Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prohibition and the Drug Trade

While writing about Port of New York yesterday I touched on the manner in which the drug trade is addressed today in Hollywood is much grittier and dark than the film noir period pieces. Another film comes to mind that could have been cited as well: Traffic.

This questions remain, however: Can prohibition work? Can the war on drugs ever really be won without also taking away another value vital to the American people, their freedoms? Are there better ways of addressing this problem?

If someone were to ask me what my political stance was, I would not say Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative per se. I lean Libertarian. The pork barrel politics of our past fifty years are a natural outgrowth of Machiavellian power games and party politics. When it comes to government, less is more.

For this reason we have been long time subscribers to Reason magazine, which takes a reasoned libertarian approach to government, society and culture. Occasionally I have found myself at odds with the Libertarians on certain key issues. They have historically favored drug legalization. But the arguments they make are good ones, cogent and persuasive.

It wasn't alcohol that made Al Capone a powerful gangster. It was Prohibition. After prohibition was repealed where did the gangs and moonshiners go?

To get some wheels turning I wanted to share this article which I stumbled upon in the last couple days, "The Drug Laws Don’t Work," by Michael Huemer. A philosophy professor at the University of Chicago, Huemer's logic is easy to follow here though I do have some questions.

Earlier this summer our waitress at Blackwoods in east Duluth told us she used to work at Falk-Newman's Pharmacy until an armed robber came in, held the manager with knifepoint on throat, and insisted on taking all the Oxycotin. The waitress, I forget her name, then went to work in the sister pharmacy in Lakeside, a safer neighborhood. Two weeks later she was working while another armed robber came in and demanded all the Oxycotin. At this she quit pharmacy work and took up waitressing to put herself through college.

I relate this story because I do not know how ending prohibition will stop these kinds of robberies? Nor do I think drugs like Oxycotin should be sold on the streets as freely as bubble gum.

Which leads to the next question... where do we draw the lines? Maybe there are answers to these things which smarter people than I have already proposed.

Another article (with video clip) I'd like to point out this morning is the interview of Glenn Greenwald by Reason editor Nick Gillespie which appeared in the June issue of the mag, "Drug Decriminalization In Portugal." Greenwald is a civil rights attorney and author of a Cato Institute study titled, "Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Policies." Portugal's drug problems had been escalating and were out of control when the nation conducted a policy experiment out of desperation, decriminalization. The results were surprising. Be sure to check it out.

I agree with Huemer when he cites Voltaire's dictum, "The best is the enemy of the good." It would be nice to eliminate all social problems, but an overtly meddling government often only serves to make them worse. What do you think?


John Howard Prin, LADC said...

Prohibiting anything makes it fascinating and mysterious, even sometimes criminal. I feel bad for the waitress who once worked at the two pharmacies because drugs and crime are so often intertwined...and she was as much a victim of somebody's Oxycontin addiction as the pharmasists who were physically threatened and stolen from. Loss. Loss of all kinds. As a professional alcohol/drug counselor I see this kind of loss every day. I work to reverse it and my efforts at times result in improvement in people's lives and new insights. The main void in people that drives them, I believe, is spiritual emptiness or absence of divine connection. If everybody lived according to the 12 Steps (a program of spiritual "soul"tions to carnal problems) what a wonderful world it would be. If you aren't familiar with the 12 Steps, check 'em out.

ENNYMAN said...

Yes, it was a somewhat traumatic experience for her... and to have it happen twice in such a short time.

Thanks for the visit and for checking out the blog again.

Good advice.