Current Events

End the War on Drugs Now

Last week saw some truly great news: Uruguay legalized marijuana. The country is joining, and in ways now leading, what seems a growing movement towards saner drug policies around the world. In 2001 Portugal decriminalized all (!) drugs. And the Netherlands has long had a tolerant drug policy.

Ending the war on drugs is the single most important improvement we could achieve right now. No other single policy or law has results that are this terrible. And no other single policy or law could be repealed without requiring various other changes as well. We could end the war on drugs tomorrow, and things would instantly become much, much better. Or so I am going to argue.

I suppose most readers of this blog will agree with this. And I suppose that at least some of what I am about to write may be familiar. But messages that are this important bear repeating. I believe that the case I will make extends to all drugs. But even if you don’t think we should go quite that far, the arguments below should persuade you that we should at least change a lot.

(But really, we should legalize it all.)

Let me start by setting one issue aside. This is the fundamental moral argument. You might think drugs ought to be legalized because there is a principled moral case against prohibition. It’s not hard to imagine such arguments. Anti-drug laws seem clearly paternalistic, for example.

But such moral arguments are unlikely to persuade many people. They will inevitably have just enough cracks and crevices that a really determined opponent can exploit, allowing them to construct stories that, at least to them, seem just about satisfying enough.

So in this post I will not be making a straightforwardly moral argument. I will be making a prudential argument. I will show that even if you think drug prohibition is not necessarily wrong, you should still want to end the war on drugs. The reason is simple: drug prohibition is a disaster of enormous proportions, playing out right under our own noses. And the cases of Portugal and the Netherlands, and soon Uruguay as well, show that drug legalization is a much better route.

Let me put it as clearly as possible. Suppose you have a few possible drug policies at your disposal. Our current policy is one of prohibition coupled with strict enforcement. Since the early 1980s, more or less the beginning of the first Reagan administration, US drug enforcement efforts have consistently ballooned. This year (2013), the US Federal government will spend $25.4 billion on the drug war.* This leaves out state and local expenditures.

More and more people have been sent to prison over drug offenses. And by “more and more” I mean that there is no other policy or offense for which people are imprisoned at this rate. Since 1989 more people have been incarcerated for drug offenses than for all violent crimes combined.

Here is a scary chart (as with all charts below, they’ve come off rather small; you can see bigger versions by clicking on them):**

drugs1

The US far outstrips any other country in incarceration rates:

drugs2

This at the very least should be a source of concern. (Below, I will return to the racial disparity of incarceration. And I will mention other problems as well.) So what if there were an alternative policy as well, one that would achieve the following four things:

  1. Not increase addiction or pose extra risks for children
  2. Reduce numerous drug-related problems
  3. Lessen the impact of certain socially destructive outcomes
  4. Reduce extreme violence

Would there be any doubt – any doubt – in your mind that the alternative is better? If ending the drug war gave you (1) through (4), I simply can’t imagine how you might possibly want to keep it going.

Yet that’s the situation in which we find ourselves. So let’s go over all four points.

 

(1) Prohibition does not protect kids or reduce addiction

If you want drugs to be illegal, it is probably because you either fear people becoming addicted or want to protect children from using drugs. Unfortunately, drug prohibition does not seem to help on either count.

Consider first children. Monitoring the Future is an annual survey of secondary school students, college students, and young adults which measures their behavior and attitudes towards drugs. Last year (2012), when asked whether they had used marijuana in the past month, 6.5 percent of 8th graders, 17.0 percent of 10th graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th graders said they had.

That is a lot. Fortunately, though, most kids do not use marijuana. But that is not because they cannot get it. Monitoring the Future began surveying young people in 1975. Since then, the lowest number of 12th graders saying marijuana was fairly easily or very easily available was 81%. Frequently, it’s closer to 90%.

So drugs are highly available to young people. Still, most of them do not use drugs. As it turns out, they are responsible enough to choose not to.

