Drug Crazy, by Mike Gray, is a page turner on the origins and impact of the Drug War in America. I have long been against the Drug War as a matter of principle: there is no justification for the group to force an individual to do or not to do a particular thing if the individual is not interfering with anyone else’s rights. I heard the argument on so-called conservative talk radio recently that society has its own interests and that those interests may be supported by legislation that interferes with individual rights. I totally disagree with this and this re-emphasized for me that the new conservative movement has completely abandoned the libertarian and constitutional principles that marked the conservative revival of the mid-Twentieth Century (not to mention the American Revolution).
My view that drug laws are fundamentally immoral and an overreach of any legitimate government authority–certainly that imparted to the US government by the Constitution anyway–does not consider the impact of decriminalizing drugs. To me, ends never justify means, so for this reason, I don’t make a habit of trying to divine how to control society with pragmatic policy-making. To me, this sort of ad hoc approach to law is the source of the all-too-common “unintended consequences” (which I think are all-too-often intended consequences in pursuit of hidden goals!)
Drug Crazy, however, doesn’t address my moral, libertarian arguments at all, which is all for the better because to me they are simple and self-evident. Drug Crazy does, however, address the practical implications of the Drug War on individuals, American society and other countries, as well as discussing the dishonest origins of the ban on drugs, the dishonest roots of the War on Drugs and the continuing suppression of real data on the impact of the Drug War. The book itself is a page turner that seems merely to be a compelling narrative but by the end of this fact-based historical accounting one’s picture of the Drug War is completely altered and one realizes how much our thinking about illegal drug use is based on propaganda not reality.
Interesting insights from the book include several well-supported claims that decriminalizing drugs doesn’t increase drug addiction overall (except possibly during transitional periods or in oases of drug legalization that can serve as a magnet for drug addicts) but does greatly change the ability for the “incurable” to function in society. Gray further highlights the futility of throwing good money after bad in trying to stop drug traffic outside this country–our efforts often spread the production of drugs as rousting locale after locale just serves to chase producers to new areas previously untouched by the drug trade, only to return to the original area as well once the heat is off.
The book is well-documented, thorough and engrossing. It is several years old, however, so I would love to see an updated edition with more statistics about how costly and futile the Drug War remains. In addition, I think there are more sinister aims to the Drug War that incidents like Iran-Contra or Operation Fast & Furious hint at, but Gray steers clear of this line of inquiry. I won’t though! At the suggestion of a listener, I am currently reading The Underground Empire: Where Crime & Governments Embrace, by James Mills, and next I hope to read The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by Alfred McCoy.