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Drug War Idiocy

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Mexican officials are all aglow over the seizure of a record 23 tons of cocaine, which they promptly burned in the hope of receiving $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer monies from U.S. officials.

When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

Some 30 years ago, when I was a young lawyer in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, the DEA loved to make these types of announcements. Month after month, year after year, decade after decade, one record drug bust followed by another record drug bust.

I repeat: When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

At the risk of asking an impertinent question: What’s the use of record drug busts, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade? Do record drug busts do anything to stop the supply of and demand for drugs? If they did, then why have there been record drug busts following record drug busts month after month, year after year, and decade after decade? Wouldn’t you think that if “progress” were being made, especially after 30 years of drug warfare, drug busts would no longer be setting records?

Those DEA agents who were making those record drug busts 30 years ago are now retiring on their sweet federal pensions. The current crop of DEA agents is following the same well-trod road, making the same glorious record-drug-bust announcements, and declaring how “progress” is being made in the war on drugs.

If the American people continue to let this drug-war idiocy continue, 30 years from now the current crop of DEA officials will be retiring on their sweet federal pensions and replaced by a new crop of DEA officials making new record drug busts and making the same idiotic drug-war announcements.

Here’s an example of the drug-war idiocy that guides these people. U.S. officials are now saying that rising prices of cocaine show that the Mexican drug war is working. Hello?! Have these people never heard of the law of supply and demand? When supply is constricted, the price goes up. But that new higher price—and higher profits—then attract new suppliers, which increases the supply of the item, which then causes the price to go down.

That’s in fact what has happened throughout the 30 years of the drug war. Don’t you recall all the glorious announcements from the DEA and the Justice Department about busting the Medellin cartel, or the Cali cartel, or the drug lord Carlos Lehder? Don’t you remember the U.S. invasion of Panama for the supposed purpose of incarcerating Panama’s president and ex-CIA operative Manuel Noriega for drug violations? If those drug busts were such a success, how come the drug war is still being waged with such ferocity? When does it finally end?

I repeat: When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

Mexican officials will do anything to get a hold of those one billion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money, including selling out their favorite bribe-paying drug dealer. That’s $1 billion dollars—with a “b”! Make no mistake about it: Most of it will end up in the Swiss bank accounts of Mexican politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials. That’s the way the Mexican system operates and has always operated. If you’re an American taxpayer —if you file your tax returns every April 15 — this is where part of your hard-earned money that you send the IRS will be going — into the pockets and bank accounts of Mexican government officials.

Despite any self-righteous rhetoric from U.S. officials, the drug war is a tremendous financial bonanza for U.S. officials also, from the federal level, to the state level, to the local level. If it isn’t bribes and payoffs, it’s large taxpayer-funded budgets that provide nice salaries and pensions, not to mention all those asset forfeitures that provide nice automobiles for officials at all levels of government.

And every one of them knows that no matter how many record drug busts are made, the drug war is endless, which is why it is so attractive to them. They are making big bucks off of it, just as the Mexican officials are, and just as the drug lords are. That’s why all of them continue to promote this endless drug-war idiocy.

The American people have the ability to demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy. If they don’t, it will go on forever, with glorious announcements of record drug busts made by generation after generation of DEA agents. As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman stated in a Newsweek column 35 years ago, “Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse-for both the addict and the rest of us.” As Friedman stated in a follow-up Wall Street Journal column in 1990, “Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse, and make the problem appear even more intractable.”

Americans would be wise to carefully read and seriously consider those two articles by Nobel Laureate Friedman. After three decades of drug-war idiocy, isn’t it time to finally demand a stop to it, before it does even more damage to society, both in Latin America and the United States?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.