What is more, people’s use of drugs in fact does not seem very sensitive to enforcement efforts. Consider the following chart, offered by Monitoring the Future.

drugs3

The standard explanation for increases and decreases in drug use refers to cultural norms, perceptions of risk, and so on. If you care about decreasing drug use among the young, you are better off trying to change their perception of drugs.

Another way of finding out whether the drug war is having results is by looking at the price of drugs. The following graph contains the prices of various hard drugs. The downward sloping lines represent the prices of various drugs. The rising line represents the number of drug inmates.

drugs4

Prices are a reflection of supply and demand. If prices go down, either supply is up or demand is down. Now there is some evidence (mainly from surveys) that total drug consumption went down during the 1980s.*** But since then, the use of these drugs has remained pretty much stable. Yet prices have continued to drop. And purity levels have generally increased. This suggests that supply has significantly increased.

In fact, the chart above is a sign of relatively normally functioning market. Look, for example, at the price of meth. The spike around 1990 reflects the so-called meth-epidemic – a serious spike in demand. As you would expect under normal market conditions, supply levels responded to increased demand, driving the price gradually down.

The point: we are not keeping dugs out. Despite spending billions on it, and despite sending unprecedented numbers of people (read: mostly African Americans) to prison, we are not keeping drugs out. Basically, people who want them are not stopped by the law. At some point, the rational response is to stop trying.

But it gets worse. Suppose that the early drop in use (demand) I mentioned was indeed brought about by enforcement. Unfortunately, it has been a reduction in the “wrong” kind of use. That is, the use that has gone down has been social or recreational use. The war on drugs has had not had any positive effect on  the rates or absolute numbers of addiction.

In simple terms, prohibition might prevent the occasional user, like you or me, from finding his or her way to some drugs. It does not stop anyone else. If you are a regular user, let alone an addict, prohibition will not prevent you from obtaining or using drugs.

This should come as no surprise. The same thing happened during Alcohol Prohibition. Then too, occasional drinking – like a glass of wine over dinner, a beer after work – went down. And then too, heavy drinking – the kind of drinking that tends to take place in speakeasies – went up.

A final way of testing whether the drug war helps to reduce use or addiction, and to figure out what would happen if we abandoned it, is to compare countries like the US with countries like Portugal. Since Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, the number of people who have at some point used illegal drugs has indeed slightly risen. However, it is hard to attribute this outcome to decriminalization, since the same happened in other countries in the EU as well.

More importantly, drug use in Portugal is among the lowest in the EU. And it is considerably lower than in countries with the most stringent criminalization regimes. The number of teenagers who have at some point taken illegal drugs is falling. And the number of drug addicts who have undergone rehab has increased dramatically.

So here’s the bottom line. Despite some very hard fighting, the war on drugs is simply ineffective. Of course, this might not matter if there were no real downside. But boy, is there a downside.

 

(2) Prohibition increases drug-related problems

The first downside has to do with drug-related problems other than addiction. Consider the number of drug overdose deaths. Since the beginning of the drug war, overdose deaths have skyrocketed – increasing by 540% around the turn of the century, compared with 1980.

drugs5

The trend has continued since.

Emergency room visits involving drug overdose have gone up as well. Consider the following two charts. The first displays emergency room visits due to drug use.

drugs6

Or this chart, which reflects drug mentions in emergency rooms during the same period.

drugs7

Again, the trend has continues. Between 2004 and 2009 alone, the total number of drug-related emergency room visits increased by 81% from 2.5 million to 4.6 million.****

There also has been increasing numbers of HIV and Hepatitis C infections. This is mainly due to the prohibition on needle possession. As a result, addicts tend to share their of needles, leading to the spreading of HIV and Hepatitis C. Consider the chart below, which also shows how these epidemics have particularly affected African-Americans and Latinos.

drugs8

There are a number of reasons for attributing these problems to the drug war (apart from the fact that their increases coincide with increased enforcement of anti-drug laws). Compare, again, Portugal, where the number of drug addicts infected with HIV has fallen significantly since the beginning of decriminalization.

