Apr 29/06 - WSJ "Drugs Beget Thugs in the Americas", By Mary O'Grady
Wall Street Journal
Drugs Beget Thugs in the
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
April 28, 2006; Page A15
"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
The Mexican state of
Yet as last week's massive drug bust there showed, it is very much part of the international market place. The capture of 5.2 tons of cocaine at the airport in Ciudad del Carmen, flown in from
The more disturbing lesson provided by the
In the debate about Mexican immigration to the
But the drug war also figures in the equation. Nobel economist Douglas North taught us the importance of institutions in development economics. Yet prohibition and the war on drugs are fueling a criminal underworld that handily crushes nascent democratic institutions in countries that we keep expecting to develop. Is it reasonable to blame Mexico for what enormously well-funded organized-crime operations are doing to its political, judicial and law enforcement bodies when we know that Al Capone's power during alcohol prohibition accomplished much the same in the U.S.? These are realities of the market, of supply and demand and prices under prohibition that no amount of wishing or moralizing can change.
A serious discussion about
The problem is particularly acute for
Last month four federal intelligence officers were gunned down in the middle of the day near a school. That's about the same time some 600 federal police were sent to the city as reinforcements.
The rest of
More than 140 people have been killed in drug violence this year in the states of Guerrero and Michocan. The L.A. Times also reported that the beheadings occurred hours after the state governor "announced a $12 million project to give more firepower to police, who say they often are outgunned by the cartels." Outgunned they were on March 26 in the border city of
Two more scary developments are notable. The first is the link between organized crime and political enemies of the
A second, depressing development is the increase in drug consumption in poor countries as those doing the trafficking are paid in kind and push drugs locally to collect their money. A worthless weed has been made all the more dangerous by prohibition which gives it value and provides the incentives to get poor children hooked. Where's the morality in a policy with such pernicious, if unintended, consequences?
The question is not whether dangerous drugs are innocuous. Let's agree they are not. The question is which policy is best to manage the problem. We can't make that calculation until we face honestly all of the costs of prohibition and the suffering of our neighbors.
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