Monday, February 20, 2006

With Enemies like Boozman, Who Needs Friends?

Don Elkins takes Congressman John Boozman to task for voting in favor of a budget that, among other things,

...would cut just about all federal funding for fighting the meth problem in the Natural State....

Please don't fling me in that briar patch, Br'er Fox! I'm trying to figure out exactly how that's a bad thing. The war on drugs has probably been the single greatest pressure toward police statism over the past thirty years--turning our constitutional guarantees of civil liberty into toilet paper, militarizing local police forces, and utterly corrupting both police and society at large. Drug prohibition is not only the most powerful contributing factor to organized crime, it turns the police themselves into organized crime gangs, looking for ways to profit from lawless behavior like planting evidence, obtaining false accusations from jailhouse snitches, and looting property through civil forfeiture.

There's a reason that vice laws promote the surveillance state. In the case of a traditional crime (as Joe Alexander said, anything really criminal was already illegal a hundred years ago), there's an injured party to report it to the authorities. A drug sale, on the other hand, is a free market transaction between two willing parties. The only way for the government to find out about it is to keep the general population under surveillance through wiretaps, random searches, "know your customer" laws, and the like.

And the drug war would be a moot issue if the government were restrained by the traditional understanding of due process. We could have the substantive drug laws of Singapore or Turkey, and without civil forfeiture and egregious violations of search and seizure restrictions, they would be unenforceable. Without a police state, the drug war would be lost. In fact, I don't think it's going too far to say that creating a police state is the real objective of the drug war.

As Noam Chomsky wrote somewhere (in Manufacturing Consent, I think, but I'm too damn lazy to look it up), in the late '80s opinion polls found that the public put the drug "epidemic" way down on the list of concerns, far below economic issues that genuinely affected them. But after a prolonged softening-up campaign by the first Bush administration's drug war agitprop, the issue moved to the top of the list. In other words, it's a manufactured issue. In the words of H. L. Mencken,

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

And I say that, by the way, as somebody who's worked on a VA psych ward and seen some of the worst tweaker dregs of humanity you can imagine. Don't cut them any slack, don't enable their habits, and prosecute them mercilessly for any genuine acts of aggression or negligence that result from being crankheads. Just don't create a Gestapo to go after people for private, consensual behavior.


Anonymous Prada sunglasses sale said...

Friend is indeed.

5:53 PM


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