The Drug War

ARON seemed very passionate about the drug war on the 4/6 lunch so i thought a comment about the drug war from a guy like Noam Chomsky might be interesting.

Noam Sayin’? The High Times Interview with Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky interviewed by T.A. Sedlak

July 29, 2011

Q: You’ve spoken out against the War on Drugs, explaining that it’s essentially a means to lock up poor people, that it actually increases drug use, and that it serves as an excuse to control foreign nations. Would you briefly elaborate on these points?

A: Let’s grant that there’s a drug problem, for the sake of argument — drugs meaning, you know, cocaine, marijuana and so on. Suppose you accept that. How do you deal with it? There are studies — government studies and others — that say that the most cost-effective way is prevention and treatment. More expensive and less effective is policing; still less effective and more expensive is border interdiction. And the most expensive and the least effective is out-of-country operations, like what they call “fumigation” — which is, in fact, chemical warfare — in Colombia and so forth. I’ve seen it firsthand; it really is chemical warfare. So those are the basic facts, and I don’t think anyone questions them very much.

Now take a look at the way the Drug War is conducted over the past 40 years. It goes back farther, but start from 40 years ago: There’s very little spent on prevention and treatment. There’s a lot on policing, a ton of stuff on border control and a lot on out-of-country operations. And the effect on the availability of drugs is almost undetectable; drug prices don’t change on measures of availability. So there are two possibilities: Either those conducting the Drug War are lunatics, or they have another purpose.

Well, in the law, there’s a standard way of trying to determine intention, and that’s by looking at predictable consequences. You have 40 years of experience with almost no effect on what they claim they’re trying to do, and you have very predictable consequences — in fact, several. At home, you lock up the people who are essentially superfluous. The economy shifted dramatically in the ’70s away from domestic production and towards financialization and the export of production. That leaves a class problem: What do you do with unemployed workers? We happen to have a very close class/race correlation in America, so that means, overwhelmingly, black males and Hispanic males. Well, you know, we’re a civilized country, so you don’t assassinate them — you stick them in jail. And, in fact, the incarceration rate has been shooting up, especially since the early ’80s; it’s now way out of line with any other comparable country. Meanwhile, overseas, the War on Drugs contributes to counterinsurgency operations. So a rational conclusion is that those are the purposes. The only alternative I can think of is sheer lunacy.

Furthermore, it’s known, just from experience, that prevention works. Here we get to the question of what’s the drug problem. Well, in fact, by far the worst problem is tobacco: Tobacco kills way more people than hard drugs, 20 times as many or some huge number. So that’s a really dangerous substance. The second most dangerous is alcohol, because of its direct consequence to the user, but also because it harms others. Marijuana doesn’t make you violent; alcohol does. So it contributes to abuse, violence — drunk driving kills people. It’s a killer.

Anyway, what happened is that, without any criminalization, the usage of these substances has declined pretty significantly among more educated people. And it’s the same with say, red meat. It was a lifestyle change, and it became a healthier lifestyle with no criminalization. That’s just education — basically, prevention. So I think there’s almost no other rational conclusion other than the one I mentioned: that the Drug War is not intended to deal with the use of drugs. It’s intended for other purposes, namely those that are the actual and predictable consequences of it.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, made a pertinent comment a couple years ago. He said, “If you want to destroy coca here, then let us destroy the tobacco in North Carolina and Kentucky. It’s a far more dangerous substance. It kills way more people than coca does.” That’s a joke, obviously — the United States isn’t going to let him do that. Then again, it just shows up the cynicism of the whole program.

https://chomsky.info/20110729/

Comments

  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    edited April 25
    Well, if Noam Chomsky still has his TIAA-CREF fund, then it's good to know his investment portfolio now consists of a little less drug-war profits:
    https://www.hoover.org/research/noam-chomsky-closet-capitalist
    https://www.americanbankingnews.com/2018/04/13/corecivic-cxw-shares-sold-by-tiaa-cref-investment-management-llc.html
    Just joshin' the Chomp. God only knows how much human misery goes into my first world existence.

    At any rate, what are your thoughts on the most profitable war in human history, @Vnny141 ?
  • emnofseattleemnofseattle Mason County, Washington USA
    Freddy said:
    Well, if Noam Chomsky still has his TIAA-CREF fund, then it's good to know his investment portfolio now consists of a little less drug-war profits:
    https://www.hoover.org/research/noam-chomsky-closet-capitalist
    https://www.americanbankingnews.com/2018/04/13/corecivic-cxw-shares-sold-by-tiaa-cref-investment-management-llc.html
    Just joshin' the Chomp. God only knows how much human misery goes into my first world existence.

