Mexico and the Drug War

by Andrew Stuttaford
The war on drugs did terrible damage to America’s struggle against the Taliban, but its noxious side-effects are not confined to Afghanistan. As has been evident for some time now,  Mexico must be included in the list of countries being trashed by the prohibitionists’ long jihad. For an idea of what’s going on, turn, as David Frum did, to the  Dallas Morning News of January 1:

Mexico’s drug violence in 2010 was striking not only for its scale but also for its brutality.In the northern city of Santiago, the mayor’s body was found with the eyes gouged out. In the picturesque town of Cuernavaca, four decapitated men were hanged from a bridge along a heavily traveled highway. And in Ciudad Juárez this week, two university students were hunted through a maze of streets and killed with bullets to the head, their bodies set on fire.

Responsibility for those hideous acts must rest with the thugs who carried them out and those that ordered them to do so. Nevertheless these killings are a powerful reminder that the drug laws are not victimless laws.
The closest we can come to a good answer to Mexico’s problems (which are spilling across the border) is an end to prohibition and the super-profits it brings in its wake. That’s basic economics. It’s common sense. And it presumes that adult Americans don’t need nanny to tell them what they can choose to consume.
Sadly, David would not agree. He writes as follows:
To help Mexico in its struggle against the gangs, some suggest legalizing drugs in the United States. Legalization would transform drugs into a lawful business and transform the drug gangs into more or less normal corporations. Possibly that’s true. At the same time, legalization would almost certainly increase drug consumption in the United States by huge amounts. It’s a solution even more socially costly than the problem. Perhaps a less dramatic solution would be to force American drug users to confront the cost to others of their bad habit. People arrested for the first time or with small amounts of drugs are often released with a warning or a few hours of community service. Perhaps that community service should take the form of burial duty at a funeral after a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez.
David is (I assume) writing figuratively. Nevertheless, if he really is looking for gravediggers for northern Mexico he would do far better to go recruiting amongst the prohibitionists in Washington, D.C. After all, by doing so much to make drug trafficking so profitable, they’ve done the necessary groundwork.

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