Despite my appearance (and my name!), I’m half Irish. I’m even a citizen of Ireland (and the U.S. of course) with two of my grandparents–Irish as Paddy’s Pigs–emigrating from County Mayo through Ellis Island to Brooklyn nearly a hundred years ago.
Being raised by a first generation Brooklynite of purely Irish stock, I absorbed a great deal of Irish culture, lore and attitudes. Perhaps that’s why I’m an anarcho-capitalist: Ireland, I have read, had a thousand years of non-centralized, non-coercive government which was peaceful and orderly and had the happy effect of making its untamed population difficult for the English to conquer. I only discovered this fun fact in my adult life, however. What I gleaned of Ireland in my childhood included, among other things, that the Irish, at least our line, were poor. I also got the impression that the English were not.
Being the product of the Great American Melting Pot and a bit of a mutt, I like being able to identify with a culture so rich (though poor!) and well-defined as my mother’s Ireland. The only thing I really know how to cook is corned beef & cabbage and I love St. Patrick’s Day. I buy Irish butter in the store when I see it and switched last year from coffee to Irish Breakfast Tea and am the better for it. But it’s the tea that gave me an unusual insight into the insidious and regressive nature of the Drug War.
I accidentally picked up a box of English Breakfast Tea recently and was all set to hate it–how could I not prefer IRISH tea to ENGLISH tea?? I have absolutely no animosity toward the English, but I did feel that preferring the Irish tea would be in my genes. To my great surprise, however, I have come to prefer the English tea and I’ll tell you why.
The Irish tea has real punch–it’s stronger on the lips and in the bloodstream–it bites you a bit on the first sip and gets you moving right away. But I have found that, though I love to drink the tea, I can’t have more than one cup or I get jittery. The English tea, however, is more mild and subtle and I can have the pleasure of drinking two leisurely cups without my hands shaking. Upon observing this, I thought–“Oo, if I switch to English tea I can drink more of it!” Then I immediately thought, “Yeah, but it’ll cost you double for the same kick.” That second voice was my mother’s: frugal Irish to the end. And voila! Looking at the problem from my mother’s point of view, I realized how crack was born!
The black market for drugs makes the option of using something milder, less concentrated, too expensive. Of course, going for the stronger stuff may in the end make you more addicted and you may end up spending more money, but you’re not thinking that in the beginning when you can get twice the high for half the price.
I have long suspected that the really vile drugs, the ones that make your teeth fall out and your organs rot, are the invented drugs, particularly crack and meth. But why were they invented? They were invented by drug-dealing entrepreneurs responding to the economic incentives in their industry. The government-imposed black market for drugs makes transaction and transportation costs so high that the weight per dose of the product must be minimized to get the price down. Governor Gary Johnson called them “prohibition drugs” and they are a direct result of the Drug War.
Unfortunately, prohibition drugs are a purely regressive consequence of the Drug War–the impact is almost exclusively on the poor; more well-to-do druggies (like Whitney Houston) and weekend warriors can pay more to get the good stuff. The burden to refrain from using drugs and to keep our kids off drugs lies within ourselves (and them!) The government cannot and does not stop people who want to use drugs from doing just that. It does however change the economics of the market for drugs, resulting in more powerful drugs and a more profitable industry. Abdicating social power to the State does not relieve us of the responsibilities and consequences of free will, it merely gives us the illusion of doing so. The consequences of our easy out are very real and are felt by the poorest and weakest among us, however, and as much as we try to relinquish our responsibilities, we may yet be accountable for the foreseeable results of our choices.
On that note, I wish you a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.