Power & Market

The Futility and Destructiveness of the Drug War

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Louisiana just sent out a press release reporting that a New Orleans federal judge has sentenced a 28-year-old man, Derek Nolan, to 15 years in a federal penitentiary for drug-related crimes. 

The press release states: “This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.”

What a joke! Do these people really believe such nonsense?

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which is situated on the Texas-Mexican border and has long been a hub for the illegal importation of drugs into the United States. Like that U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Laredo has been sending out drug-war press releases since the 1960s celebrating the latest conviction in the war on drugs and proclaiming how it is bringing about a “safe” community. 

Moreover, like that federal judge in New Orleans, the federal judges who have been presiding over drug cases in Laredo for the past 50 years have been sentencing drug-war defendants to extremely high jail sentences. 

Yet, what good have all those high jail sentences done? They have done no good at all. Indeed, they obviously did not dissuade Derek Nolan from committing drug-war offenses, nor have they dissuaded tens of thousands of other people from doing the same thing during the past 50 years. 

It’s amazing to me that federal judges and federal prosecutors today can’t see that. They just mindlessly do what federal prosecutors and federal judges have been doing for the past 50 years — blindly enforcing the drug war and sending out press releases announcing their “victories” and convincing themselves that they are making American communities “safe.”

Here is something else the federals fail to recognize: It is their beloved drug war that gives rise to drug dealers like Derek Nolan. That’s because drug prohibition brings enormously high black-market profits, which induce people to go into the drug business. If there was no drug prohibition, Derek Nolan would never have been dealing drugs because there would be no enormously high black-market drug profits. 

So, every Sunday, American Christians, including many U.S. Attorneys and U.S. District Court judges, go to church, where they pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Then, the rest of the week they support a decades-old, failed, and destructive government program that does precisely that — it tempts people, especially poor people, to go into the drug trade because of the enormously high black-market prices.

Yes, Nolan will end up spending the next 15 years of his life in a federal penitentiary, just as drug-war defendants have been doing continuously since the 1960s. What will that accomplish? It will accomplish nothing. Take my word for it: That U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans will soon be sending out a new press release announcing another drug-war “victory,” one in which some drug-war-enforcing federal judge has done his part to “win” the war on drugs by meting out another high jail sentence.

It’s all a decades-old, ongoing, never-ending, corrupt, deadly, and destructive racket, one that keeps destroying the lives of so many people while, at the same time, keeps an enormously large drug-war bureaucracy, including U.S. Attorneys, assistant U.S. Attorneys, federal judges, DEA agents, court clerks, secretaries, and law clerks, in high cotton.

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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