Another reason for thinking this is due to the drug war is that the same processes were again visible during Alcohol Prohibition. After the Volstead Act was passed, there were rapid increases in wood poisoning, for example, a risk associated with having liquor age in poorly prepared barrels.

So the first major downside of the war on drugs is that it seems to have seriously aggravated drug overdoses, both lethal and non-lethal, and drug-related problems like HIV or Hepatitis C.

 

(3) The drug war has socially destructive results

The second downside is that the war on drugs has aggravated already serious social problems. Above I mentioned the increases in enforcement and incarceration since the early 1980s. The main victims of this have been African Americans.

Glenn Loury produces the following graph. It shows how the war on drugs has been waged primarily on blacks.

drugs9

The results have been terrible. Today, a black male resident of the state of California is more likely to go to a state prison than to a state college.

When I present these facts to people, I commonly hear that the solution is simple: black people should just stop committing crimes. But that is to miss at least part of the point. A policy that leads to outcomes that are so racially polarized is simply no good public policy.

Perhaps you think that blacks simply commit more drug-related crimes than whites? But that explanation does not pass the sniff test. It fails to explain why there is a sudden spike in black incarceration after 1980. It fails to explain why there is no similar spike for whites. And it is not clear how this fits with the fact that African Americans actually use drugs at lower rates than whites.

drugs10

The real explanation is much more grim. The criminal justice system simply does not treat black and white the same. If you don’t believe me, just read The New Jim Crow and see if you still think the same. Here are but two examples. Until 2010, the ratio of the amounts needed to trigger federal criminal penalties between powder cocaine (a typically “white” drug) and crack cocaine (a typically “black” drug) was 100:1. It’s since been reduced to 18:1 by the 2010 Act that goes by the would-be-hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-darn-tragic name of “Fair Sentencing Act.”

Another example. Studies that compare sentencing for similar crimes but involving defendants and victims of different races have found that young, black (and Latino) males are subject to harsher sentencing, receive smaller sentence reductions for assistance, criminal history, etc., that black defendants who are convicted of harming white victims suffer harsher penalties than blacks who commit crimes against other blacks or white defendants who harm whites, that black (and Latino) defendants tend to be sentenced more severely than comparably situated white defendants for less serious crimes, and especially for drug and property crimes.

These are obviously general problems, and their sources and solutions reach far beyond issues of the drug war. Incarceration has exploded despite crime going down.

drugs11

But the war on drugs is a crucial part of this story. It puts many more people, and especially African Americans, in a position where they are vulnerable to these forces. That is a real problem.

 

(4) The war on drugs has caused extreme violence

The third downside concerns violence. I trust I don’t have to spell out the kinds of violence in our own society caused by the war on drugs. As during Prohibition, a policy of repression takes off the table peaceful forms of enforcement and conflict resolution. And this means such issues are resolved by violence. Most people know this.

What fewer people know is the extreme violence abroad that the war on drugs has caused. The most well-known of example, of course, is Northern Mexico. Here, the effects have been truly horrific. States like Chihuahua have been basically in a state of civil war for years now. And since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón ramped up the fight against the cartels, the military has been involved in fighting drug violence. During the Calderón administration alone (2006 – 2012), the official death toll of drug-related violence in Mexico is 60,000. Unofficial counts put it more in the range of 100,000.

Those were not typos.

The drug cartels tend to decapitate their rivals, mutilate their corpses and dump them in public places to instill fear into the general public, local law enforcement, and their rivals. They control raw material production, are involved in human trafficking, and on and on and on. Corruption is rampant. Cartel members tend to give officials a choice: silver or lead (i.e. take our money or die). Entire police departments are now said to work for cartels. The same is true of the military. Instead of enforcing the law, they are enlisted by cartels to fight rivals.

