Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prohibition on Drugs

I have very conflicted emotions about the prohibition on certain drugs. Part of me wants to insist that we should prohibit destructive behaviors. I don't believe that illegal drug use is a "victimless crime" and I don't think we should embark on self-medicating journeys without someone experienced to guide us.

Drugs have been a blessing in my life. I can't imagine getting dental work done without the help of the pain relievers and numbing agents the dentist can use. But there is a class of drugs that have proven mostly dangerous. As a society, we've decided to make them illegal. We don't want to deal with the fallout of people taking these drugs.

My church is supportive of the ban on these drugs. That holds a lot of weight for me.

Yet I wonder if the prohibition is causing more problems than it is preventing. John McWhorter writes over at The New Republic that the easy "occupation" of selling drugs has enticed many young black men to forgo productive employment and opt for life on the street. He argues that this is one of the core problems plaguing the black urban community. Have a sample.
The end of the War on Drugs is, in fact, what all people genuinely concerned with black uplift should be focused on.... The black malaise in the U.S. is currently like a card house; the Drug War is a single card which, if pulled out, would collapse the whole thing.

That is neither an exaggeration nor an oversimplification. It comes down to this: If there were no way to sell drugs on the street at a markup, then young black men who drift into this route would instead have to get legal work. They would. Those insisting that they would not have about as much faith in human persistence and ingenuity as those who thought women past their five-year welfare cap would wind up freezing on sidewalk grates.
There would be a new black community in which all able-bodied men had legal work even in less well-off communitiesi.e. what even poor black America was like before the '70s; this is no fantasy. Those who say that this could only happen with low-skill factory jobs available a bus ride away from all black neighborhoods would be, again, wrong. That explanation for black poverty is full of holes. Too many people of all colors of modest education manage to get by without taking a time machine to the 1940s, and after the War on Drugs black men would be no exception.


Bryant said...

There are also the shootouts occurring just to the south of our national border.

I, too, am conflicted on whether illegal drugs should be legalized (though obviously not encouraged). I lean toward legalization to get the money out of criminals' hands, and to stop the incarceration of many otherwise harmless people. I also think people should be more free to choose what they want to do to themselves.

However, I recognize that also can be dangerous. I won't use any of these drugs where the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, and I don't want my kids to, either. My fear is that legalizing these drugs will encourage kids to use them for whatever reason.

Making drunk driving illegal hasn't stopped drunk driving accidents and deaths. I wonder what would happen with otherwise intoxicated people.

Bradley Ross said...

I wonder how big a reduction in drug use we see because it is illegal. I'm sure there is a big drop. If we made drugs legal the usage would rise, but I wonder if we could measure the cost of increased drug use against the benefit of decreasing the collateral damage of the drug war.

Bryant said...

How big of a drop in consumption was there during Prohibition? Would other drugs be similar or different to alcohol?

I don't know the answers to these questions.