Over the weekend, George W. Bush told Americans that illegal drug use among Americans was helping our enemies by putting money in the hands of terrorists and regimes that support them. There’s a sense in which this is true, but the issues of cause and effect implied by such a statement are comically wrongheaded, and need to be addressed.
It is indeed significant that Americans’ buying cocaine, heroin, and other drugs on the black market puts money in the hands of terrorists and other unsavory types. But the American government’s war on drugs is the cause. Without the laws we have against recreational drug use, Americans first would be able to buy American-grown drugs. Additionally, drugs would be unimaginably less expensive were they legal. Americans who buy drugs now pay a premium for transportation, and another exorbitant premium for the risks being taken by the providers. With a free market in drugs, even if imports still were popular, they would be so inexpensive the terrorists would be forced to find other means of support.
So as not to get bogged down in the social, economic, legal, and philosophical ramifications of recreational drug use, I ask the reader to search LewRockwell.com and Reason.com for background on the drug war and its reliable tendency to worsen drug-related social problems. Suffice it to say here that legalizing all recreational drugs would not result in chaos: Nearly all drug-related violence would disappear; milder versions of drugs would appear (much as beer and wine outsell distilled liquors), resulting in fewer hard-core addicts; virtually all people who don’t use drugs now would continue not using drugs; and, fundamentally, if you’re not allowed to sit in your own home and inhale marijuana smoke into your own body, then you are not the owner of your own body. Rather, the owner is whoever tells you what you can do with your body.
It is the United States government that has made drugs so profitable, that has sent most of their production overseas, and that has created social problems relating to drugs here at home. There’s more to Bush’s unfortunate statement, however. In the particular case of Afghanistan, the Taliban (our enemies) prohibited drug production when they were in power, while the Northern Alliance (our friends) used the drug trade to scare up funds. In the case of heroin, then, addicts who indirectly supported Afghan heroin growers have been good patriots!
The radio MD, Dean Edell, said it better months ago: To break the finances of those overseas who subsist on the illegal drug trade, just legalize the drugs. The current wealthy and violent cartels will fade away, replaced for the most part by peaceful entrepreneurs here at home.
While recreational drugs are almost universally a bad idea, Bush (as are nearly all other politicians here and abroad) is looking in the wrong place for a solution to future terrorism directed against the United States.
Unfortunately, the tendency of politicians to look at everyone but themselves as causes of a problem has a long history, and likely a long future. The Patriot Act, detentions of over 1,000 people in America so far (including 60 Israelis!), and now this statement by Bush show that we can continue to expect a keener Big Brotherly eye directed at each of us from Washington. We can only hope that someday we will begin closing that eye.