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Bill O’Reilly and the Conservative War on Drugs

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BILL O’REILLY IS HOT. He is a broadcast journalist who has a very popular cable-news program on the Fox News Channel called The O’Reilly Factor, and a widely read book of the same title. His latest book, The No Spin Zone, has been number one on the nonfiction bestseller list for many weeks.

O’Reilly is intelligent and loquacious and a man interested in numerous events and problems that concern the state of America. But he also thinks he is right on just about everything and that other people — both famous and common — are frequently wrong on almost everything.

Well, there is one topic that is discussed in both of his books about which O’Reilly, and most Americans, are incredibly confused and decidedly wrong. That topic is the war on drugs.

O’Reilly is all in favor of this “war” but thinks that the government is going about it all wrong — and, consequently, is getting no positive results.

So O’Reilly wants two things: military troops placed on the Mexican border to catch drug couriers; lengthy forced rehabilitation for drug addicts; and big-time mandatory prison sentences for drug pushers. He also wants the government to force taxpayers to pony up the many billions of dollars needed to finance this fiasco.

Most Americans don’t realize it, but people such as O’Reilly are actually heroes to the drug dealers and corrupt politicians, lawyers, judges, police officers, and drug-enforcement government employees who financially benefit enormously from the war on drugs.

O’Reilly could easily serve as the poster boy for the vast number of people who benefit from drug prohibition, since he fully approves of having a war on drugs. But like all similar prohibitions, it is actually a war on American citizens and their individual rights. The war on drugs is really a war on freedom.

O’Reilly and most of his fellow Americans, both conservatives and liberals, haven’t a clue as to the meaning of freedom. They operate on the principle that if something is harmful to people, then it is the responsibility of the government to outlaw that product or service in order to protect both individuals and society.

That is the reason the government prohibited alcohol, and that is the reason there is drug prohibition. And both have been disastrous to this nation.

So what is freedom? Freedom, put simply, is all about individual choice. Not just the choice to do what is positive or good for oneself but the right to choose to be self-destructive, too.

Many Christians (O’Reilly is a self-described church-attending Roman Catholic) want none of this. They think that if certain actions are against their moral code, then the government must outlaw those actions and punish the perpetrators.

And since at least 97 percent of American politicians are at least nominal Christians, we have drug prohibition, which has been around for almost a century and seriously enforced for several decades, with significant negative consequences. Here are a few facts to consider that involve the war on drugs:

  • Although certain mind-altering drugs are illegal to produce, transport, sell, or use, they are readily available to those who want them.
  • A considerable amount of money used to buy illegal drugs is provided by the government. Many people on welfare use government welfare checks, and sell their food stamps, in order to obtain the money to purchase them.
  • Drug prohibition always causes widespread government corruption and enormous waste. More than $30 billion is squandered annually by the government to fight a drug war that can never be won.
  • Jails and prisons are overflowing with drug-involved inmates, many of whom are incarcerated for minor drug offenses. One can only wonder how many lives are ruined by this experience.
  • Many big-city neighborhoods are battlegrounds where drug wars over drug territories are common and citizens are terrorized. Many people are regularly mugged or burgled by drug users who must pay high black-market prices for illegal drugs that would have cost much less if they had been legal and purchased on the open market.
  • Some of the biggest pushers of drugs in our country are doctors. It is estimated that there are probably as many prescription-drug addicts in America as there are illegal-drug addicts, if not more. So should we also have a “war on prescription drugs”?O’Reilly and many other Americans suffer from a very serious case of what could be called the Taliban mentality. Just like the Taliban, they think they know best what people should or should not do, according to their moral code. And they intend to use the strongest force on earth, the force of government, to try to make people obey their rulings, and punish them if they do not.Given this fact, it is truly amazing that any freedom at all has survived in America. And if people such as O’Reilly have their way and continue to oppose legalizing drugs, big government will grow bigger and more corrupt, taxes will soar even higher, and more and more freedom will vanish from this land.
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  • This post was written by:

    Thomas L. Johnson is professor emeritus of biological sciences at University of Mary Washington.