Frame:Drug War

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Framing: Drug War

This page is for creating frames about the so-called “war on drugs.”

Framing Rounds Involving the Drug War

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Unfinished Pieces of Frames About the Drug War

Please put unfinished text in sections here. Start with “Note 1” and number them successively.

Note 1

(This note comes from the original Vision for America page.)

The drugs issue appears as a subset of several important social issues:

  • The optimal response of society to anti-social behaviors including crimes.
  • The characteristics of a society that encourage and/or facilitate drug use.
  • The extent to which government has a place in shaping the responses of citizens toward behaviors that may be harmful and behaviors that may be beneficial to the individual and/or to his/her society.

The response to crimes that best suits the authoritarian mindset is to seek revenge against people judged to be criminals. In the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments quote: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." The far right seems to want to put themselves in the position of "vengeance czar."

What is actually required of any good society is the correction of harmful behavior. The earlier problems are caught the easier they are to cure. What actually works to correct maladaptive forms of behavior is subject to objective study.

Any society will offer more than one possible form of satisfaction to its members, and among these forms of satisfaction are agents that alter mood and other psychological characteristics. Humans in the Old World have consumed alcohol for several thousand years. The pharmacological properties were known to the fourth century B.C. Chinese. Tobacco and opium also have long histories, not to mention tea, coffee, and similar alkaloids. Despite the fact that some of these substances have been available to all societies, not every person exposed to them has experienced serious consequences.

Except for some cases of medical treatment, any person who uses a drug chooses it as an alternative to other experiences, so one important question in regard to the etiology of drug use is: For the individual, what alternatives to drug use were available. Two circumstances seem clearly related to high susceptibility to drug use and dependency or addition:

  1. The lack of other, competing, satisfactions in the individual's environment.
  2. The presence of noxious stimuli against which the individual learns to self-medicate.

The individual who is bored, stifled, and unsatisfied by any pursuits available may take drugs as an escape from the monotony of the outside world, and the individual who is tormented by physical and/or psychological pain may take drugs to avoid experiencing those feelings.

Many of these agents are intensely addicting in the sense that they not only provide an alternative to whatever is present in nature, but also change the body of the drug user so that intense discomfort is felt when the drug is thereafter withheld. So some individuals who had no particular problem with enduring life may quickly develop an intense problem after brief experimental use of some of these drugs, and if an individual commonly engaged in criminal pursuits before developing a drug problem that problem would remain after the drug dependency was removed. But treating drug users as criminals first and drug users incidentally at all will not work well because if drugs are indeed a problem then they will interfere with treatment for the criminal patterns of behavior, and if the individual became a criminal only in the course of acquiring and maintaining a supply of drugs, the obvious root of the problem is the chemical dependence or addiction first, and the whole body of behavior and attitudes that may have grown out of that problem second.

A good society is one that provides adequate opportunities for all its members (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), and provides adequate guidance and protection at a level appropriate to the maturity of each member so that needless damage will not be done to them. People ought not to become parasites on society, and that means that every member of society must contribute to maintaining the health of the entire society. Single people in their 70s are responsible for their share of the costs of education of the youth of their society. People who live in gated communities with their own security guards are still responsible for their share of the salary of the cop on the beat who calls in fire alarms, drags kids out of flooding storm drains, etc.

A good society, then, provides both adequate nurture and timely correction when people veer off toward disaster.

Even with a society that provides nurture and some guard rails, there will be serious problems. The greater problem is the presence of organized crime in the supply line for the drug. The sale of drugs provides great wealth, which in turn protects the higher-ups. The use of drugs creates a need for high incomes, so drug users can turn to criminal activities to support their habits. The sale of drugs is perhaps as common as is prostitution. (Male prostitution is perhaps as common as is female prostitution.) Both these pursuits are "victimless crimes" and so escape some of the heat that would be directed to armed robbery and other such quick sources of income.

The organized crime aspect of this problem is very similar to the problem on transnational hate groups such as al-Qaida. They both escape they kind of inspection they would suffer if confined to one country, they both can diffuse the members of their organizations and the functions they perform over several areas of the world, etc. On top of that, the hate groups can fund their efforts by the sale of drugs.

The derivative criminal activity of drug users is the most difficult aspect for which to craft policy and correctives. A judgment needs to be made concerning the relative importance of the criminal acts and the underlying addiction that motivates the criminal acts. Perhaps the example of some courts in giving drug users the choice of spending time in prison or in a therapeutic community for drug users is one that should stand in the foreground.

Note 2

(This note comes from Liberal Thinking’s private stock of opinions.)

