Losing Perspective

We seem to have a problem in this country with pursuing programs that make no sense, just because we feel like we have to "win" to avoid losing. It might be something to do with our acquired obsession with militarism and declaring "war" on every noun that looks at us the wrong way.

Whatever is causing it, it's leading us down a very dangerous path.

In Atlanta recently, police officers got a court's permission to kick in the door of a private home without warning, in order to arrest the people inside and sieze their property.

The end result: An old lady was shot to death while defending her home against the attack.

Now, in the wake of this tragedy, lots of questions are being asked. Was the no-knock warrant justified? Did the police lie to obtain it? How could this have been done better?

Most of the questions miss the point entirely, and demonstrate how completely we've lost all perspective of what it is that drug prohibition is supposed to accomplish.

Here's a quote from the warrant that killed the old lady:
The CRI ["Confidential and Reliable Informant"] was searched and given $50.00 (city funds) to purchase the crack cocaine from the resident at 933 Neal St. NW, Atlanta GA 30318. As the CRI approached the home and went to the front door the CRI was met by "Sam". "Sam" and the CRI spoke briefly at the front porch. "Sam" then briefly walked into the home at 933 Neal St. returning with an object he exchanged with the CRI in exchange for the city funds I had previously given to the CRI. After the CRI made the purchase the CRI returned directly to me. The CRI immediately handed me (2) bags of crack cocaine.
Based on this, and the police concern that "Sam" might flush the drugs if they came knocking, they obtained a court's permission to invade a private home, unannounced, and sieze property.

Based on this.

A man knocking on a door, exchanging cash for recreational drugs, and walking away.

McQ @ QandO has been all up in this story, and I cited him previously, letting the comment speak for itself:
The War on Drugs is a war on liberty and that simple truth is demonstrated almost daily on the streets and in homes around our nation.

This isn't an attempt to say drugs are good or that drugs should be sold to children or that we should happily give over our lives to getting high, anymore than I'd claim alcohol is good, should be sold to children and we should spend our lives getting drunk. Obviously I don't endorse any of that.

And I'm not interested in the usual and prosaic "so you want our children to have access to drugs?" response. Wake up, will you . . . they already have access to drugs in quantities and types you can't imagine. The War on Drugs hasn't stopped that in the least, nor will it ever. All it has done is drive up the price.
McQ also links to this excellent article, which again cites conservative idol Milton Friedman's outspoken opposition to the "War on Drugs" on the grounds that it serves to solve no problems and aggravate many -- specifically, that the "War on Drugs" is effectively a price support program.

Indeed, this seems to be the kindest assessment an objective observer can offer about the government's ongoing campaign to tell people what chemicals they can and can't ingest. We seem to have passed the point where the impact of drug enforcement is more destructive to individuals and their communities than the problem which that enforcement is supposed to fix; and yet, the answer is always to crack down harder, to intrude more, to make sure that no one feels safe, even in their own home.

And as the government cracks down, the street value of drugs goes up, the appeal of dealing drugs goes up, the value of the "right" to deal drugs in a particular area goes up. Competition goes up. With more drug profits to buy guns, and more motivation to use them, gang warfare increases. The body count increases. People feel less safe. And, of course, the government cracks down even harder.

If that isn't a sure sign of a policy that's gone off the rails, I don't know what is. We -- collectively -- have lost all perspective of what the fight is supposed to be about, and are fighting merely to "win" -- unwilling to accept the plain fact that victory as presently defined is impossible.

(Did I just draw a parallel? Oops.)

Now: Since this policy is so obviously completely insane, why have we not abandoned it in favor of a policy that's . . . let's say, not completely insane?

Well, certainly the cops like having something to do. And it must seem to them like they're accomplishing something, with all those terrible, heavily-armed, drug-dealing, misery-spreading gangsters they bust. They're not concerned with the economics of it -- if they can just lock up enough bad guys, things will get better, from their perspective, and they'll tend to throw their support behind candidates and policies that promise to help them accomplish that.

Also in favor of locking up bad guys are the various correctional officers' unions, for obvious reasons. These groups are also quick to get involved in issues and races that might impact the welfare of their members. Just to be perfectly clear, less crime and less criminal convictions means less jobs for prison guards. Policies that actually reduce or prevent crime will hurt their interests.

And then, as always, there's the pseudo-conservative right wing. And this is not an entirely religious-right phenomenon (though as in all "morality" issues, the theocrats figure prominently). The main motivator in pseudo-conservative support for the Drug War is the idea that, without government intervention, children everywhere will be victimized by predatory drug dealers and hopelessly hooked on [this year's trendy new chemical]. Crime is also a factor, of course, as the peril of being robbed or murdered by some desperate addict seems to figure prominently into the arguments they offer. Of course, the fact that prohibition has only made predatory dealing and drug-related crime more pervasive is lost on them -- in no small part because of the relentless and nonsensical claims to the contrary by candidates supported by pro-Drug-War interests, like the ones named above.

All in all, this is a textbook example of how a bad government policy can perpetuate itself by delivering the exact opposite of what it promises. You can easily swap out the specifics and apply the formula to issues like welfare and the dependency it fosters, the War on "Terror" and the anti-Americanism it promotes, and a host of other, incredibly popular, disastrous, succeeding-by-failing policies.

And our leaders aren't going to fix any of them unless we force them to . . . because the worse our leaders let things get, the more we need strong leadership.


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