War on Drugs

Dan Carlin on Marijuana, China and Iraq

It’s been a long time since I last interviewed Dan Carlin, host of the Hardcore History and Common Sense podcasts. That doesn’t mean that he’s stopped being interesting, however. In this installment, I asked his unique, historically based perspective on China, Iraq, the United States military and marijuana.


In your Hardcore History podcast Death Throes of the Republic, you say that there were “perverse incentives” in place that kept Rome in a state of warfare. Having worked in Washington D.C., I have to wonder if the same is true of here. What do you say?

I think that’s going to be a pretty accurate statement in any society where warmaking becomes a regular feature of the system. Once you develop a major societal infrastructure to support such a military establishment, you begin to build up a vast array of interests (both in supplying and providing for such an entity, but also for ways to employ it that would benefit someone). These interests have a way of bending and warping the nation-state’s priorities and interests.  I think that is something that is one of the lessons the writers of Classical Antiquity try to pass on to us.  The people who founded the United States read those authors and understood those lessons, and tried to heed the warnings of the Greek and Roman writers and keep those “perverse incentives”  under control by limiting the growth of a large standing army and by counseling an avoidance of things like “  entangling alliances”   that could drag you into someone else’s wars.

Marijuana Demand and Production Unrelenting

While most of the posts on marijuana here tend to be United States focussed, this article from the British Daily Mail provides a glimpse into how the problem of prohibition is universal:

Criminal gangs are now producing so much cannabis in Britain’s suburban streets that there is a ‘market for export’.

Police say the gangs have taken over cinemas, houses, pubs, banks and shops left empty because of the recession.

Almost 7,000 cannabis factories were discovered last year - more than double the
number found two years ago.

Incredibly, a report by chief constables says the gangs are growing so much cannabis
that – for the first time – there is enough to start selling the drug overseas.

During a global economic crisis, what on earth is the logic of spending exorbitant amounts to squash an industry with such massive demand? Despite freeing up our prisons and cutting spend, legalization could even be the key to prosperity.


Former Mexican President Backs Drug Legalization

Vicente Fox has come out in favor of drug legalization:

(CNN) — Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has come out in favor of legalizing drugs in an attempt to disrupt the illegal markets that have turned parts of Mexico into battlegrounds.

In a proposal published over the weekend on his website, Fox argued that drug addiction and drug-related violence should be treated as distinct and separate challenges.

“So, drug consumption is the responsibility of the person who consumes; of the family who is responsible for educating; and of the education system and the socioeconomic context,” wrote Fox, who was president from 2000 to 2006. “What we have to do is legalize the production, the sale and the distribution.”

For those who have watched the policy consequences unfold, the need for legalization cannot seem any more precient.

Calderon Willing To Debate Drug Legalization

From TruthDig:

Calderon said he has taken note of the idea of legally regulating drugs in the past.

“It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions),” he said. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”


Across U.S., A Slight Plurality Support Marijuana Legalization

Really interesting polling data from Rasmussen:

Americans are evenly divided over whether marijuana should be legalized in the United States, but most expect it to happen within the next decade.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Adults nationally shows 43% believe marijuana should be legalized. But 42% think it should remain an illegal drug. Another 15% are not sure.

That is a very, very slim win for marijuana legalization and, since it’s at the national scale, may be more representative of an urban-rural divide than people who’ve actually thought about the issue. The United States has been beset with decades of anti-drug propaganda that reinforced the notion of prohibition as a natural necessity to keep kids from becoming drug-addled dropouts.

The way to win over those who aren’t pot enthusiasts is to demonstrate that recreational drugs are something beyond the capacity of the state and which will only lead to bloated prisons, wrecked lives and a disturbing level of lethal police raids.

I suspect there’s quite a few people like that in Southern California, which needs to be converted if poll numbers are to be improved on Proposition 19 by November:

Voters are poised to reject a ballot measure to legalize adults’ recreational use of marijuana in California and another that would suspend the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, according to a Field Poll of to be released today.

Expiration of tax cuts will hit lower, middle class

As the debate over the extention of the Bush tax cuts heats up, with Obama Administration officials foolishly saying that their expiration will have no impact on a fragile economy, Dan Mitchell points out that the working class, lower and middle income earners, will be causualities of the War on the Rich:

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s approach is to look at tax policy only through the prism of class warfare. This means that some tax cuts can be extended, but only if there is no direct benefit to anybody making more than $200,000 or $250,000 per year. The folks at the White House apparently don’t understand, however, that higher direct costs on the “rich” will translate into higher indirect costs on the rest of us. Higher tax rates on work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship will slow economic growth. And, because of compounding, even small changes in the long-run growth rate can have a significant impact on living standards within one or two decades. This is one of the reasons why high-tax European welfare states have lost ground in recent decades compared to the United States.

Radley Balko on the militarization of police

In a new video for Reason.TV, Nick Gillespie and Radley Balko, who we chatted with back in April, discuss the Missouri drug raid that got a lot of attention a couple months ago and the militarization of police:

Drug War Ends Up Brutal For Two Americans

From the Wall Street Journal comes a story of two American males arrested on possession of marijuana. The alleged treatment of them seems like something straight of Iraq:

Those two men—Shohn Huckabee, 23 years old, and Carlos Quijas, 36—are being held in a Ciudad Juárez jail. They tell a different story about what happened that night. They say Mexican soldiers planted the marijuana in their truck. When they arrived at the military base, they say, they were blindfolded, tied up, hit with rifle butts, shocked with electricity and threatened with death.

Huckabee elaborates further:

Mr. Huckabee says he was subjected to similar tactics. “I believe what was done to me was torture,” he said in an interview. “When I did not answer their questions, they shocked me with a wire that was in my hands. My whole body froze up. The pain went from bearable to a point where I couldn’t even talk.”

Perhaps I’m looking too deep into this, but this seems like something from a new era. Growing up, the perception I always had was that mistreatment of an American citizen was an act of war. From Vietnam to the Iran Hostage Crisis, that was certainly how mistreatment of our citizens was interpreted.

Is there a zeitgeist shift going on here? Mexican authorities, representative of a country significantly tied to us economically, being belligerent enough to torture American citizens seems like one to me.

It seems to be more and more accepted that the United States is in decline, for an assortment of reasons to be sure. With that decline in economic and political power must come a decline in the fear once held by other countries. When the United States is no longer feared, its citizens are treated just like any others.

Gerson doesn’t understand libertarianism

Michael Gerson, who served as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, is worried about the rise of libertarianism in the Republican Party:

The Republican wave carries along a group that strikes a faux revolutionary pose. “Our Founding Fathers,” says Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, “they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”

Angle has managed to embrace the one Founding Father with a disturbing tolerance for the political violence of the French Revolution. “Rather than it should have failed,” enthused Jefferson, “I would have seen half the earth desolated.” Hardly a conservative model.

But mainstream conservatives have been strangely disoriented by Tea Party excess, unable to distinguish the injudicious from the outrageous. Some rose to Angle’s defense or attacked her critics. Just to be clear: A Republican Senate candidate has identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence. This is disqualifying for public office. It lacks, of course, the seriousness of genuine sedition. It is the conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt — a fashion, a gesture, a toying with ideas the wearer only dimly comprehends. The rhetoric of “Second Amendment remedies” is a light-weight Lexington, a cut-rate Concord. It is so far from the moral weightiness of the Founders that it mocks their memory.

Portugal Legalizes Drugs, Crime Goes Down

A report from the BBC:


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.