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Reduce Federal Spending: End the Drug War


I have a proposal for reducing federal spending: End the drug war by legalizing drugs.

Let’s face reality: Unless something drastic happens, like bankruptcy or hyperinflation, Americans are not likely going to let go of their welfare-warfare state in the near term.

When it comes to welfare, Americans are as addicted as your most hard-core heroin addict. How many times have we heard, “If we didn’t have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, people would die in the streets from starvation and illness”?

Then there’s the warfare dole for the military and military-industrial complex. Don’t think for a moment that the Pentagon and its contractors are ever going to be willing to give up their warfare dole. They have as big entitlement mentality as welfare recipients. Moreover, they will always be able and willing to conjure up or provoke all sorts of foreign enemies, bogeymen, crises, fears, and threats that will guarantee them a continual stream of warfare money.

Then there’s the interest on the national debt. And then there is all the so-called “discretionary spending,” such as the bailouts, education grants, stimulus funds, farm subsidies, regulatory enforcement, and all the rest. You can count on every single recipient of such largess to fight just as viciously for his share of the dole as the other welfare and warfare recipients.

Given the enormous and growing gap between federal tax revenues and federal expenditures, the future doesn’t look good. Common sense will tell you that such a situation is not going to end well.

The liberals want to resolve the problem by raising taxes. But what they’re ignoring is that the welfare-warfare state might have finally have reached a breaking point — where higher taxes drive more firms into shutting down, thereby reducing tax revenues even more and increasing the number of people on the dole. Think Greece.

So, what to do? The answer is obvious: Immediately abolish — as in repeal — all welfare-state programs, beginning with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, restoring retirement and health care to the free market.

At the same time, dismantle the entire warfare state, immediately ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing all the troops home and discharging them, closing all the foreign bases and most of the bases here at home, and drying up the military-industrial complex.

Alas, however, Americans aren’t ready to go there yet. The addiction to welfare-warfare spending is too deeply engrained in the American psyche.

So, how about reducing federal spending by ending the drug war?

How much is spent on the drug war? Around $15 billion. Okay, admittedly that’s a drop in the bucket in a $3.5 trillion budget. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and what better place to knock off billions of dollars in one fell swoop?

After all, what’s the point of the drug war? Everyone, including the head of the DEA, would concede that the drug war has not been victorious despite decades of warfare. In fact, it’s become the never-ending war, one that has no other point than to punish people without accomplishing anything. As everyone knows, the drug war certainly hasn’t stemmed the flow of drugs.

So, I ask again: What’s the point of it? It has no point whatsoever. We could immediately save $15 billion by ending it.

And think of the collateral benefits that would flow from an immediate legalization of drugs:

1. The drug cartels and drug lords would be out of business immediately. Who could object to that? Isn’t that what the DEA and U.S. and Mexican militaries are trying to do with their law-enforcement operations? Yet, as soon as they kill or jail some drug lord, he’s quickly replaced by new ones.

Thus, their method will never permanently rid society of drug lords and drug cartels. It can only fill the graveyards or prisons with them, endlessly.

Drug legalization, on the other hand, puts them all of business. Why wouldn’t that be a better way to rid society of drug cartels and drug lords? Indeed, it’s the only way to do so.

2. Virtually all the robberies, muggings, thefts, burglaries, and murders that addicts engage in to pay for the exorbitant, black-market prices for drugs would disappear. We’d have a safer society. When was the last time you heard of a wino or alcoholic committing acts of violence to get the money to buy a bottle of wine or a case of beer? That’s because the cost of buying these products is low, compared to the potential cost of engaging in violent crime to get the money. Drug legalization would do the same thing to the prices of illicit drugs.

3. Drug addicts would be encouraged to be more open about their addiction, enabling them to openly seek therapy for the issues that are driving them to use drugs. The drug war drives people underground, fearful that someone will turn them in. Drug legalization brings the process to the surface, where it is easier to deal with.

4. The drug-war violations of privacy and civil liberties would disappear, along with one of the police’s favorite excuses for harassing citizens. No more asset-forfeiture, no more cash reporting requirements, no more planting drugs on innocent people. Indeed, no more drug-war bribes to government officials.

5. Most important, drug legalization will restore a core aspect of human freedom to our land — the right of human beings to ingest whatever substance they want without being punished by the state for it.

Would legalization of drugs resolve the federal budgetary problem? Of course not! But it would put a dent into it, while bringing about a more peaceful and free society.

This post was written by:

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 LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.