After a 3-month-long trial in federal district court in New York City, famous Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, more commonly known as El Chapo, has been convicted. Yay! After decades of drug warfare on the part of the feds, the drug war is finally over. Victory!
Well, if you believe that, I’ve got a really nice bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Despite the estimated $50 million in federal taxpayer money to conduct this trial, the federal drug war will continue, in large part because there are too many federal judges, federal prosecutors, and drug agents who have become dependent on the drug war, not only through salaries but also through asset-forfeiture seizures and even bribes. There are just too many people whose livelihood depends on the drug-war racket.
We also mustn’t forget about all the federal taxpayer money that will be spent on incarcerating El Chapo for the rest of his life. That cost will certainly total in the millions of dollars.
Let’s see now. The federal government is now in debt to the tune of $22 trillion dollars. It is already spending a trillion dollars more than it is bringing with taxes. That means that $22 trillion debt will be $23 trillion next year.
Yes, I know exactly what those federal judges, federal prosecutors, court clerks, and drug-war law-enforcement agents would say: “Jacob, that $50 million is just a drop in the overall federal budget. Leave our drug-war dole alone!” But isn’t that what every defender of “small” federal programs says? Along with the big programs (i.e., Social Security, Medicare, the national-security establishment), all those “little” ones add up, especially because no one is willing to abolish them because they are each considered only a “a drop in the bucket.”
What drug-war proponents might also say is, “Jacob, El Chapo smuggled tons of drugs into the United States, murdered countless people in the process, and paid bribes to Mexican politicians and bureaucrats. What else could U.S. officials do but prosecute him, even if it did cost U.S taxpayers $50 million?”
There are two answers to that question:
1. The advocates of drug laws are morally responsible for those murders and bribes. That’s because drug laws bring drug dealers like El Chapo into existence, along with all the violence and corruption that come with such dealers.
That is, if there was no drug war, there would be no El Chapo dealing drugs. Instead, there would be reputable companies, including pharmacies, that would be selling drugs to any adult who wanted to purchase them. They would be reasonably priced, much as booze is. Competition would be through advertising and product quality. Sellers would have the incentive to sell high-quality drugs because they wouldn’t want to get sued for causing someone’s death. Through their purchases, consumers would decide who stays in business and who doesn’t.
That’s how a free market works. It produces high quality goods and its process brings peace and harmony to society.
“But Jacob, people would be ingesting drugs!” Yep, that’s true. Throughout history, there have been people ingesting mind-altering or destructive substances, including booze, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, and opioids. That’s just the way life is. You can disapprove and condemn but the fact is that in a free society, people have the right to ingest substances that other people disapprove of. And legal or not, they’re going to do it.
And there is the rub. Statists see what they perceive is a social problem and they immediately run to their federal daddy and beg him to do something about it. The federal daddy decides to make it a crime to possess or distribute the item in question. Then with illegality, the reputable companies immediately shut down. They don’t want to take a chance of being busted, prosecuted, convicted of a felony, and sent to prison. Immediately, the illegality gives rise to the El Chapos of the world, unsavory people who specialize in operating in an illegal market, especially with such black-market competitive practices as murder and bribery.
2. The $50 million taxpayer-funded conviction of El Chapo will have no effect on the supply of drugs into the United States or on drug-war violence and corruption. None! It will prove to be an entirely futile effort, assuming that the goal of the trial was to substantially reduce or even eliminate the supply of drugs coming in the United States.
I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which is located on the U.S.-Mexico border. After college and law school, I returned to Laredo to practice law. In the 1960s through the 1980s, when I was down there, Laredo was a major hub for smuggling illegal drugs into the United States. It still is. Nothing has changed, notwithstanding the decades-long, never-ending practice of arresting, prosecuting, convicting, and incarcerating people who have violated drug laws.
When I was practicing law, I represented a Mexican citizen who had been arrested with a massive amount of cocaine that has been hidden in the panels of his vehicle. I was told that it was the largest seizure of cocaine in a vehicle at the international bridge. My client was convicted and sent to a federal penitentiary. Did that mean the drug war was over? Of course not. His conviction and incarceration had no effect on the supply of drugs whatsoever. It was all just a waste of time and money.
There is a simple reason for this phenomenon. Once one drug dealer is knocked out, he is immediately replaced by competitors. Duh! Then the feds focus on the new supplier, and the process then repeats itself. Big publicized drug bust, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration. Then new suppliers take his place. The racket goes on forever. For an excellent view of how this racket operates, I recommend watching the four “Narcos” series on Netflix.
It’s time to end the drug-war racket by immediately legalizing drugs, all of them.