Pubdate: Sunday, Nov 5, 2000
Source: Galveston Daily News (TX)
Author: Heber Taylor

War on drugs high on list of stupid things

By Heber Taylor The Daily News

Published November 05, 2000 12:07 AM CST

Sometimes, the coffee drinkers play a game called the Stupidest Thing in Government.

Most of the time it's funny. Someone will mention that someone sold the Navy a $4,000 toilet seat. Someone else will have seen a $5 million study on the economic impact of tulip farming in Delaware.

When my turn came to talk about the silliest government program, I said I thought it was the War of Drugs.

No one laughed.

It was one of those gaffs I'll probably never recover from - or be forgiven for.

One of the ironies is that I am a moralistic, judgmental prude about drugs.

I think people who spend money on cocaine might as well make a tax-deductible contribution to an organization that murders honest judges and journalists in South America.

I also see the effects of addiction in Galveston. Every day.

People who buy cocaine pay the bills for thugs who enslave people in distant lands and who poison our neighbors next door.

I think it's clear we ought to fight drugs.

I also think it's clear that what we're doing is not working.

Suppose you were a CEO of a large organization. Suppose your one corporate goal was to reduce the importation of a competitor's product.

Your bonus is riding on this, so think hard.

Suppose, in your first year, that your competitor's imports were up 50 percent. You go to your stockholders, hat in hand, and ask for another year and more money.

Maybe they give you a year.

But who would look at 20 years of wildly escalating imports and wildly escalating expenditures and conclude that next year, you ought to be given more money to do what you did last year?

Well, if you are the drug czar, the answer is Congress.

One more irony: This country had a far more coherent drug policy under Richard Nixon, arguably the worst president in our history, than it does now.

Nixon argued that spending heavily on drug interdiction didn't make economic sense. He argued that the only way to curtail supply was to curtail demand.

His drug policy included funds to educate young people and to treat addicts.

His argument against putting all the funding into intercepting drug shipments was simple. With luck, law officers might intercept two out of every 10 shipments from the cocaine cartels. That would leave the cartel with a measly profit of somewhere around 8,000 percent.

Nixon realized that, by increasing U.S. spending on drug enforcement, he might cut the cartel's operating profits to, say, 6,000 percent.

He did not believe that would force the drug lords to liquidate their evil factories and transfer their money to the stock market.

Since the Nixon era, we have gotten tougher and tougher on drugs by spending more and more on law enforcement.

Bottom line: Demand for cocaine is up. So are the profits of our ruthless competitors.

Next year, though, our plan is going to be to put those jerks out of business by spending more than ever and finally cutting their profits to 6,000 percent.

I doubt that will work.

But I am absolutely certain that's our plan.

I know because we've tried that plan every year since Nixon left office.

Heber Taylor is editor of The Daily News. His email address is

My response

(may be signifficantly different from actual published version...)

Greetings Mr. Taylor and ED,

No doubt, substance abuse can be an horrific and life changing tragedy. And less doubt that coercion is about as effective at treating substance abuse as a sledge hammer in treating a headache.

But, true to form, the Mad Monk wasn't being entirely forthright about his intentions. What he really meant was forced treatment based on Communist thought reform tactics. Please take a few moments to look over some information on how Nixon's demand reduction policy has been carried out. Included here is a scan of Senator Sam Ervin's report detailing the similarities between the NIDA funded Seed, Inc. and Korean POW camps.

I know it sounds radical in the current social climate, but I honestly believe we were better off before the Harrison Narcotics act. Granted, this country had an addiction problem. And it was so serious and so widespread that the Congress was moved to address it with the Pure Food and Drug Lebeling Act while the AMA struggled to devise more effective ways to avoid and to treat addiction in their patients.

But back then, all we had to deal was the real potential for abuse inherent in the use of many mind altering substances, including Prozac, Xanax, Ritalin or beer. We didn't have an agressive black market or the stigma of criminality to confound an addict's efforts to recover. It was negligable.

Should treatment be available? Certainly. But should it be mandatory? I don't think so. If someone is suffering the effects of real morbid addiction, no more coercion than that is required to make them want to find a way out. And we all know that no one can make another kick an addiction, not without breaking them anyway.

Thanks for a wonderfully courageous article,


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