Do Drug-War Killers Hate Us for Our Freedom Too?

I can’t help but wonder how drug-war proponents explain the violence in Mexico that has killed some 6,000 people in the last year and 16,000 after Mexican President Calderon, with the full encouragement of U.S. officials, deployed 50,000 Mexican troops and federal police three years ago to wage war against the drug dealers.

Taking a cue from the war on terrorism, I think some drug-war proponents might argue the following: “The violence in Mexico, including the killing of scores of federal police officers, has nothing to do with the illegality of drugs. It’s all because the drug trade attracts a bad, even evil, type of person, one who hates society and who is willing to do anything, including torture and murder, to satisfy his insatiable thirst for money. We need to crack down even more so that we can kill them before they kill us. ”

Yet, what’s encouraging is that an increasing number of people, including even drug-war proponents, are finally beginning to realize how nonsensical this reasoning is. Yes, it’s true: There are extremely unsavory characters in the drug trade, but people are starting to ask themselves why the same types of unsavory characters are not engaged in the booze or cigarette business. They’re starting to realize that what enables these types of people to prosper is the illegality of drugs.

In other words, it’s the drug war itself — that is, making drugs illegal — that then spawns the opportunity for these types of unsavory characters in society to do their thing. In the absence of such illegality, such characters wouldn’t be involved in the drug trade for the same reason they’re not engaged in the booze or cigarette business: they lack the competence to compete against legitimate sellers in a legal market. Their unsavory skills, including the use of violence, are effective only in an illegal market.

What would happen if the sale, distribution, and possession of alcohol and cigarettes were made illegal today? Tomorrow, you would have the same types of unsavory characters engaged in the booze and cigarette business, with cartels, gangs, shoot-outs, murders, muggings, robberies, and all the other things that characterize the illegality of drugs.

Why is it an encouraging sign that more people seem to be drawing the logical conclusion that the drug war itself spawns the drug-war violence? Because at least then people can make a reasoned judgment as to whether it’s worth it to continue waging the war on drugs.

On the one hand, people might conclude: Okay, we acknowledge that the illegality of drugs is the reason why 16,000 people in Mexico have been killed in the last 3 years and that the drug dealers and drug gangs would not be operating if drugs were legal. Nonetheless, we think that these deaths are worth it — that is, worth our hopes of finally stamping out drugs from society.

On the other hand, however, people might conclude: Thirty years of drug warfare have failed to stamp out drugs and there is no reason to believe that another 30 years will do the job. Indeed, the greater the effort to stamp out drugs from society, the greater the violence. The deaths of thousands of people are just not worth all this failure. It would be best to simply legalize drugs, which would place all those bad guys out of business immediately. Let’s treat drug addiction as a social problem, not a criminal-justice one.

By accepting reality about this government program, there is hope that a sufficient number of people will finally bring enough pressure to bear on their public officials to bring the drug war to an ignominious end.

On the other hand, when people cling to the notion that drug-war violence has nothing to do with the illegality of drugs, the hope for positive change diminishes owing to the failure to focus on the genuine root of the problem.

– Article from MCW News on December 29, 2009.