    At any rate, what are your thoughts on the most profitable war in human history, @Vnny141 ?
    like what? 
    Freddy
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    edited April 25
    Oh God... Where do we start? I drive a car, I have a smart phone, I run a business that requires a rididulous amount of paperwork, said business banks with a major financial institution, I eat quinoa (in addition to all the other foods whose increased American demand has wrecked foreign food markets), and last but not least: I've done recreational drugs. The last one could be considered in my past, but nothing says I won't do them again. Can't do anything other than weed and mushrooms (and even weed's innocence is debatable) without contributing indirectly to the suffering of others.
  • MattyWeavesMattyWeaves Mid-State New York
    I don't know the general feeling on Adam Ruins Everything but I really like the show and explanations they use. This is my go to, "War on Drugs," video I share. The entire episode is great.




    Fun note, being from a town of 2000 people, D.A.R.E. basically introduced weed to me in 6th grade.
  • Alkaid13Alkaid13 Georgia
    edited April 25
    “The Drug War” sounds like a bad 80s movie but otherwise yes it’s supremely bullshit people still go to jail for smoking weed. You might want to re-title this thread “The War on Drugs” though. 
    Freddy
  • @Freddy I was going to jump in with a response focused mainly on foreign produced goods (iPhone being the example) and shitty labor practices surrounding that sector, but I thought to myself "This man single handedly solved homelessness in America, let's wait and see what he has to say for himself." You did not disappoint
    Freddy
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    edited April 25
    @txsandman Just trying to buy my way into heaven. Just in case it exists. Kind of like saving for retirement.
  • emnofseattleemnofseattle Mason County, Washington USA
    TxSandMan said:
    @Freddy I was going to jump in with a response focused mainly on foreign produced goods (iPhone being the example) and shitty labor practices surrounding that sector, but I thought to myself "This man single handedly solved homelessness in America, let's wait and see what he has to say for himself." You did not disappoint
    On one hand it’s shitty labor practices, on the other it’s really no worse then our great grandparents had to go through. And manufacturing jobs in these countries usually have better pay and working conditions then previous industries did. The working conditions at Foxconn are a massive improvement to the working conditions just a generation before, so the economy improves and each generation gets better. The standard of living in China has massively increased 

  • emnofseattleemnofseattle Mason County, Washington USA
    Freddy said:
    Oh God... Where do we start? I drive a car, I have a smart phone, I run a business that requires a rididulous amount of paperwork, said business banks with a major financial institution, I eat quinoa (in addition to all the other foods whose increased American demand has wrecked foreign food markets), and last but not least: I've done recreational drugs. The last one could be considered in my past, but nothing says I won't do them again. Can't do anything other than weed and mushrooms (and even weed's innocence is debatable) without contributing indirectly to the suffering of others.
    How has quinoa hurt foreign food markets? To the best of my knowledge it’s grown in Bolivia and Peru, and the Peruvians are currently the fastest growing economy in Latin America. The increased price has increased payments for farmers, increased wages for harvesters, and increased tax revenues on the sale which increases funding for public services. The standard of living of Peru’s poorest has doubled in the last decade. Bolivia is relatively poorer and I can write an essay on history of that, but that’s not a quinoa problem. Western demand for crops increases price which helps everyone. 
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    The industrial revolution is a great thing if you add up all the accomplishments against the human misery it caused. It was an arms race against naked capitalism and workers rights and quality of life that has settled into some kind of stablity that waxes and wanes as we forget and are then forced to relearn the lessons of battles fought in the past. In retrospect, we could have done things better, more people could have higher quality of lives, but things could have been worse, too. We were all figuring it out as we go.

    The question is, is it moral and ethical for first world nations to profiteer from less developed nation's poor people and natural resources while they are struggling through their transitions, with full knowledge of the inequity and human misery it causes? Are there ways to more equitably distribute the massive wealth being generated by this exploitation? 

    To me, the clear answers are no and yes. I mean, if aliens had landed on Earth in the late 17th century, gave us the internal combustion engine, then hoovered up 90 percent of the profits generated from their use and then left us to deal with our own squalor when our labor got to expensive to move to the next planet, they'd be villians, right? 

    I'm sure there would be terrans saying, "yeah, but the standard of living of our most wretched poor doubled in ten years." And I'd be wondering why they're carrying water for the goddamn aliens that made off with the 90 percent.

    But this thread is obstensibly about the war on drugs, which is completely insane and yet we're still debating it seriously on a national level. 

