Thursday, December 05, 2002

Prohibition Repealed!

Today, Thursday, December 5, is the 69th anniversary of the repeal of Alcohol Prohibition. National Prohibition ended a little after 5:00pm EST, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition heralded a dramatic drop in the homicide rate -- which was ultimately erased, unfortunately, by escalating enforcement of drug prohibition and the other sequelae of prohibition, i.e. the huge profits and lawlessness that are the inevitable results of this type of government intrusion. The same thing happens when cigarette taxes rise to a high enough level. Ditto on the prohibition against fireworks in my home state of New York. Organized crime steps in. Personally, I came face to face with the mafia at the age of ten, when I went to chinatown to buy firecrackers. After buying some from a Chinese fellow, a big hulking stereotypical Italian fellow demanded money from us, because we had bought from the wrong guy. In South Carolina, no licensed fireworks dealer would sell to a ten year old child.

Today, due to prohibition, children find it easier to buy drugs than cigarettes or beer, since the vendors of these legal items refuse to sell to underaged children. Dope dealers have no such compunction. Why is it that many of those who fervently believe that "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," and thus are against overly restrictive gun laws, are in favor of laws that put the distribution of such dangerous substances in the hands of the most irresponsible element of our society. It can't possibly be in order to make drugs unobtainable, since that goal is unattainable. Hell, drugs are even available IN PRISON, where the most effective prohibition possible is in effect.

Drug abuse is a medical problem. Drug prohibition is an unconstitutional condition that sustains the Mob and those elements of the law enforcement and legal professions that depend upon it for revenue and power. Approximately one third of our law enforcement, penal, and judicial resources are dedicated to drug prohibition. This is money and effort that could be better used for real problems in our society. While a libertarian such as myself would just rescind these expenditures, big government law-and-order conservatives should jump at the chance to imprison more violent criminals, and tax these substances to gain the revenue to further increase the size and intrusiveness on Big Brother. Orwell foresaw this in 1984, where the plebes are allowed their legal intoxicants. (or was that Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?)

The only rational reason to support drug prohibition is the fear that drug abuse will increase if legal restraints are lifted. While that might be true, we don't really know. If a small fraction of the money presently spent on the punitive approach were spent on public education and public health aspects of the problem, it would make a difference. As long as we as a society refuse to even debate the question in a sober fashion, let alone try out some alternatives (rememver state's rights?), we will remain ignorant of the true cost of this benighted policy.