I started a letter after looking at the responses Jonah Goldberg at NRO got on going after narcotics traffickers at the small scale, and was writing a letter. Instead, I'll make it into a post as it is getting rather lengthy...
After having looked at the economics behind organized crime and terrorism (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and related on how that can play out in Iran and other places here, here, like Mexico) plus a very superficial view on agriculture as seen in Wealth of Nations (not being an economics deep thinker but applying what Adam Smith knew, then, to the work) I can only come up with a few things on the rate of drug incidents in the US and narcotics trafficking:
1) This was a societal problem before the Shanghai Meeting on opium, but the US government had already created the Food and Drug Purity Act to require labeling on such, and there was a decrease in the use of heroin, cocaine and other medications between that and the Harrison Stamp Act,
2) Organized crime utilizes prohibited societal venues to prosper, which is why easy to create and socially acceptable alcohol caused organized crime to grow quickly during prohibition,
3) Terrorist organizations have gained steady cash flows by becoming part of illegal trade networks (narcotics, human trafficking, etc.),
4) Organized crime and terrorist organizations can gain a profit via avoiding internal National taxes, as well as through banking fraud, securities fraud and other venues,
5) Removing alcohol as a prohibited substance did not stop (4) or (3) from happening, and other venues (2) continue to appear where laws telling people what they can and cannot do to themselves and why they need to be highly taxed on some items are put on the books,
6) Legislating morality is one of the surest methods of funding organized crime and terrorism around as it creates profitable venues to traffic in goods where there is only direct competition with other black market/gray market suppliers (like the Colombian Narco-Kingpins falling and FARC taking it over moving from hired muscle to owner),
7) The ingenuity at outwitting all international banking laws, materials control systems and other means of National power demonstrates that no government, set of governments or global agreement beyond a dictatorial State can do anything about this, and even then the power would be corrupted by these groups,
Thus, from that, getting the money out of a system to supply illicit goods to individuals that has a high degree of interpersonal trust connections and relatively high profit or unserved markets due to laws is lucrative enough to attract talented individuals to thwart all National and International laws. For this we have the hawala system, black market peso exchange system, and the highly talented Red Mafia groups that have included individuals such as Simon Reubens, Semion Mogilevich, Marc Rich and others. Singly each of these has thwarted all regulations, improved regulations, doubly improved regulations and has seen some of the most sophisticated techniques from home grown ones to the massive penetration of the Bank of New York system and the compromise of the international monetary exchange system.
The local pusher or narcotics distributor is at the END of a vast array of material goods procurement and distribution, plus banking via 'white', gray and 'black' networks. Thus black market goods can go through gray financial instruments into the white world to procure gray market goods for smuggling to allow these lower importance items to serve as a way to gain white market cash for drug organizations. And that is a deep over-simplification of what is going on, and does not address the something like Reubens' multi-nation, multi-front company, multi-trade, multi-bank dummy account system that he kept totally in his head so that the UK and US police and intelligence services cannot piece that network together nearly a decade after he formed it.
Removing narcotics from this system will not get rid of it, as legalizing alcohol (and taxing it so that criminals would utilize avoiding tax stamps as a form of revenue) did nothing to stop organized crime from shifting into traditional and non-traditional venues. Today the other venues are still traditional (prostitution, human trafficking, white slavery, semi-precious stone trafficking, gun running) and non-traditional (pedophilia rings, international criminal extortion venues as seen in Iran, destabilizing Nation States as seen in Mexico and elsewhere).
When 'protecting the community' via laws creates such long-term, long-standing problems, the question of 'what is the cost of the harm vs. the cost of trying to stop it', becomes a pertinent one. And when it comes to areas that were not regulated before the 'Progressive' era (Teddy Roosevelt agreeing that the US should be at the Shanghai meeting) to stop individuals from using goods that had previously been legal and had just had the purity laws placed on them to good effect, then why is it the role of government to enforce a moralistic behavior to the detriment of the individual's liberty and self-cognizance? The problems of these things were seen as social problems in China, yes, but Mao demonstrated the only way to bring it to an end, temporarily, was to kill all of those involved in the trade *plus* their families. That is where State power takes you.
It seems to me we have plenty of laws on the books to address the effects of substance abuse: child abuse/neglect/endangerment laws, spousal abuse/battery laws, public safety laws, driving while impaired by substances, public endangerment laws, food and drug labeling laws, and on and on. If an individual can practice the use of such things without endangering the public, their children, family, loved ones or resorting to other criminal activity, then what is the rationale behind 'protecting the community'? I thought that was something for all of us to do, with only government keeping the worst of abuses curbed. Vesting *that* use of positive liberty in the government does not help society, but creates new venues for government to exercise power. To read the opening pages of Common Sense demonstrates this:
Some writers have so confounded society with government,
as to leave little or no distinction between them;
whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
The first a patron, the last a punisher.
And yet so few do read this in this modern age. And the effects of removing self-responsibility are evident in the urban and inner city areas where this societal good that depends upon the individual being vested in government is seen - when the individual no longer has to be responsible for themselves, and the government is handed the curbing role, the lack of personal responsibility means that understanding why one shouldn't do something as a negative impact to society is diluted.
To counter that... well... that is why the modern Left wants all these lovely social programs: to remove that part of liberty from the individual, too, so that those in control of government can tell those under it what to do and punish you if you don't. Soon the 'radicals' are those speaking up for personal liberty and freedom and less government... after the power has been vested in the Punisher of government. Mind you this all started with religious groups at the turn of the 20th century looking to do a 'social good' by having government step in on narcotics and alcohol. Their modern government backers are no longer religious, by and large, and only use 'protecting the community' in a way to sell further schemes to invest government with those things that used to be up to the individual before the 20th century.
If America is was touted, so inebriated and addicted back before these laws, just how did we create this Nation and put down the industrial infrastructure that would begin to dwarf all other powers in Europe BEFORE WWI?
Something is missing in the 'protecting society' concept when applied to personal liberty and vesting it in government.
That is the individual and their own personal responsibility to help form a good society. Strange that all those inebriated, addicted and such folks back in the 19th century were able to do that without such laws, no?