    I admit I used to buy into the "well, everybody deserves the right to have their own industrial revolution and boot strap their country by exploiting their own cheap labor and plentiful resources" theory. Hell it would be downright RACIST to deny Indians and Chinese the benefits! The problem is there are a million different levels on the switch of globalism that goes from fucking utopian communism to sweat shops and we act like it's a binary choice.
    JaimieT
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    There is no one size fits all. I’ve lived in very lax countries and very strict countries and both have had various level of success. 

    Singapore is extremely strict and still has the death penalty for weed. It also has one of the lowest drug problems on the planet. 

    AU is s bit more open, especially on weed which it’s just a ticket. But they have some problems, especially with meth.(ice for those in AU)

     I haven’t lived in Amsterdam but I’ve been there and they have legalised a shit ton of stuff and it seems there population handles it pretty well.
    when I went we went to the bars and weed shops and didn’t see hardly any local kids our age. It was all tourists or older people. We even asked a bartender what age it was to drink and he said oh I don’t know. 14, 16, 18? We don’t get any kids in here. Sounds crazy but completely true. 

    So how do you solve this problem? I don’t know. Maybe go Super strict like Singapore. Or maybe go totally legal like Amsterdam. I think it’s going to take a large amount of funds and research to find out what will be best for the US because clearly what they have now is not working. 

  • Doctor_NickDoctor_Nick Terminus
    The more fundamental question is whether there would be a transition without the First World profiteering from it- see the ex-Soviet Bloc for examples of economies that don't engage with the globe.    


    The question is, is it moral and ethical for first world nations to profiteer from less developed nation's poor people and natural resources while they are struggling through their transitions, with full knowledge of the inequity and human misery it causes? Are there ways to more equitably distribute the massive wealth being generated by this exploitation? 


  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    Like I said, there's a million levels on that switch. We can debate where it should be, but I'm deeply skeptical of anyone who says, "I trust that where this lever is is best for everyone and trust the hand that's on the lever." It seems like we can do a lot better.

    As far as eastern europe goes, who decides on what time table a country advances? Do the aliens decide when it's time for the terrans to get industrialized? Do they get to keep 90 percent with a clean conscience because they shouldered in and opened up the earth market? Or am I totally misunderstanding your argument?

    Look, I'd love for aliens to come down right now and give us say, fusion reactor tech. I hope if they do they're more like Vulcans and less like 21st century USA. But they wouldn't have to be. And they could probably feel good that we have fusion tech now and are bettering ourselves.  Hell, maybe they do deserve to keep the 90.




  • Doctor_NickDoctor_Nick Terminus
    edited 1:58AM
    Like I said, there's a million levels on that switch. We can debate where it should be, but I'm deeply skeptical of anyone who says, "I trust that where this lever is is best for everyone and trust the hand that's on the lever." It seems like we can do a lot better.

    The hand that's on the lever is going to get much more important when you try to socially engineer an economic outcome, I think that's something that we've figured out over the last 100 years.  Remember the voluntary Japanese car import quota that was imposed in the 1980s?  That didn't turn out the way Detroit's allies expected...

    As far as eastern europe goes, who decides on what time table a country advances? Do the aliens decide when it's time for the terrans to get industrialized? Do they get to keep 90 percent with a clean conscience because they shouldered in and opened up the earth market? Or am I totally misunderstanding your argument?

    The Soviet Bloc were examples of socially engineered economies that didn't engage with the First World on a meaningful level outside of sales of natural resources, and the disaster that ensued.  You could throw Communist China and Cuba in there as well.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    Right, we can't put the lever to full on communism. Go it. Also, every country with meaningful economy features some form of wealth redistribution, including the USA.  Looking at the state of wealth inequality both globally and locally, I argue that we need to move that lever to redistribute it more equitably. I want my country to move towards more socialism, having seen it's many successes in so many countries in my lifetime. I'm prepared to have higher taxes and a less muscular military to pay for it. I judge our economy will still be powerful and we'll still be as safe from threats in that compromise, and our standard of living will be higher. Are we disagreeing on facts or values here? Cause we can argue particulars but man it's hard to argue that the way the pie is currently being divided is fair to anyone, let alone developing countries.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    Hatorian said:
    There is no one size fits all. I’ve lived in very lax countries and very strict countries and both have had various level of success. 

    Singapore is extremely strict and still has the death penalty for weed. It also has one of the lowest drug problems on the planet. 

