What if?

February 26, 2009

“What if they gave a war and nobody came?” was a popular slogan of the movement against the American war in Viet Nam during the sixties. It was and still is pilloried as a stupid, sentimental piece of drivel by the right. To me it’s always been an interesting thought. I know that it’s highly unlikely but what if two heads of state declared a war on each other and no soldiers showed up? Would the two top dogs square off and have at it? Would they perhaps recognize that no war was going to happen and wake up and reach an understanding? The two most influential proponents of non-violence in the 20th century were Mohandas Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Would they have showed up for the war? Somehow I imagine that if there were thousands or millions of Gandhi’s and Kings war would be no more.

There is a disgraceful situation happening right now in Mexico. There is a drug cartel which is terrorizing the people, killing some 6,000 of them over the past year with guns largely imported from the United States, while exporting billions of dollars worth of illegal drugs north to our country. This cartel, just like the one that decimated Colombia a couple of decades ago is on the verge of controlling Mexico. They are outgunning the police and buying whomever they need to enable them to continue their murderous operations.

We have been waging a “War on Drugs” for many years but that “war” focuses only on the suppliers. We burn poppy fields and marijuana farms and use our military to help foreign governments against the cartels. And, if we are successful in one country they just pop up in another. It has become a deadly game of whack-a mole.

We are a capitalist country and yet we seem to ignore the demand side of the drug equation focusing only on the supply side. On the demand side we simply and insultingly tell people to “Just Say No”. One could argue, if one were a cynic, that we don’t want to interrupt the demand side. It looks like it’s OK with us.

What if there were drugs for sale on the streets of the USA and nobody wanted to buy them? What would happen to the cartels? They would have no market and they would go away. Is this another simplistic, sentimental question or is it worth looking at?

President Obama talked brilliantly about the need for education improvement in our nation and I couldn’t agree more. I know lots of beautiful, smart inner city kids who will have a much better shot at staying drug free if their educational opportunities are improved. And if they remain drug free and their children have drug free parents they will also stay clean and, over time, the market for drugs will dry up and become less attractive to the criminals who are always looking for ways to profit from offering the poor in spirit a way to get high. There just might come a day when no one wants an illicit, mind altering drug.

Posted February 26, 2009


Another way would be to legalize these drugs. That would change the situation profoundly.

legalization, which is what I think you are leaning toward suggesting, has a lot to offer.
By removing “illicit” from the equation, there would be more suppliers, prices would drop, and distribution and production could be monitored. Ironically, lower prices wouldn’t necessarily increase drug usage; for one thing, we could tax it. For another, lower prices would drive out the high profit margins criminals want. Growers prices would go up, creating less social unrest in supplier countries.

It’s more complicated than jsut that of course, but it’s not a crazy idea at all.

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