Friday, February 10, 2006

The Drug War and Market Anarchy

At the end of my previous entry to Blogalize It!, I made a few comments regarding the incompatibility of market anarchy and the Drug War, and that it is only government incentives that make the Drug War possible at all.

Is market anarchy the only possible way to legalize drugs ? Obviously not, since the Prohibition came and went with nary an anarchy in sight. So this bring the obvious question, why did the Prohibition fail and the War on Drugs doesn't ? Obviously it can't be because the Prohibition didn't work, because the War on Drugs doesn't work either. It can't be because the Prohibition created too many criminals, because the War on Drugs beats records in putting innocent people in jail.

The main factor that contributed to the end of Prohibition was, in fact, the Great Depression, which was felt worldwide. Governments saw the legalization of alcohol as a way to get more taxation revenues, while keeping control over who could sell alcohol and how.

This "control" scenario is not surprising, as it is the most efficient form of government greed. Actually making something illegal wastes a lot of potential tax money and makes you unpopular with those who want the illegal product. It also requires a lot of police resources (billions and billions of dollars), which can be equally justified in a "control" scenario (in terms of closing down "illegitimate" sellers).

I also mentioned that the racial element was ingrained in the system from the beginning. In the Prohibition there was no racial element : most people like to drink, regardless of how flat their ass is or what hue their skin is. Politicians knew very well that they could sustain a prolonged war against opium and cocaine because its users do not tend to have a lot of political power. In a democracy, minorities have very little power, except that of being token victims and pawns for the welfare state.

Another element was the corporatist element. Before the Prohibition, alcohol was a big market with many corporate interests behind it. The same thing was not true with marijuana or cocaine. Thus there was a corporatist pressure that simply does not exist at this time for the War on Drugs.

Is there a deeper relationship between the Prohibition and the War on Drugs ? I'm afraid I'm not a friend of history, so I'll let someone else give us a dose of helpful facts :

During the United States' prohibition of alcohol between 1919 and 1933, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned every year while Americans drank more liquor than ever before (Association of the Bar of the City of New York 1994); at the same time, the cultivation of cannabis was being encouraged by the U.S. Bureau of Agriculture (Szasz 1985). Less than 5 years after the end of the Prohibition era, cannabis was declared an illegal substance by the United States federal government (McDonald et al. 1994), and it remains prohibited in the USA and almost all other nations to the present day.
"Effects of cannabis decriminalization in the Australian capital territory on university students' patterns of use", Journal of Drug Issues, Fall 1997, McGeorge and Aitken

Market anarchy, however, is another way by which all drugs could be legitimized. For one thing, there is no widespread support for the Drug War. In the United States, more than a third of people think the criminalization approach is wrong-headed (Crime & Delinquency, July 2002). And I think that without government and its power to regulate entire societies, most people would acknowledge the right of people to be left alone in their own home.

Another area where market anarchy favours decriminalization is in terms of costs. At the moment, government is shielded from the enormous costs of the Drug War because of its power of taxation. Private individuals would have no reason to pay for higher jail costs (to imprison drug users), to continue to suffer the gang wars and death toll, and to lose the resources of the drug market. Any court legalizing drugs would have a lot of new, happy customers.

Finally, in a market anarchy, drug users would be able to join court systems or protection agencies which permit drug use. Few people would have the incentive to join agencies which are against drugs, because they would not desire to get caught. People are not against drugs for themselves, but rather for others. By removing the incentive to use government power against others, a market anarchy would give the incentive to everyone to follow the principle of non-violence, simply because they do not wish to have violence done against them.

This is the crux of why government is fundamentally evil. Government by definition is a monopoly of force, thugs without opposition. It has the resources to make things illegal, and to use its grip on education and the media to suppress any contrary values or opinions. Government is social warfare. Market anarchy is social peace, but most importantly, gives us the incentive to deal with each other not as pawns of a "common good", but rather as free, sovereign individuals.

The fact that some people value drug use, in this perspective, is not a crime but a disagreement of values. Government perceives such disagreements as a threat to its monopolistic grip on society. But I think free people would naturally come to treat such disagreements as natural and as part of a healthy society. This is the hope of freedom.

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