drug use was immoral. Perhaps I misunderstood. To take the position that the problem is drug crime, then to oppose legalization would require an argument that legalization would increase drug crime, which I'm not sure is empirically supportable. (And, yes, of course, the argument only makes sense when restricted to drug related violence and theft, as the overall level of drug related crime would instantly go down if possession were no longer a crime.)
 
  • #62
fafalone
Hurkyl said:
You say this a lot, but what does it really mean? It's certainly nonobvious that this is a bad thing, nor that it's an indicator that the war on drugs is failing.
Generally the end result of trying to make a product more scarce through force is to drive up the price of that product, so that its not profitable. A decrease in price means that there is no trouble with supply, so it's ok to drop prices and allow demand to go up; and the purity increase shows that it's not artificially creating more product by diluting it.

And you make juxtapositions like this as if it meant something. Even if improving purity and decreasing price is shown to be a bad thing, you've made absolutely no effort to show that things would not have been worse had this seizure not taken place.
That's the point actually, you're going to have alot of pissed off violent criminals; but this doesn't mean user supply will drop, because seizures are anticipated enough to have it make little impact, and the seizure rate is generally constant so it wouldn't really lead to more availability either.



It would be silly to expect 100% victory, but your criticisms of the war on drugs seem to be based primarily on the fact that 100% victory hasn't been accomplished. The war on drugs is successful if drug usage is less than if there was no war on drugs, which you admit is the case:
Less "drug use" is not the only measure of success. I believe I've stated that use would indeed go up, but addiction and ruined lives because of it would go down. The primary problem with drug use is the violence the illicit market creates, this is responsible for a majority of drug related deaths. The goal of a war on drugs should be to minimize the deaths related to drugs, and in that respect the wars punitive approach is a failure.
I base my ascertation of failure upon the following:
- No significant drops in use have been realized since the wars inception, despite massive funding increases.
- As previously mentioned, this is because supply has not been reduced despite increasingly strong efforts.
- Drug availability to minors has been increasing.
- The drug war has clearly failed to help otherwise law-abiding citizens with a problem, since prison destroys their lives even more.
- Even as use remains steady, the number of *non-violent*, *first-time* offenders incarcerated continues to increase, and their average sentence is higher than that of rapists and murderers.
Furthermore, you use selective sampling as if it's representative:



You are obviously trying to imply that this is your "typical" drug user.

However, you've given no reason to think that these people aren't simply the exceptional cases that are better able than to keep their habit from spilling over into other parts of their life... and that might not even be permament.

And you haven't even attempted to say that the druggies are as productive and successful as the others.
Actually, since overall drug use has been found, by government study, to have a constant rate across all socioeconomic brackets, this is pretty much true. And furthermore, recreational occaisonal use has even less of an impact, and these users make up such a substantial majority of all users, that they can be considered typical.

(a) It is already known that social use and addiction are not mutually exclusive, at least with alcohol.
(b) Since one can become addicted to some drugs from a single use, moderation won't prevent addiction.
(a) The decision to misuse alcohol, i.e. alone, in class, because of depression or wanting to escape, must inherently preceed addiction... going straight from social use to addiction without taking the step of misuse does not happen, and does not happen with any other substance.

(b) Psychologically yes, physically no. Given that, this does not speak to why alcohol is acceptable and drug users should be treated as criminals instead of a person with a health problem.

Furthermore, smoked nicotine is more physically addictive than any illicit drug (laboratory quantitive measurements, its legal status for humans just makes things worse), and more psychologically addicting than most. On top of that, smoked nicotine is the MOST DEADLY DRUG. You are more likely to die from addiction to smoking from causes directly related to it, then from causes directly related to addiction to any other drug. Why should this be ok and everything else should mean jail time? If you would outlaw nicotine to, do you think people addicted to the most addictive drug would simply stop when it was now available on the street? Would people selling it non-violently deserve more jail time than murderers and airplane hijackers? Would the drop in use justify the increase in violence and the people whose addiction was now unaffordable and virtually impossible to get effective help for?

My superordinate criticism is that using a punitive approach to drive down use rather than a treatment and effective preventive education (prevention programs today are largely NOT effective) is not the most ethical or effective way of reducing the burden on society and saving the most lives; the fact that such a punitive approach cannot succeed further is secondary.
 

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