    AU is s bit more open, especially on weed which it’s just a ticket. But they have some problems, especially with meth.(ice for those in AU)

     I haven’t lived in Amsterdam but I’ve been there and they have legalised a shit ton of stuff and it seems there population handles it pretty well.
    when I went we went to the bars and weed shops and didn’t see hardly any local kids our age. It was all tourists or older people. We even asked a bartender what age it was to drink and he said oh I don’t know. 14, 16, 18? We don’t get any kids in here. Sounds crazy but completely true. 

    So how do you solve this problem? I don’t know. Maybe go Super strict like Singapore. Or maybe go totally legal like Amsterdam. I think it’s going to take a large amount of funds and research to find out what will be best for the US because clearly what they have now is not working. 

    In the short term I might agree, but long term, we're all human, right? There has to be a best way to address people. Are there meaningful differences between Singapore and Amsterdam aside from culture? What does culture look like in 300 years with the internet?  And is America closer to Singapore or Amsterdam in the near term cultural evaluation?

    I think that's why Noam's point is so important (24 year old A.Rons head is exploding), because the vast majority of experts agree on what the best way to treat drug abuse is, but we refuse to do it. Experts agree on a lot of things that we're just refusing to do. And yeah, experts fuck up from time to time, but non-experts fuck up all the time. It's the good/bad process/result matrix repeated over and over again because we're doing a bad job of education. Which, of course, is a related subject.
  • Doctor_NickDoctor_Nick Terminus
    Did we just move to a question of internal redistribution from one of trade engagement with less developed countries?  I thought we were talking about not exploiting less developed countries through trade, and my point was that you could potentially get a great stagnation by trying to socially engineer trade, see the Soviet Bloc where factories ran as make work and the same product design lasted for decades, or even India prior to very recently.  For instance, it's not out of the question that no one is interested in buying T-shirts made with $2 an hour Bangladeshi labor.... 
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    edited 3:25AM
    Okay, gotcha. I thought you were the one shifting the focus and was like WTF but I can hang, haha. Okay, I get that nobody wants to buy a bunch of drab grey communist pajamas. But why is okay for an American company to then come in to this backwards country with our flashy American designs that we Americans want to buy so much and then reap massive profits off that transaction? It's a given that a company must earn profit. It's also a given that companies have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders so maximize the profits. That's why I think I'm rounding into the theory that governments just have to tax and move the money around to where it's needed. Centrally planned economies aren't good at meeting consumer demand. Laissez-faire is terribly unfair in distribution of the resources that have inelastic demand. So it seems that what should be done is let the companies compete in the markets, socialize medicine, basic services and utilities, tax corporate profits and capital gains, and give money back to the developing countries in the form of grants not loans. This will help fuel their growth and shorten and minimize the short misery of modernization. It will also allow us to more effectively lesson the misery here at home. This in turn will raise their standard of living quicker, increase the education of their populace quicker, increasing the amount of human innovation potential, which seems like it would continue to fuel to global economy.

    And you keep doing this when most labor is automated and then you solve the drug war and then end racism and poverty and then you're at war with Mars and the whole system goes to shit. Or maybe I've been watching too much  The Expanse.

    But seriously, the only way we can hope to maintain this awesome Western existence that we have is to innovate the shit out of the remainder of this century, and the quicker we can make this a global enterprise the better. So much wasted human potential. I feel like what we're doing is trying to live as extravagantly as we can as long as we can and we're going to fuck around and set ourselves back centuries. It's just not a fiscally sound policy to keep on like we are, to say nothing of the morals.

    This is an area I'm actively developing my thoughts on so critique is welcome.
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    Hatorian said:
    There is no one size fits all. I’ve lived in very lax countries and very strict countries and both have had various level of success. 

    Singapore is extremely strict and still has the death penalty for weed. It also has one of the lowest drug problems on the planet. 

    AU is s bit more open, especially on weed which it’s just a ticket. But they have some problems, especially with meth.(ice for those in AU)

     I haven’t lived in Amsterdam but I’ve been there and they have legalised a shit ton of stuff and it seems there population handles it pretty well.
    when I went we went to the bars and weed shops and didn’t see hardly any local kids our age. It was all tourists or older people. We even asked a bartender what age it was to drink and he said oh I don’t know. 14, 16, 18? We don’t get any kids in here. Sounds crazy but completely true. 

    So how do you solve this problem? I don’t know. Maybe go Super strict like Singapore. Or maybe go totally legal like Amsterdam. I think it’s going to take a large amount of funds and research to find out what will be best for the US because clearly what they have now is not working. 

