Firing the War on Drugs

"The right time to fire someone is when everyone wonders why this person hasn't been fired yet," said the mentor to this young manager. It was good advice, and I followed it to my own success, although some may say I followed it a little too often.

A Zogby poll in 2008 revealed that 76% of likely voters believe that the War on Drugs is failing. Of four options on how we should change our approach, the most popular option chosen was that we should legalize some or all illegal drugs.

And yet, despite so many debates, arguments, statements, speeches, articles, blog posts and other expressions of opinion on the issue, we are still left wondering, why hasn't this person been fired yet?

The legalization of drugs is an inherently conservative position. William F. Buckley and National Review have advocated this position for many years, yet this journal of Conservative opinion is ignored on this point. I can think of very few other political actions that would simultaneously advance the causes of personal liberty, pragmatism, free markets, return to traditional values and states' rights as drug legalization. And yet, conservative politicians are largely silent on this issue, save for those libertarians who have fought this struggle since its beginning.

We do not see politicians on either side of the aisle typing up the pink slip for the War on Drugs because they are afraid of being perceived as being soft on crime, and yet drug legalization would allow us to be tougher on crime. No one is harmed by the neighbor who lights up some marijuana, yet many are harmed by the hoodlum down the street robbing a store to support his habit. Freeing up resources to deal with the hoodlum in order to dispense liberty to the neighbor is a tough on crime position. And years after the decision is made to legalize drugs, the politician will be able to trot out statistics on how many more people were protected and served by law enforcement due to this decision, and everyone will wonder why we didn't do it sooner.

We will close jails for lack of criminals. We will be a little freer than we were the day before. The markets will develop and the economic benefits will serve us all. The states will manage the markets to their benefit and see growth in their economies. We will spend a fraction of what we currently spend on treatment instead of incarceration.

So why hasn't that irritating employee named the "War on Drugs" been fired yet? I don't know, either.

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