There is only one way of ending this: stop the drug war. Repressing the violence through law enforcement is simply not a real option. Standard estimates of the annual earning of Mexican cartels are in the range of $13.6 billion to $49.4 billion. That’s somewhere in between the annual GDP of Jamaica or Cambodia and the annual GDP of Uruguay or Slovenia. You are not shutting that down.

The problems in Mexico are mainly due to its geographical proximity to the US. America remains the biggest consumer of drugs in the world, making Mexico the biggest site of drug transportation. Similar problems and violence occur in places that produce drugs. The drug war has created large, well-funded groups in countries where drugs are produced that have vested interests in their governments being ineffective, for example in Colombia. These groups run large-scale militias that basically rule over large portions of the country. Their presence creates a dynamic that makes peace and economic development basically impossible, as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson chronicle in Why Nations Fail. As in Mexico, they simply stand to lose too much.

 

How to move forward?

What all this shows, I think, is that we should legalize all drugs. Maybe you think that is too rash. And maybe it is. But let’s not get distracted by that. There are a number of niceties we can get into about what the best policy should be. Portugal decriminalized drugs, it did not legalize them, and has tried to strengthen its drug treatment programs. Other policies are thinkable too. There is no simple dichotomy between full legalization and the disaster we have now.

All that does not remove the real point: the current war on drugs is a disaster. As I said, it is hard to think of a single other policy or law that the results of which are as bad as this one. Anything else would be a big improvement.

It is not going to be easy to get things changed. There now is a huge (huge) group with a vested interest in keeping this war going. More Americans are now employed in the corrections sector than belong to the combined workforces of General Motors, Ford and Wal-Mart, the three biggest corporate employers in the country. And expenditure on criminal justice functions have exploded together with the escalating drug war.

drugs12

These people stand to lose from an end to the drug war. The thing is, literally everybody else has a world to win.

 

* About a third of this goes to treatment and prevention, the rest to enforcement, etc.

** The chart, as well as a number of others below, I borrow from Glenn Loury’s presentations here and here.

*** There is disagreement about the explanation. Some (i.e. government officials) like to claim that it was a response to increased enforcement. Others argue it had to do more with cultural changes like hippies growing old.

**** This is not just due to emergency room visits going up in general. Drug-related emergency room visits and mentions grew at roughly twice the rate of total emergency room visits.

  • Sol Logic

    Wow that was pretty thorough for a blog post!

  • TracyW

    Why does the US have much higher incarceration rates than all the other countries that criminalise drugs?

    • adrianratnapala

      I’m no expert, but I think the US has harsher penalties for possession of very small amounts. So in effect those other countries let people get away with a slap on the wrist (fine? nothing at all?) for personal use.

      BTW: Can anyone explain what “decriminalisation” means in the context of Portugal? That possession in any quantity is OK but trafficking is not?

      • Roberto Zetta

        That is actually not true. I live in Bavaria (South of Germany), and here the tolerance is very very low compared to California, where i´ve been a coupe of month ago. In Berlin (Noth of Germany) the policies is quite different from Bavaria, tolerance is significantly higher, prices are lower and the use more common then here.

        • adrianratnapala

          Wow! I live in Bavaria too and I didn’t know any of that (though I suppose I could have guessed it). But even if Bavaria is as strict as America, the point remains that in most Western lands, severe penalties only apply for larger quantities.

          But you have a point that seems to contradict BvDV: He implies that anti-drug laws don’t increase prices — but those laws are the most plausible reason why prices in Munich should be higher than prices in Berlin.

          BTW: Does this apply to land as well? Can we decriminalise something to bring rent down to Berlin levels? That really would be a win for liberty.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            You are correct on both counts. Decriminalization brings down prices which undercuts the profits of the criminal cartels, and reducing regulations and taxes on land would also bring down rent prices.

          • Basvandervossen

            I didn’t say that drug laws don’t increase prices. They likely do – for example because suppliers want compensation for the risks they take. What I said is that the development of prices suggests that anti-drug laws have not reduced supply.

