\"the menace of people carrying 5 grams of pot\"

Over at LRC, Ryan McMaken says what I'd want to say about the U.S. reaction to Mexico's new law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of some drugs. Preview:

For example, "[Mayor Jerry] Sanders, a former San Diego Police chief, called the law "appallingly stupid, reckless and incredibly dangerous." “I view this as a hostile action by a longtime ally of the U.S.,” Sanders said at a City Hall news conference. Note that Sanders uses the language of war. Legalizing a peaceful activity for Mexicans is now "a hostile action" against the United States (i.e., an act of war).

I'm tempted to repost the whole thing, but instead you can just read the original.

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Perhaps someday we'll stop

Perhaps someday we'll stop waging unwinnable wars on terrorism, illicit drugs, and illegal immigrants. Mexico's action might be a reason for people to stay in Mexico.

We believe in a capitalist system, yet some capitalists simultaneously believe that drug lords bring these drugs into the country and then force people to take them. I guess the biggest problem for investors is that it cuts down the market for people addicted to prescription drugs.

Greg P.: You seem to be

Greg P.:

You seem to be suggesting that the war on terrorism is equivalent to the war on drugs. Are you suggesting terrorism should be legalized?

I think Greg is referring to

I think Greg is referring to the War on Abstract Nouns. Rather than fighting enemy states or groups (al Qaeda), we've gotten into the habit of declaring war on Drugs or Poverty or Terror. All of these are inherently unwinnable wars, since there will always, always be drugs, poverty, and fanatics who are willing to violently target civilians for political goals. By targeting concepts instead of actual enemies, we've made it easier to keep America in a semi-permanent state of war and to conflate one threat with another (Iraq and al Qaeda).

Of course Greg isn't suggesting we "legalize terror." He's pointing to the fact that every day the (potentially endless) War on Terror continues, we stand at greater risk of losing more civil liberty, not to mention the loss in treasure of being always at war.

"It is an established fact

"It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices. But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions, nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of the government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora's box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism."
-- Ludwig von Mises in "Liberalism," 1927

I don’t guess you can link to the Wall Street Journal ( not High Times Magazine) article by conservative columnist Mary ANASTASIA O'GRADY without a subscription but the above quote she provides sums up the unintended consequences the results of the ineffective American anti- drug program on South America, especially Mexico. The Narco-gangsters fueled by big bucks provided by American users are able to out gun, out smart and out kill government authorities. Demand driven free market drug providers run circles around government authorities. In the mean time advances in the non drug Mexican economy are crippled by murderous gangster activity. Immigrants flood across the border seeking honest livelihood. American politicians go ballistic about legalization of tiny quantities of drugs. When will our stupid elected officials look past stage one policy effects?

I think Greg is referring to

I think Greg is referring to the War on Abstract Nouns.

That's exactly how I (writing under the pseudonym Hypatia) put it in a guest post on prison and the drug war at another blog: http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/03/prison-war-on-drugs-just-say-no.html

My opening sentence was: While the War on Terror (or "The Long War") preoccupies the nation, there's another war on an abstract noun ("The Other Long War") that continues to be fought against Americans: The War on Drugs.

Certainly I think terrorists need to be routed out, stopped, and killed by military means when necessary. But I'd also like not to have all kinds of dubious policies justified by mindlessly referring to war on an abstraction. Let's keep it concrete.

My problem with the war on

My problem with the war on drugs isn't the abstractness, though, it's the fact that it's a war on an abstract the government shouldn't be involved with.

Now I agree abstractness is a problem with the War on Terror, but in that case it's a failure of execution. The War on Drugs is a failure of intent.

So I don't think blithely tossing them around as equivalent problems is a good idea.

Stormy, Another way to


Another way to interpret Greg's comment is that both are framed as "wars" when in reality they're both police actions. Wars are fought against a recognizable enemy and have more or less identifiable conclusions. Police actions are responses to particular "problems" that don't involve formal hostilities and don't have start and end dates.

With the war approach, both end up looking like wars against the liberties of Americans (and foreigners, but that seems less heinous to many people than war against U.S. citizens). And with the war approach we're tricked into thinking that simple force of arms can root out the problem.

Of course, drug use is not any kind of problem the government should be involved in, and I don't think the current strategy for eliminating terrorism has a grain of sense in it.