Is the Drug-War Worth This?

by Jacob G. Hornberger
Feb. 27, 2014

For the past several days, the mainstream media has been agog over the arrest of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, much as they've gone agog over every other big drug bust for the past 50 years or so. The hoopla surrounding these much-ballyhooed drug busts is to ensure that the citizenry, who have become increasingly disenchanted with the drug war, don't lose faith and that they continue to support the drug war for another 50 years.

Yesterday, in a surprising turn of events, a glimmer of reality seeped through in a New York Times article about El Chapo's arrest. The article pointed out something that libertarians have been pointing out ever since the inception of the drug war. After observing that "governments around the world are hailing the capture as a landmark in the fight against organized crime," the article states:
Yet many authorities agree that the arrest will probably not bring an end to the cartel's activities, much less make a lasting dent in the availability of illegal drugs.
So, there you have it. What good did El Chapo's arrest do? No more good than the arrest of all the previous drug lords for the past 50 years! They bust one drug lord and he's immediately replaced by another. The illegal drug trade just keeps going on and on.

So, the obvious question: Why must we have another 50 years or 10 years or even one more day of this inanity? What is the point, other than to keep drug lords, judges, drug agents, court clerks, and others gainfully employed in this ridiculous business?

After all, let's face it: If we legalized drugs, as libertarians have long said we should, the people who would be immediately put out business are the drug lords and all the government personnel who are also dependent on the drug war.

Unfortunately, the burden to taxpayers of supporting this inanity is not the only price people have to pay for the war on drugs. There are also the robberies, gang wars, assassinations, bribery, murders, and all of the other unsavory things that come with a black market.

Alas, that's not all. Take a look at this article by Radley Balko in the Washington Post. It's about a church minister who got shot and killed by drug agents. Once you start reading the article, you won't be able to stop reading until the end. It is a genuine drug-war horror story.

It turns out that the minister was helping a prostitute who was a drug addict. Drug agents who were tailingthe woman concluded that the minister was involved in drugs too. So, they rushed his car in the hopes of busting him. Figuring he was about to be robbed, the minister tried to escape in his car and accidentally nicked a drug agent. Another agent shot and killed the minister.

The minister's wife brought a lawsuit on her behalf and on behalf of her child who wasn't yet born at the time her husband was shot and killed. A jury just awarded her $2 million although the probability is that the judgment, if allowed to stand on appeal, will be paid for by taxpayers.

Now, I ask you: Is this really worth it? On the one side you have a much-ballyhooed, well-publicized arrest of a big drug lord, which has absolutely no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs. On the other hand you have a dead minister, a grieving widow, and a child without a father.

How much longer must Americans put up with this horror story? What more evidence is needed to put a stop to it? Our American ancestors had the wisdom to finally realize that Prohibition didn't work and the courage to repeal it? When will modern-day Americans finally say "Enough is enough" to the drug war?
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

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