Stability has seldom been a byproduct of war. On the contrary, economic havoc; political disintegration and national dissolution seem to be the aftermath of every war. When they outlast the entering generation things get even more complicated as internecine feuds spark on both warring sides. Nobody wants to own a conflict that negatively impacts the economy and the lives of the citizenry. When they consume half a century both sides lose lest one has clear advantages over its rival from the outset. In such case the winner takes all. The Greco Persian Wars (499 BC-449BC); the Bulgarian Ottoman wars (1344-1396); the Caucasian War (1817-1864) come to mind. Indeed, according to Herodotus the Greeks rallied together against Persia defeating it in every instance including the last battle where their casualties counted 192 vs 6,400 for the Persians. Bulgaria ended becoming part of the Ottoman Empire. Russia wrapped the North Caucasus defeating Iman Shamil.
The war on drugs is no different: the stronger party is wining. And that is Transnational Organized Crime(TOC). Indeed, 50 year after President Nixon launched the war on drugs results are discouraging. The US has spent since 1971 $ 1Trillion in the war against drugs. That exactly was TOC’s income levels attributable to drug trafficking in 2020. Meanwhile US taxpayers have to bank every year $47 Billion to cover operating costs of the Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA) which is about $6,400 per hour. And by the DEA’s own admission only 10% of drug supply is impounded by its agents. We are thus banking a 90% rate of failure.
Reason for this evident defeat was forecast by one of the most brilliant economic minds of the 20th century: Milton Friedman. He analyzed the challenge and drew the conclusion that the drug dilemma had to be treated as a public health hazard and not as a criminal activity. The public health approach could be part of enhanced social services that would identify, register and treat drug addicts with medications that would reduce the desires to consume drugs. Only a very small proportion of the population would be affected and because drugs would not be declared illicit their price would be fixed by demand and supply like any other good. But once drugs are declared illicit the state is creating a humongous monopolistic rent to drug producers, dealers and traffickers. This sends the business margins to the roof. With those margins drug kings amass billions of dollars in profits which can be used to penetrate the state apparatus through corruption thereby debilitating democratic institutions and eroding the rule of law. Professor Friedman warned the world of this danger on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Then he urged heads of state of UN member nations to switch to the health care approach lest they give little significance to a debilitating march of nations states towards defeat by TOC, which is what we are witnessing.
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