I have noticed a rather disturbing trend lately in the federal government’s efforts in the various “wars” on drugs and terror. The first thing we should notice is that neither one of these “wars” are against specific targets. Terrorism is an action; by definition this war is unwinnable as the uncertainty of the future will always allow for a condition in which future terrorist actions are possible. The war on drugs is similarly misnamed as the target is really the people who use drugs, not drugs themselves. The latter is a classic example of the government functioning to protect their citizens from themselves, while the former is designed to protect them from what may happen in the inherently uncertain future.
I’ve written a bit already on the consequences of tasking government with objectives that are, by definition, impossible to achieve. I mainly focused on the inevitable growth of government and commensurate loss of freedom that comes with it. However, there are two examples that recently came to my attention that suggest there are additional harmful consequences to these policies, as well. It would appear the self-interested rational actors who comprise these various government agencies (FBI, DHS, TSA, etc.) function to produce results, no matter the cost. So while at first glance that might sound fine and dandy, what happens if there are no legitimate terrorist threats and your entire function is to arrest terrorists?
What if all that taxpayer money ostensibly designated to “keep us safe” is, instead, spent on creating terrorists where there were none before? Or if the NYPD focused its efforts more on illegal spying on Muslim students in the hopes of catching a potential threat, as opposed to protecting the people, and their privacy rights they once believed they were entitled to as citizens of a free America. In such a scenario it would seem entirely reasonable to suggest that the so-called war on terror has actually become a war on civil liberties and freedom. If those who supported the war on terror did so because they believed in its stated goal of keeping the world safe for democracy and protecting our way of life (freedom), at this point, wouldn’t the most effective action one could take to achieving those most worthwhile goals (mainly the freedom part, but I digress) be to call for the immediate abolition of the DHS as well as the “wars” on drugs and terror more broadly?
Lest one think this is limited to the preferred target of the “war on terror” – Muslims, and as non-Muslims you are safe from such a tyrannical, un-American, aggressive government, similar tactics are being employed in the Drug War. An attractive 25 year-old female undercover office was sent into a high school in Florida to conduct an operation to bust drug dealers. After weeks of flirting and building a relationship with an 18 year old student, who had no criminal record and didn’t even deal or smoke marijuana, the undercover officer asked the student, Justin, to obtain some marijuana for her. He was unable to do so initially, but after repeated requests he was finally able to obtain a small amount for his new “friend”. Upon delivery, the cop attempted to pay him $25 for the marijuana, to which he refused and said he got it for her as a present. The results?
When the operation concluded at the Florida high school, "the police did a big sweep and arrested 31 students -- including Justin," according to the Alternet article. Justin has been convicted of selling pot inside a school, a felony in Florida. He is no longer eligible to join the Armed Forces as he had planned to do upon graduation and is now attending community college. [emphasis mine]
This horrifying example (of which it is merely one of many) embodies the dominant theme - a government obsessed with justifying its continued existence at any cost, even if it has to create the very “threats” it is tasked with thwarting. The Drug War will never be ended by those who benefit and are employed by such a policy. And this is precisely the problem with straying from a government which is tasked with its only legitimate function – the protection of property rights – to one tasked with providing inherently unachievable goals, such as safety. As long as the goals are kept vague and indefinable, there are no limits to what government can do. Any previously unimaginable expanse of authority or violation of liberty can always be justified as necessary in the name of “fighting terrorism!”, for instance, precisely because there is no identifiable way of measuring whether or not such an action is necessary or helpful. When the enemy is uncertainty, there are no measures that can not be justified as being necessary for the Big Brother-like role of keeping you safe, even (or especially?) if that means keeping you safe from yourself. This, by the way, is one of the most compelling arguments for a government limited to providing for the protection of private property rights and nothing else.
Despite the mountains of evidence demonstrating its colossal failure, (is there any other issue today that has such a unanimous consensus from all ends of the political spectrum?) the Drug War continues to thrive. The only two groups whom benefit are the government agents it employees, as well as the drug lords who profit from an artificially inflated price of illegal drugs. Wouldn’t it be crazy if these two groups worked together at some point?
In addition to the first in the world prison population of non-violent criminals, the fundamentally anti-freedom nature of criminalizing personal behavior, the increasing rates of crime and murder associated with prohibition, and the staggering economic costs, I pray the legalized entrapment and incarceration of innocent people (turned felons!) is finally the straw that breaks the camel’s back and results in a mass outrage that will not cease until these “wars” are finally ended.
Regardless of their stated purpose, or even the intentions of those who defend them, the reality is clear – these wars are waged primarily against American citizens and the very essence of the American way of life. These policies continue not because it is in the best interest of the people, they continue because they are the lifeblood of the police state. They are the necessary pillars of fear and intimidation to provide the foundation for the continual expansion of the State and the corresponding diminution of the sphere of liberty that comes with it. They are un-American and should be vehemently opposed by all those who believe in the American way of life and the freedom it once represented.