Monday, July 31, 2006

Vice Versa

I saw "Miami Vice" the movie yesterday. It was entertaining enough, but during the whole movie I could only think about one thing. How could anyone volunteer their life and sanity to work undercover in drug enforcement?

I found it sad. Not lame - heartwrenching. Here are some of the bravest, most dedicated law enforcement officers this country has, and they lose their lives over something as trivial as keeping someone from taking a toke off a fat boy. There's something fundamentally wrong here.

Are drug lords vicious animals that should be put down with no more thought than a rabid dog? Probably, although I've never met a real life drug lord. But given the violence going on at the Texas border, it does appear that they are monsters with no care for the lives of others, even those uninvolved in their dirty little war.

But why does the drug trade attract such scum? Because there are immense riches involved. Amounts which put to shame most country's GNP. To be a drug lord is to be one of the richest people on the planet, where you can literally buy *anything*.

Why is the drug trade so profitable? Because it is illegal. Illegal means that legitimate business, regulated and taxed businesses, will not touch it. Illegal means that only those individuals willing to break any law are willing to handle the production and distribution of the merchandise.

The demand for drugs doesn't appear to change appreciably whether or not the drug is illegal. The drug purchase rate in Amsterdam isn't appreciably different than the estimated rate in the U.S. (estimated because it is difficult to get accurate data on illegal drug demand in the U.S., whereas in Amsterdam, where many drugs are legal, the demand is easy to calculate. If you want a proxy in the U.S., look at alcohol and tobacco sales figures). There always has been, and always will be, a reasonably high demand for recreational drugs.

By making the production, distribution, and sale of many drugs illegal, we funnel that demand into some very narrow channels. Only the most barbaric winners of the darwinian selection of ruthlessness get to run the international drug operations. Only the worst of the worst prove themselves worthy to receive the billions of dollars we are willing to spend on illegal drugs.

And if it were just about money, that would be bad enough - worth discussing how much better off the world would be if those dollars could be funneled into government and legitimate private businesses instead.

But it isn't just about the money. It's about the lives lost. The lives of some of our best law enforcement personnel, who could be infiltrating terrorist cells instead of drug rings.

And that's a tragedy.


At Thursday, August 03, 2006, Blogger Art said...

RM and I saw the movie also!! I was a bit disappointed. I give it 2 out 4 stars....

At Tuesday, August 08, 2006, Blogger Lisa said...

I hear ya...strange priorities this country's gov't has.


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