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Drug War Interventionism


Ludwig von Mises pointed out that one government intervention into economic activity inevitably leads to more interventions. The reason? Each intervention brings with it more crises and more chaos, which then cause public officials to enact new interventions to address the new crises and chaos. As each new intervention is enacted, the government moves inexorably toward more government control over economic activity.

A classic example of this phenomenon involves the drug war, one of the most useless and destructive interventions in American history. U.S. officials started out by making it illegal to possess non-approved drugs. When that intervention failed, it was followed by an endless series of new interventions, all with the hope that drug use would finally be eradicated from American society.

Instead, each new drug-war intervention has just made the situation worse — violence, corruption, and, of course, continued illegal drug transactions and drug abuse.

Six years ago, the Mexico government, with the full support of the U.S. government, decided to initiate a full-scale crackdown in the war on drugs.

Drug-war statists in the United States were ecstatic. For decades, they had argued that the only reason that the drug war was being lost in the United States was because the authorities really hadn’t cracked down hard enough, notwithstanding the ever-increasing series of interventions that had been enacted during the past several decades.

So, Mexico was to be their model. The Mexican military was brought into the action, with the full support of the U.S. military. This was going to be the equivalent of war, just like the war on terrorism.

The result? Oh, well, let’s see. Only about 50,000 or so dead people in the last six years, along with corruption, assassination, murder, kidnapping, gang wars, and, of course, continued drug dealing.

What better model failure story than that?

So, what are the interventionists calling for? Well, of course, another intervention. And guess what they want to do now. They want gun control imposed on the American people! They’re saying that the reason there is so much drug-war violence in Mexico is owing to the lack of gun control in the United States. If U.S. officials will just crack down on gun selling, everything will be hunky-dory south of the border.

A good example of this interventionist inanity occurred this week in an article on Fox News Latino entitled “US Must Stem Flow of Guns to Halt Mexico Drug War Violence” by Kristian Ramos.

Ramos states:

If Congress is serious about bringing the violence on the Mexican side of the border down, it would be smart to also find ways to stop the flow of American guns into Mexico and reform the legal pathways for migrants to enter and leave the country. Mexico has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Unfortunately, they share a border with a country that has one of the most lenient, and that has created a dynamic of violence south of the border.

Ramos himself acknowledges that Mexico has strict gun control. Now, doesn’t that tell us something? If there is strict gun control in Mexico and massive gun violence in Mexico, what inference can we draw from this?

It seems to me that the inference is rather obvious: Gun control hasn’t worked in Mexico, any more than drug laws have. That is, even though it is illegal to own, say, assault rifles in Mexico, the criminals nonetheless own assault rifles. They don’t give a hoot for the laws that make it illegal for them to own such guns. They choose to violate the gun laws just as they choose to violate the drug laws.

So, why would people on the northern side of the border be any more likely to obey gun laws than people on the southern side of the border? Wouldn’t there be exorbitant black-market profits to be made in the illegal sales of guns?

Now, let us see. I wonder if we can come up with an example to show Ramos that making something illegal doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to obey the law.

Gosh, that’s a tough one. Oh, wait! I got it! It was right here in front of our eyes the whole time!

The drug war! Ramos, check out drug laws. They make it illegal for people to possess and sell drugs. Guess what! They haven’t been too successful.

In fact, I’d recommend that Ramos visit our nation’s capital, where there have been strict drug laws and gun laws for decades. Washington, D.C., could also be called the drug and murder capital of the world.

If you think the violence in the war on drugs is bad, wait until you see a war on guns. Drug war violence will pale in comparison to gun-control violence.

What’s the solution to drug-war violence, including in Mexico? No, the answer does not lie in more interventions, including gun control on the American people, as Ramos suggests. More interventions will only produce more violence, crises, and chaos and move nations further in the direction of oppressive police states.

There is one — and only one — solution: Repeal the original intervention and all subsequent interventions. End the war on drugs. Repeal all drug laws. Restore a free market to the drug trade and leave people free to live their lives the way they choose, so long as their conduct is peaceful.

Fortunately, more and more people are figuring this out, as most recently demonstrated at the Summit of the Americas, where several Latin American leaders lectured President Obama on the need to consider legalizing drugs. People are finally realizing that this is one important way to restore peace and harmony to our lives. Maybe Latin America will lead the way.

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.