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December 29, 2011

Is Mexico our Future?

Laws banning alcohol had been passed repeatedly in Midwestern “bible belt” states during the Nineteenth Century, but all were soon undermined by smuggling from other states and eventually repealed. Rather than blame it on a basic flaw in the concept of prohibition, the Anti-Saloon League opted for a national law in 1892, a campaign that finally led to ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1918. Unfortunately, it proved another mistake; national Prohibition encouraged smuggling from overseas and alcohol was produced by stills in the US that were already operating when Prohibition went into effect at midnight on January 16, 1920.

In other words, Prohibition began failing immediately, something that could have been predicted in advance; nevertheless the three different Republican Administrations that inherited the policy all gave it a try: Harding, who died in office in 1923, Coolidge, his Vice President and successor, and Herbert Hoover, whose term in office would be blighted by the Great Depression, all tried to make the Prohibition work. It would take the unforeseen strategy of a “Repeal” Amendment, the Great Depression itself, and the election of FDR, a Democrat, to provide a way out.

The good news was that Prohibition ended; the bad news was that little was learned from its failure, which had come at a high price: crime became "organized," was enriched with illegal profits, and provided with a flexible business plan applicable to other ventures: labor racketeering, illegal gambling, and "protection." Yet there was little formal recognition of either Prohibition's failure or the consequences of that failure.

Nor apparently, was there any recognition that the expensive alcohol mistake was being replicated with "drugs." Even as Repeal was being ratified, Harry Anslinger was settling in as Director of the FBN created for him by his wife's uncle. Whether Andrew Mellon had intended his nephew to deflect attention from the resemblance of the two policies can't be known, but Harry carefully avoided all use of the P word throughout his long career.

Today, nearly eight decades after Repeal, we are still saddled with a failing prohibition policy, one that's become bigger and more costly because humans are just as dishonest, but far more numerous. In addition, we can see that criminal markets only reach their full potential to do harm when demand for their products has been increased to the maximum. In the case of "drugs," that demand has been critically enhanced by a deadly combination; population growth, greater ambient anxiety, and a punitive law that undermines all America claims to stand for. The final twist of the knife is that the federal agencies created by Richard Nixon to enforce and protect his CSA were made dependent on it and have learned to share in the obscene profits it enables.

Thus America’s drug war can’t end until the DEA, NIDA, and the FDA can be shamed out of profiting from the failing policy they either enforce or protect. If that doesn’t happen, we have only to look at Mexico to see our own future.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 29, 2011 01:42 AM