Friday, May 4, 2012

Digging ditches with teaspoons, Drug War make-work edition

We previously encountered this country's illustrious drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, here, making ridiculous claims that the drug war has ended under the Obama administration. At the risk of being impolite, it's hard to describe this as anything other than a shameless, bald-faced lie. I mean, sure, the DEA is still locking up college kids for smoking marijuana and leaving them for five days without food or water until they attempt suicide,

But on the plus side, the war on drugs has ended! I take this statement to mean merely that they're relabeled the same old crap sandwich of policies as 'Therapeutic involuntary harm-restraint of at-risk individuals' or 'community protection and engagement policies' or some other junk.

If you were tempted to conclude that Gil Kerlikowske must be a mendacious fool, I have little news with which to dissuade you. Via Radley Balko comes a dispatch from another speech of Kerlikowske's, described here:
"Just last year, the Department of Justice released data that health, workplace, and criminal justice cost of drug abuse to American society totaled over $193 billion...Contributing to the immense cost are the millions of drug offenders under supervision in the criminal justice system"
I'll give Kerlikowske this much credit - he hasn't yet taken his argument to the logical extreme that all this spending is a form of stimulus to the nation's prison warders.

But it's the same old wine of make-work accounting, poured into the slightly new bottles of the credits side of the ledger, instead of the debits.

To white, the argument is in essence: 'Look at all this money I'm spending combating this problem! Surely this illustrates how large the problem itself is, and thus the necessity of the very spending that I'm defending.'

I need to get from my house to the airport. Rather than take a bus or a taxi, I hire the Gil Kerlikowske Party Bus, decked out with government funded champagne, a bouncy castle and gold-plated seat belts, to take me there in style. This runs up a tab of $1000, which I then use to argue how crucial it is to get extra funding to address the obviously dire need of massively increased costs in the airport transportation business. Vote for my policies!

Let's let our favourite 19th Century Frenchman school the fool over this stupidity:
But let us go to the root of the matter. We are deceived by money. To demand the cooperation of all the citizens in a common work, in the form of money, is in reality to demand a concurrence in kind; for every one procures, by his own labour, the sum to which he is taxed. Now, if all the citizens were to be called together, and made to execute, in conjunction, a work useful to all, this would be easily understood; their reward would be found in the results of the work itself.
But after having called them together, if you force them to make roads which no one will pass through, palaces which no one will inhabit, and this under the pretext of finding them work, it would be absurd, and they would have a right to argue, "With this labour we have nothing to do; we prefer working on our own account."
Like M. Bastiat, I too prefer working on my own account. So too do the millions of people locked up in US prisons for non-violent drug offenses. As it turns out, neither of our opinions matters one jot.

Gil Kerlikowske has actually gone one better than the French government. Spending the drug war money on building roads no one will pass through and palaces no one will inhabit would be an enormous improvement on the current situation. Setting the money on fire would be an enormous improvement.

Instead, we spend our money to lay waste to the human capital of the nation's youth, creating untold wages of woe inside the US and abroad.

As I said, in the end it's stupid to blame the politicians for responding to the incentives we give them.

Somebody keeps voting for this madness, year after year. Lots of somebodies, in fact.

The ultimate shame is theirs. What folly, what mad, senseless folly.

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