The Drug War is Deadly
Anyone who has watched the television shows “Breaking Bad” or “Narcos” — or movies such as Traffic — will have an inkling of both the allure of the drug trade and some of its many vicious and unpleasant consequences.
Much of the violence that plagues the streets of cities from Detroit to Paris to Lagos is associated with the drug trade. A large proportion of property crimes such as theft arise due to the need of an addict to acquire his substance of abuse. Large numbers of girls are held in prostitution by their willing and unwilling addictions to chemical substances. Drug trafficking and human trafficking share many of the same smuggling routes and smuggling personnel.
The Drug War Cannot be “Won” as it is Fought Now
For several decades, government agents of more advanced nations have engaged in a multi-faceted “war” against the production, import, and distribution of illegal drugs of abuse. In all of that time, the only policies that seem to have long term impacts — in terms of harm reduction — are policies of drug liberalization. Portugal is a nation often held up as an example of harm reduction using this approach.
But “drug liberalization” is not actually a true winning of the drug war so much as a scaling down to a near armistice with users and small dealers. Drug producers, smugglers, distributors, and larger dealers are still being hunted and prosecuted. It is still a war, even in Portugal.
Actually Winning the War Will Require Higher Level Thought
Higher level thought is not generally a purview of governing bodies. Governments and their agents typically react to what happens, rather than creating the conditions that divert resources away from bad actors at all levels. And that is why governments get so little respect — especially from those who work for them or who live off government contracts.
One of the reasons for the clusterfuck nature of governments is that it is the bad actors themselves who help finance many of the candidates who eventually reach public office, or who are hired into various agencies of government, academia, foundations, and media. As long as the bad actors grow wealthy from bad government policies, then turn around and pack government and other public institutions with their own people, bad situations are just likely to grow worse. And that includes the drug war.
The Concept of “Good Crime” and “Good Criminals”
In order to “win” the war on drugs, it will be necessary to clean up this cesspool. But nothing seems to work. Is it possible that the only way to clean up the cesspool of these inbred and dysfunctional monstrous institutions, is to create a new breed of “good crime,” and “good criminals?” Not as a first resort, no. Not even as a second, third, or fourth resort.
Instead, it is important to use the blunt tools available within the law, the legal systems, governments, and other institutions of society, to perform an initial “de-bulking” of the purulent tumour. This process should undergo multiple iterations and improvements, as the entrenched institutions and kingpins of corruption seek to block each wave of change.
But there are interstitial places within the matrix for the use of “civil disobedience” and surgically precise actions which fall into gray areas of interpretation. And there are far more of these gray areas than one might think. It is important to map them out and to assemble a large number of coordinated potential actions to meet a wide range of contingencies and counter-actions.
Fighting Fire with Fire
“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” as Isaac Asimov’s characters often said. In other words, foolish and low-level thinking tends to land one in corners where he must fight his way out. We should not be so stupid.
Rather than fighting a war that only expands opportunities for vicious criminals to grow ever wealthier, a smart society would give its citizens better options. As citizens choose these better options, would-be drug lords find themselves thrown back into lives of petty crime — rats fighting among other rats in the back alleys.
What might these “better options” be? You know, I find it very strange that this has not been the question that people have been asking themselves for the last 50 years or more. More, I find it strange that instead of trying a wide range of these “better options,” society has chosen to fight a drug war that has led to more and more gang and cartel violence, the need for ever larger and more costly prisons, and the degeneration large parts of cities across the developed world.
How might one “fight fire with fire?” By giving people something that is both good for them and preferable in their own eyes to the degraded life offered to them by the abuse of cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and other drugs. Alcohol abuse, by the way, is one of the worst problems of modern societies around the world. The same approach to fighting illicit drugs should be used to fight the abuse of legal drugs and prescription drugs.
The Cure Should be in the Hands of Ordinary People, Not Doctors
Better options should include things that persons can grow in their own flower box or garden, or build in their own small workshop. They should not have to expend their life savings for an over-rated rehab center or detox scam.
Besides those who were pushed into drug addiction by peers or criminals, most abusers of drugs are merely seeking something to help them to get through their days with less pain, or something to give them a sense of purpose — even if it is hunting down their next fix.
Life for many or most of these people, as it is, does not seem worth living. They feel that they must have something extra, even if it eventually kills them. If “better options” for providing the something extra are put within their capacity to provide for themselves — options that will allow them to continue to function within normal or even superior levels — the criminal infrastructure that depended upon their monetary contributions will begin to dry up.
Finding these “better options” should be one of the top priorities of spending by foundations and other research granting agencies. Shining a light on the search for “better options” should be one of the top priorities of media outlets. Helping to put these better options into the hands of ordinary people should be a top priority for religious groups, charitable organizations, and volunteer agencies.
We cannot solve the problems of today or tomorrow by doubling down on the failed thinking of yesterday, which created these problems in the first place.
Drug liberalization should be thought of as the first step of a 100 step approach to reversing this accelerated decline of cities and landscapes.