      • AKAOswald

        While decriminalized acts are no longer crimes, they may still be the subject of penalties; for example a monetary fine in place of a criminal charge for the possession of a decriminalized drug. This should be contrasted with legalization, which removes all or most legal detriments from a previously illegal act.
        So basically one can be fined but not sent to prison for using drugs. I also believe one may be subjected to detox or treatment rather than prison.

    • Basvandervossen

      That’s a very complex question. The drug war is an important part of the explanation. Mandatory sentencing and, more generally, more severe sentencing have added to this. The New Jim Crow and the presentations by Glenn Loury to which I have linked contain more detailed explanations and hypotheses.

      • Jeremy McLellan

        Most of the energy right now is behind legalizing marijuana. The vast majority of people that I know support legalizing marijuana, but not all drugs. I agree that we should legalize all drugs, but should we go around saying “legalize all drugs” or cross that bridge when we get to it? How would you go about persuading someone to legalize something that is more culturally repellent than marijuana, like meth or heroin?

        • Basvandervossen

          You may be right as a strategic matter. That’s why I attempted to hedge my points at a few places (e.g. that even if you don’t want to go all the way, you should at least be convinced we should go quite some distance away from what we’ve got now).

          More generally, I find it hard to accept this conclusion about marijuana (i.e. legalization is the way forward) and not see that the same arguments apply with equal force to all other drugs. The fact that others may be more dangerous (as is often said) is neither here nor there: none of the arguments above relied on the danger of drugs.

          • jdkolassa

            I think it’s just that people are open to legalizing marijuana but open to legalizing much else. If you bundle up marijuana with other drugs then your legalization package will probably get shot down. It’s the Overton Window and all that.

          • Sean II

            On the other hand, if you legalize marijuana by itself you may just close the window behind you.

            Coke and heroin just don’t tough enough lives to get on the agenda in their own rights. Once they can no longer catch a ride on weed’s back, they’ll become frozen in legislative time. Probably both will remain illegal as long as the state endures.

        • jdkolassa

          Right now: legalize marijuana.

          Five years from now: legalize cocaine.

          Ten years from now: legalize crack.

          Twenty years from now: legalize heroin.

          Six minutes from now: Legalize LSD, because for god’s sake why not?

  • Jameson Graber

    This post is pretty good, and as Sol Logic says, pretty thorough for a blog post. There’s just one line that seems like it would attract particular criticism from the right: “Incarceration has exploded despite crime going down.” Conservatives would argue that crime has gone down because of increased incarceration, so that sentence doesn’t seem to hold a lot of weight.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      And they would be partially correct. I am sure SOME of the decrease in crime can be tracked to more jail time for criminals, But the salient point would be to break down the number of people in jail for drug crimes vs. other crimes, and those have gone up steadily in spite of our many decades long war on drugs (or rather, because of it).

    • Basvandervossen

      Les is being too nice to this “conservative” argument. It’s been tested and turns out to be simply false. One clue: check out the graph above and you see that there is no simply relation between incarceration rates and crime. It take a long time, and a lot of people behind bars before crime suddenly starts dropping. And after crime leveled out, incarceration kept growing. See e.g. http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/page.cfm?id=107

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    Preaching to the choir with me. I thought the war on drugs was a failure way back in the 1980’s In fact it is the primary issue which drove me into reading about and becoming a libertarian.

  • Orrie Cather

    People steal others’ property even though we have laws against it.

    People rape even though we have laws against it.

    People commit homicide even though we have laws against it.

    “At some point, the rational response is to stop trying.”

    Our side can do better than these kinds of non sequitur arguments. Or at least we better do better.

    • Basvandervossen

      It helps if you represent my argument correctly instead of attacking some strawman.

      The correct analogy would be if laws against theft, homicide, etc. did nothing to reduce theft, homicide, etc. and created a host of additional tragedies. And in that case, yes, the rational response would be to stop trying what we’ve been trying. But I’ve not seen evidence for that claim.