Eliminating the "war on drugs" would free up much needed resources. Better than one half of all inmates in federal prisons are there on drug charges. Probably half of all police effort goes into drug cases, and this does not count the spin-off crimes that addicts are forced to commit to feed their habits. Half of court time is probably wasted on drug crimes. Freeing 500,000 prisoner would increase the work force by that much. Putting some of the money saved into drug rehabilitation programs would reduce addiction. Having better quality control would reduce injuries and deaths, leading to lower hospital costs. Less violent crime in the streets would also lower the number of people coming to emergency rooms. Elimination of the cash flow out of the country to buy illegal drugs would reduce the foreign trade deficit. The total number of drugs used would drop enormously without the constant marketing efforts of drug pushers. Money now wasted on drugs would be freed to be used for other products and would be available for capital to expand other industries.

The net gain to the GDP from eliminating the restrictions on drugs could be as high as $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000). Eleven billion dollars would be saved just by halving the prison population.

One of the biggest wastes is the use of police to fight addiction. Many of the finest citizens, the ones who are the most interested in giving something to their communities are police officers. It is an immense hypocrisy and a tremendous waste of resources to use these people to invade privacy. This is a totally inappropriate use of government resources. For any of these people to lose their life preventing an addict from obtaining a drug is akin to murder.

So, why do we still have a "war on drugs"? I think this is fairly simple to understand. It is not in the government's interest to win the war on drugs, only to perpetuate it. What would happen if the government were to actually win the "war on drugs"? It would have to reduce its power, as measured in every meaningful term: less dollars taxed and spent, declining head count of bureaucracies and decrease in the scope of what the government can control, including invasions of privacy. Drug restrictions allow the government to increase its power in all these dimensions.

If you have to fight drug use, you have to raise taxes. You have to raise taxes because it takes money to put more police on the streets and arm them, it takes more money to prosecute drug victims and pushers in court and it takes more money to house those convicted of drug crimes.

If you have to fight drug use, you have to increase head count. You have to have more bureaucrats to make regulations and make sure that everyone understands them. You have to have more people to research what is happening, so that you can have a body count, so that you can claim that you are winning. You have to have more people to research sneaky ways of catching the sneaky people who are selling the drugs, because they are always creating better techniques for evading you and new drugs to make it harder to catch them.

If you have to fight drug use, you have to restrict people’s rights, because people’s rights are what prevent you from doing as good a job arresting people as you want. You have to make it possible for police to use tainted evidence, because you have this compelling need to catch people better to put them in your overcrowded jails, and only about 80% of those arrested actually get convicted. You have to allow police to stop people on the open road and search them for evidence of alcohol or drug use because so many of these criminals are getting away. And, of course, you have to remove any semblance of privacy, because people are putting drugs into their bodies.

The restrictions on drugs are the most effective thing that the government has ever found for increasing its power short of a foreign, full-scale war. [Since this was written, in the 1990s, the government has, of course, found that the so-called “war on terrorism” is even better, and that having hot wars abroad make it yet again easier to create all these problems.] It allows the government to reach deeper and deeper into our pockets each year and to restrict more and more of our rights. As foreign wars are less and less popular, a domestic one becomes more and more attractive. The "war on drugs" is the next best thing (for usurping power from the American people) to a foreign war. It is no accident that the "war on drugs" heated up when the Vietnam War wound down. The government found that it was increasingly difficult to get a good foreign war going, so it had to create a domestic one as a substitute or risk losing tremendous amounts of power it had acquired during World War II and the Cold War.

But the total blame does not rest with government. We tend to get the kind of government we deserve, even if that process takes a bit. And in this case, the government's involvement with drugs is a reflection of a problem we have as a people: an obsession with controlling other people's lives. Perhaps this is human nature, because where we have no strong government, we usually have a strongman. We have an obsession to control, abuse and even murder. Now that it is socially unacceptable to rape, pillage and plunder, we have to get our jollies another way. So we find ways to define others as criminals, so that we can imprison them and, increasingly, put them to death. In crude terms, we don't have the balls to do it ourselves, so we do it vicariously using surrogates. How else do we explain the tremendous numbers of laws that are used to circumscribe our lives and the viciousness of the punishments handed out? We now have a federal law that allows us to kill drug dealers.

In some sense, the "war on drugs" will not end until we reach a certain level of consciousness. We need to become conscious of what we are doing to ourselves, the brutishness and emotional unreasonableness of our actions. When we do, there will be a fundamental transformation in our society, and truly justice will "roll down from the heavens" and "righteousness will fall like rain".

The "war on drugs" will therefore continue until one of two things stops it. Either the people will get wise to the fact that it is not in their interests to continue it (and that it is, in fact, a reflection of their most evil urges) and will demand that it stop, or the power of the government will grow to the point where it is taking so much of our resources that we can no longer afford it and the economy will collapse, taking with it any hope of "winning" the "war on drugs". Given the absolute consensus of those in power to continue this dead strategy, the latter is the most likely outcome.

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