Home > Uncategorized > What if Cato held a conference on how the War on Drugs was a massive FAILURE, but no one noted that the Feds and others BENEFIT SPECTACULARLY from all the costs?

What if Cato held a conference on how the War on Drugs was a massive FAILURE, but no one noted that the Feds and others BENEFIT SPECTACULARLY from all the costs?

It might be unfair to judge just from the short clip below (put together by Reason.tv) that’s making the rounds, but it appears to be the case that no one at Cato’s Novermber 15 conference (“Ending the Global War on Drugs“) – law enforcement, politicians, journalists, liberals, conservatives, libertarians and foreign officials, all presenting a litany of damning evidence about the tremendous costs of the “War on Drugs” –  little attention was paid to what should be a sad but very evident fact:

the War on Drugs has been a smash hit for our Federal government, in its 230+ year battle to wrest power from the states, fo the politicians who campaign and parade around on “Law and Order” issues, for a host of government agencies (not the least our CIA and Defense and State Departments) and for, of course, a deep pool of contractors.

How can anyone with any understanding of regulatory capture, moral hazard and “public choice” understandings of the workings of indivuduals’ incentives and institutional dynamics fail to see that, for those benefitting from the steady expansion of the War on Drugs that the need to ramp-up in response to its disastrous consequences are not failures or “bugs”, but “features”?

The erosion of civil liberties after 9/11 that has been justified as necessary to keep us safe during a long “War on Terror” were all already well-underway as a result of our War on Drugs.

But a Police State is not a simple necessity, but something that benefits certain groups of people, at the cost of others.

If we ever hope to rein in policies that are destructive to most of us, we need to focus on naming, blaming, shaming and otherwise standing up to and imposing costs on those who benefit from them.

We used to think that we needed a Constitutional Amendment in order to federally prohibit the use of and trade in alcohol – note that tobacco, pot, cocaine and heroin were all untouched at that time. That the Constitution now provides essentially NO check on the Federal government is a good indication of how far we’ve come from those days,  and leave one wondering — do we now need a Constitutional Amendment not only to overturn the ridiculous and radical Citizens United (states can create “corporations” but not limit their ability to finance elections) decision (Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced such an amendment; Larry Lessig thinks a state-convened amending process is needed), but also to prevent the Federal government from regulating certain parts of the economy?

Clearly the Federal Government and those benefitting from it have no intention to relinquish policies that enhance its power.

Here’s the clip:


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  1. September 23rd, 2014 at 16:46 | #1

    The premise here seems to be that any government hiring or expansion helps the government. But that’s an example of The Broken Window Fallacy. Each dollar of expanded government thuggery is at the cost of one dollar that otherwise would have produced actual wealth, and thus society is the poorer for each one spent.

    The Broken Window fallacy, of course, is the idea that if some kid breaks a shopkeeper’s window, he’s created work for the glass seller, therefore he’s added to the economy. But the shopkeeper is now out the price of the window, which he may (for example) otherwise have spent on a suit. Therefore the clothier has lost work, and the glass seller has gained work, breaking even…but the shopkeeper has lost a suit, and gained nothing (since he already had a window before it was broken).

    This is why a hurricane only impoverishes, it does not stimulate. An expansion of the police state only impoverishes, it does not cause growth. In each example, people lose whatever else the money would have gone toward, and gain nothing new.

  1. November 20th, 2014 at 02:30 | #1