      • Orrie Cather

        Bas, that is not what you said. This is what you said:

        “The point: we are not keeping dugs [sic] out. Despite spending billions on it, and despite sending unprecedented numbers of people (read: mostly African Americans) to prison, we are not keeping drugs out. Basically, people who want them are not stopped by the law. At some point, the rational response is to stop trying.”

        So are you now revising your argument to claim that drug laws do “nothing” to reduce the bad consequences of drug use? Is that really what you want to claim?

        Again, our side can do better. This is just sloppy reasoning.

        • Basvandervossen

          Yes, there is no evidence that anti-drug laws have reduced the bad consequences of drug use. And there is a lot of evidence that they have aggravated these consequences.

          So no sloppy reasoning. Some bad reading though.

          • Orrie Cather

            Is this an invitation to cite well-run studies that purport to show that drug prohibition laws have some deterrence effect? I could, you know, do so. Are you seriously claiming that there is NO evidence against your view? You are right that is not sloppiness. That’s being backed into a corner and turning your argument into a reductio.

          • Basvandervossen

            Yes, consider it an invitation.

            But let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. I have NOT said that there has been no reduction in use at all since the beginning of the drug war. In fact, I mention that there has been some reduction in use. So your reply changes the topic.

            The point you need to disprove, then, is either of the following two claims: (A) There has been no significant reduction in addiction – one of the most serious problems associated with drug use. And (B) there has been an explosion in other “bad consequences” like overdoses, STDs, etc.

            If you can show serious studies that refute either of THOSE claims, I’d love to see them. And I really mean that – after all, it’s possible I’ve simply missed them.

            That said, I think we agree on the main point: even if my claims prove too strong, the problems caused by the drug war are so severe that it’s probably still a good idea to end it.

          • Orrie Cather

            Bas, I said:

            “So are you now revising your argument to claim that drug laws do
            “nothing” to reduce the bad consequences of drug use? Is that really
            what you want to claim?”

            Then you said:

            “Yes, there is no evidence that anti-drug laws have reduced the bad consequences of drug use.”

            Are you now asking me to criticize some other claim? Or are you content with me providing against against the claim you did, in fact, make?

          • Orrie Cather

            *evidence against

          • Basvandervossen

            Apparently you think every individual case of use is a bad consequence. I don’t think that’s plausible. At all. But whatever, this is getting old really fast. So why don’t you cite those studies and we’ll see what they establish.

          • Orrie Cather

            I neither said nor implied any such thing. All I am claiming is that there exists some evidence that prohibition laws have had positive effects in curtailing the deleterious consequences of drug use. Just a few moments and a little bit of intellectual curiosity can turn up such evidence.

            See, for example:

            http://www.unodc.org/pdf/research/Swedish_drug_control.pdf

            Or a few reviews of the evidence:

            http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/issues-content/directors_cal_chiefs_remarks.pdf

            http://www.drugfree.org.au/fileadmin/Media/Global/Taskforce_Arguments_for_Prohibition.pdf

          • Basvandervossen

            So I just wasted some of my time looking at those links. As a result, this will be the last I say about this.

            Those studies show nothing of the sort you say. They cite instances of “low” (as compared to what?) drug use – especially marijuana – in countries with repressive laws. That means absolutely zero about the arguments and conclusions from my post. Two points:

            (1) In the post, I specifically talk about hard drugs and addiction. So these studies are mostly not germane on that count alone.

            (2) Just citing numbers in isolation means nothing unless you can at least compare them to (a) worse numbers in countries with less severe policies, (b) show that the numbers in the same country are sensitive to enforcement efforts, (c) historically similar experiences like the Volstead Act, and so on.

            Even then, the evidence will be tentative (due to possible interfering variables, etc.), but at least then you’re saying something that could be informative. I tried doing just that in my post, and I think it clearly indicates what I say it does: there is no evidence that anti-drug laws have had any positive effect on the (real) problems of drug use, and a lot of evidence that they’ve made things worse.

            So there’s that.

