Sunday, June 14, 2009

Drugs Won the War

In a recent op-ed piece from the New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof examines the War on Drugs, effectively coming to the conclusion that it not only failed dismally in its goals, but has been seriously detrimental to our nation in a number of key ways. Kristof presents the relevant information, and argues convincingly for the liberalization of drug laws. From his piece, "Drugs Won the War":

Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times that of the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly 500,000 today . Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.

Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment. (Of people with drug problems in state prisons, only 14 percent get treatment).

Read more from "Drugs Won the War" here


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