    In the short term I might agree, but long term, we're all human, right? There has to be a best way to address people. Are there meaningful differences between Singapore and Amsterdam aside from culture? What does culture look like in 300 years with the internet?  And is America closer to Singapore or Amsterdam in the near term cultural evaluation?

    I think that's why Noam's point is so important (24 year old A.Rons head is exploding), because the vast majority of experts agree on what the best way to treat drug abuse is, but we refuse to do it. Experts agree on a lot of things that we're just refusing to do. And yeah, experts fuck up from time to time, but non-experts fuck up all the time. It's the good/bad process/result matrix repeated over and over again because we're doing a bad job of education. Which, of course, is a related subject.

    Im no expert. I’m not arguing the experts that say prevention and treatment are wrong. It’s most certainly better than what the Us currently is doing. Conspiracy theory me wants to say look at the privatisation of prisons and you have your answer..but I won’t go there. 

    SG is a very unique example. Something I don’t think would work for the US. Small island with strict and easy border control obviously reduces the supply of drugs. Thus it’s like $400+ for a gram of Cocaine. Can you get it? Probably. Can you afford it or want to risk your life? 99% would say no. 

    The US is very different in that respect. No easy border control and massive supply. So the answer must lie elsewhere. Most likely what the experts say. 
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    edited 7:06AM
    Okay, gotcha. I thought you were the one shifting the focus and was like WTF but I can hang, haha. Okay, I get that nobody wants to buy a bunch of drab grey communist pajamas. But why is okay for an American company to then come in to this backwards country with our flashy American designs that we Americans want to buy so much and then reap massive profits off that transaction? It's a given that a company must earn profit. It's also a given that companies have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders so maximize the profits. That's why I think I'm rounding into the theory that governments just have to tax and move the money around to where it's needed. Centrally planned economies aren't good at meeting consumer demand. Laissez-faire is terribly unfair in distribution of the resources that have inelastic demand. So it seems that what should be done is let the companies compete in the markets, socialize medicine, basic services and utilities, tax corporate profits and capital gains, and give money back to the developing countries in the form of grants not loans. This will help fuel their growth and shorten and minimize the short misery of modernization. It will also allow us to more effectively lesson the misery here at home. This in turn will raise their standard of living quicker, increase the education of their populace quicker, increasing the amount of human innovation potential, which seems like it would continue to fuel to global economy.

    And you keep doing this when most labor is automated and then you solve the drug war and then end racism and poverty and then you're at war with Mars and the whole system goes to shit. Or maybe I've been watching too much  The Expanse.

    But seriously, the only way we can hope to maintain this awesome Western existence that we have is to innovate the shit out of the remainder of this century, and the quicker we can make this a global enterprise the better. So much wasted human potential. I feel like what we're doing is trying to live as extravagantly as we can as long as we can and we're going to fuck around and set ourselves back centuries. It's just not a fiscally sound policy to keep on like we are, to say nothing of the morals.

    This is an area I'm actively developing my thoughts on so critique is welcome.

    To be honest I think the answer lies in taxes. Every country has different tax systems and where that tax goes. For the US last I checked we spend something like 50-60% on military and interest. Where obviously the interest comes from overspending on military. 

    Can we re-distribute that money? Can we pay for every American kids education? Yes. Can we pay for healthcare and treatment. Yes. Would that make the US a better country for the future? Probably. Would we have landed on Mars by now if we spent more on NASA than the military. Probably. Can we globally set a tax standard for all global corporations so they pay their fair share and can’t dodge taxes? Probably. Can we make the human concept of communism work in a capitalistic world? Probably. Can we have a system where hard work and success is awarded but people do not suffer unjustly because of it? Probably.  

    I read an article that said something like the world owes 164 trillion dollars. To who??? I don’t know. But like you said it seems like we are overextending ourselves and it could destroy society. There’s ways to fix this but we definitely don’t have the right people in place to do it. 

     yes the US is the police of the world and thus spends so much on its military. But we should be moving into a place where globally we spend 2-5% taxes on military to defend earth. Not defend countries. This means spending money on asteroid deflection, solar flares, global warming, and yes even alien invasion. 

    The world is is so co-dependent. Europe needs Russia’s natural gas. China needs the US consumer power. The US needs the world to immigrate ideas to the tech centers of the world. I can go on. A world war 3 will end us. But I also don’t think it’s impossible. Many of the greatest minds didn’t think world war 1 would happen because of the nature of the global economy. However it did because of stupid people. We are in a very dangerous position now. Stupid people will not just kill millions with their decisions. They will destroy the entire planet. We need to work together. However it’s unforunately in the interest of many people that we don’t. 
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