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  • Sean II

    One tiny nitpick about this post:

    The New Jim Crow is a dreadful piece of hackery, of the kind that makes anyone who cites it approvingly look like a fool.

    • Basvandervossen

      Well, I certainly don’t agree with everything in there. But I find it hard to read without being convinced that current incarceration rates and their effects on African Americans are cases of serious injustice. In any case, all the claims I make find support in other documents too, e.g. the linked Glenn Loury pieces.

      • Sean II

        The serious injustice is what the drug war does to its millions of victims, period.

        Couple reasons why the book sucks:

        1) Not so long ago, within your lifetime and mine Bas, it was considered racist to be against the drug war. I remember this firsthand. The argument was: “If you don’t want tougher sentences for crack, you must not care about black people”. See: the 1980s.

        Jim Crow was an intentional system of racial oppression. Bad as the drug war is, we cannot compare it to that. We don’t let Glenn Beck get away with comparing Hilary to Hitler. We don’t let Rachel Maddow get away with comparing employers who won’t provide free birth control to the Taliban.

        We should not let Michelle Alexander get away with this, lest we reveal ourselves to have a racist double-standard that tolerates academic child’s play from black intellectuals.

        2) Blacks are presently overrepresented in the system to the tune of 16% census, 40% CJS supervised population. However, if you take drug offenses away and just look at traditional crimes (murder, rape, robbery, burglary, etc) blacks would be even more massively overrepresented. In some categories (e.g. armed robbery) black men account for +85% of offenses.

        The sad truth of it is: the drug war is actually making prisons much whiter than they would otherwise be.

        • jdkolassa

          That last part is interesting. Do you have a citation handy? I would like to study this.

          • Sean II

            I’ll find you some resources…give me a little time to retrace my steps.

          • Sean II

            The FBI’s UCR data is actually quite good

            Check out these stats on homicide, which is usually taken to be a very good index crime. Note how well the race numbers for homicide mirror the overall trend, with blacks being 13% of the population and yet accounting for 38% of known murderers: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_3_murder_offenders_by_age_sex_and_race_2012.xls

            In fact the true number is probably higher, since about 50% of murder victims are black, and murder is very much an intra-racial crime. In other words, if all offenders were known, blacks would likely account for 50% of murder offenses: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_1_murder_victims_by_race_and_sex_2012.xls

            Lots of tables to play with here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/49tabledatadecpdf

            Note again that for any violent crime, you’ll find blacks punching dramatically above their weight. Usually the least striking disparity is with rape (which you would expect to be less sensitive to such variables) but even there, you find blacks accounting for more than twice as many offenses as their share of population would predict.

            Bottom line: the data isn’t hard to find, it’s just hard to face, and even harder to explain.

          • Charity Case

            The government is the biggest murderer, robber, you name it, of them all– and which race owns the state? Who is commanding and carrying out these murders all over the world? Disproportionately whites. Now what would the stats say if all individual actions were held to same moral standard and had none of these uncivilized exemptions via government status?

          • Sean II

            That’s pretty ridiculous. Sounds like a dead-eared line in a bad movie: “Aren’t we all a little guilty…”

            In the most banal sense imaginable, I guess we are. But that changes fuck-all.

            Besides, black voters are the most consistent statists in America, so you’re definitely not getting black America off the hook by calling attention to the crimes of the state. The racial disproportion extends to that realm, as well.

          • Charity Case

            No, you are ridiculous! Blacks are not voting for military-industrial complex contracts, foreign interventions, and access to congressional and Federal Reserve spigots. They vote for more mundane handouts and jobbery. Serious, your fallacy is conglomerating conflation.

          • Sean II

            You’ve obviously not spent much time discussing foreign policy with black people.

            You should try it sometime.

