Mexico: A basket-case study in the evils of Prohibition

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

MEXICAN DRUGLORD Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is ranked #1,140 on Forbes’  Billionaires List, tied with many others. Ominously, he fares even better in the ranking of the most powerful people in the world,  ranking as #60 among the top 68. (Mexico’s president, by contrast, doesn’t even make the list.)

His high power owes not only to his billion-plus bucks, but the reign of terror into which he, a rival cartel, and the Mexican government have plunged the hapless country in recent years.

A Houdini-like manipulator who managed to disappear from a maximum-security prison in 2001, Guzman “could convince God to sit down with the devil,” one journalist said. Guzman once bragged of spending $5 million a month on bribes to police. Though he can’t exactly write it off on his taxes, this appears to be a very worthwhile business expense for El Chapo.

Meanwhile, the head of Interpol in Mexico and the nation’s top antidrug official were arrested and accused of conspiring with the cartels.  The #2 police official in Ciudad Juarez, too, was caught smuggling marijuana into the U.S. Half the police force was found to be working for the gangs. (Reminds me of a similar case in a suburban Chicago village!)

Judging from the state of things in Mexico, this sort of official corruption is more the rule than the exception. The drug cartels use hordes of dirty cops and other officials, luring them with the big-time money and all the other perks that go with their illegal trade. Their ranks include some of the elite, highly-trained Mexican special-forces commandos. Ironically, some of these cops and commandos-turned-gangsters were probably recruited for the express  purpose of fighting drugs–under the assumption that outlawing things people want will make them go away.Mexico is just the latest, most stunning proof of the fact that outlawing things that people want does not make them go away; it restricts supply, but only enough to drive up price, and render the trade exponentially more lucrative. Only by outlawing a fairly common herb can you make its price soar to an absurd $8,000 a pound. Call it the Prohibition premium.

Since a black market cannot be regulated by normal means, it will be regulated, and taxed, by gangsters –including some of the cops and commandoes and spies you hired thinking they were going to protect you from those very gangsters and their drugs.

The mob was midwifed by teetotalers and moralists and anti-druggers. It could not have come into existence without their misguided, moralistic crusades against gambling, drinking, and — yes, this too — sex-for-hire. Rather than approaching these issues as targets of education, moral suasion, or reasonable regulation, the hammer of state Prohibition was brought down — institutionalizing “vice,” official corruption, organized crime as massive industry, a permanent criminal underclass, and a general disrespect for law.

We can assume that very early on, the wise guys of organized crime realized how good for business were the finger-wagging church ladies of the anti-drink movement (which, according to ample biblical evidence, is a heresy). No doubt, the syndicates early on began covertly pumping money into the effort to outlaw booze. By the time Prohibition finally was passed, they already had scores of police brass and revenuers on their payroll. They had the guns, they had the goons, and they had an oligopoly, enforced by state and private violence.

Of course, that generation rather quickly realized alcohol Prohibition was the height of stupidity. Yet to our shame, it has taken us decades to begin to realize drug Prohibition is just as stupid. It doesn’t create heaven on earth. It has proven to create hell on earth. See Mexico.

It’s created enough hell in the U.S. as well. The hell of gang violence that has consumed American inner cities for decades is directly traceable to our Prohibition policies, which virtually reward the most violent criminals with massive profits. Pouring more and more resources into the black hole of Prohibition, hiring more cops and commandos and secret police who will become targets of the money and corruption — who will destroy more civil liberties and lives in pursuit of the chimera of eliminating drugs — turns the war on forbidden substances into a war on freedom.

A major pretext for this war on freedom is “protecting the children.” How’s that been working? Any kid can get drugs within minutes if he wants to. Making war on freedom is not a solution. The solution is to grow up, become responsible citizens, and take charge of your own health and lifestyle. Teach your children to think independently. Be an example. Don’t be a hypocrite;  maybe your kids’ attitude toward “their” drugs is shaped by your medicine cabinet full of your drugs. Think about the messages of the entire society and government-medical-pharmaceutical complex, and then consider why kids wouldn’t be wanting to drug themselves.

Think and educate yourself about which substances really are bad, and which are relatively harmless, and whether rolling them all into one big ball doesn’t rather cheapen the respect of young people for the word of authority figures. How many kids got hooked on life-destroying hard drugs like heroin because (they reasoned), “they totally lied to us about ‘reefer madness’ — they’re probably lying to us about smack, too”? Erasing the very real distinctions between “soft” and hard drugs is a form of crying wolf, of lying, no matter how righteous the intent. Few anti-drug zealots have considered the dire consequences of this form of lying.

THE NARCO-WAR in Mexico, of course, has hugely influenced the phenomenon of illegal immigration. You’d wish Mexicans could stay home and overthrow their corrupt regime and the druglords. I’ve found myself wishing that but it’s not about to happen. The balance of power is too lopsided. The law-abiding people of Mexico are disarmed. Gun ownership is illegal. (Obviously though, they forgot to tell that to the drug cartels, who have lots of guns.) The government is and has virtually always been corrupt. They’re not the sturdy pioneers and colonists of America in 1776, self-sufficient, well-armed, with plentiful land and republican habits and institutions. They’re hardly going to revolt and overthrow the government — at least, not without a horrific bloodbath.

The only way to defeat the drug cartels’ grip on Mexico is economically, by blowing up the superstructure supporting the riches they’re battling over, by legalizing marijuana and cocaine, now. There is no other plausible way to put the mafias out of business.

There is no other solution. It is unconscionable for the U.S. federal government to not begin to apply the solution, now.

And speaking of the U.S. government, why would it continue to prop up a system responsible for so much death and destruction?

Obviously, the powers that be are satisfied with the results they’re getting, and have found the war on freedom to be a very profitable arrangement.

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