          • Charity Case

            I speak to a black person every day about all kinds of things. Regardless of who I talk to, it does not change the actual structure of government process. Whites control, far past their demographic proportion, the state apparatus. I am including plutocrats, corporate officers, banking insiders, contractors, regulators, associations…myriad points of bought influence, etc… Come on. If you need to be down-to-earth empirical, ask who is a most likely to be special forces, the professional killer? From East St. Louis to the CIA? Highly unlikely.

          • Sean II

            “I speak to a black person every day about all kinds of things.”

            1) That sounded funny. 2) Increase your sample size.

            “Whites control, far past their demographic proportion, the state apparatus.”

            Amazingly wrong. Whites are 72% of the population, so it would be very difficult for them to do much “beyond their demographic proportion”. Their demographic proportion is a massive super-majority.

            In fact, things are the other way around. Blacks exercise an influence on politics that goes far beyond their 13% share of the census. Overrepresentation in government employment, strict party-line voting, highly organized turnout efforts, strong influence in the Democratic primary process, an alphabet soup of activist groups, and almost total control over key electoral precincts combine to make blacks far more politically powerful than they would be on a reckoning of numbers alone.

            Please don’t take this the wrong way, but…you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re pretty clearly clouded by emotion when you talk about it, and on this subject you really need to talk less, listen more.

          • Charity Case

            Expected response, really. I crushed your myopic attempt at empiricism with a much wider and realistic take on power. Serious, who buys the politicians? Who pays the lobbyists? The boards, officers and controlling interests in America are more than 72% white. You wish not to see, then be blind. Your choice. Make yourself emotionally comfortable.

          • Sean II

            Your “realistic take on power” smells very strongly of race politics circa 1960.

            It would have been somewhat accurate then. Today it’s just dangerously mistaken.

          • Charity Case

            You do not have the facts to back you up. Sorry, I grow tired of this. Blacks are 1% CEOs, btw. 13% population… Your accusations are side-tracking ancillary nonsense.

          • Sean II

            “Blacks are 1% CEOs, btw. 13%”

            Granted. I’m curious: why do you suppose that is?

  • Texas Dude

    Why is all this data at least 7+ years old? Do the latest trends suggest a differing picture? Don’t want to be a skeptic but FBI figures are updated annually about 1 year in arrears as an example. I’d love to see 2013 statistics.

    • jdkolassa

      2013 probably isn’t out, not even sure about 2012. You should be able to find 2011 data, though.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    By the Way, The single best book on this, in my opinion is ;

    Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country by Peter McWilliams
    It is not a scholarly book but is very well researched, and well cited. The author makes his arguments in a witty and engaging style. The author is also a casualty of the war on drugs. A cancer patient, he was jailed for using medical marijuana (even though he was in a state where it was legal). As a result he suffered from nausea related to Chemo and choked on his own vomit.

  • JW Ogden

    IHMO the only consumables (things smoked, swallowed or injected) that should be regulated beyond the laws against fraud and certain access by minors are antibiotics. With antibiotics there are strong public health reasons to restrict use Of course even now Government does a very poor job controlling antibiotic use. We should be able to get our medicines without going through MD gate keepers and trying to get people to stop using recreationally does not seem to work very well.

    Of course Government also does a very bad job of enforcement against fraud. Se la vi.

  • Jett_Rucker

    The war on drugs has acquired several very powerful lobbies (e.g., Baptists and bootleggers in the previous Prohibition). It will take HUGE majorities having the persuasion this article presents to overcome the combined power of these lobbies. Anyway, that’s why “we” continue with this and many other destructive policies.

  • Jano Szabo

    The drug “laws” appear to be a judicial hoax – nothing more than transparent military propaganda:

    An armed robbery committed by a “police officer” is recorded as a “confiscation of contraband”; a kidnapping is an “arrest”; possession of drugs by the cops themselves is “controlling the evidence in the police vehicle”; theft of the kidnapping victim’s money and property is a “forfeiture”; and if a cop sells drugs on the street it’s a “sting.”

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  • trainsgressor

    I appreciate your existence.This essay is so well put together,the evidences are concrete,the arguments are hearty,you should give a go on try to get it published.

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