The Cocaine Price Support Program
by Bill Walker
Department of Agriculture spent about 95 billion dollars in FY 2005.
A plurality of this money went to the various direct and indirect
price support programs that raise the cost of food. The second-largest
pile of billion-dollar bills goes to programs that buy food for
the poor, who naturally canít afford enough nutritious food because
of the price-support programs. A few billion goes to various money-losing
deforestation projects on public lands that damage the environment
and raise the cost of plywood.
Iím sure that we can all agree that 95 billion dollars (up only
$23 billion since the previous year, due to the cost-cutting efforts
of our Republican President and Congress) would be a small price
to pay for all these benefits. Unfortunately, just like the multi-trillion-dollar
Social Security and Medicare obligations, Americaís largest price-support
program is "off the books."
of the Cocaine Price Support Program
Cocaine Price Support Program (which today includes thousands of
other commodities as well, such as Rushís Oxycontin, diamorphine,
THC, testosterone, etc.; the program is sometimes referred to as
the "Drug War") dwarfs all other price support programs.
The Drug War is not contained within a single government department.
The Drug War is not even contained within one government or group
of governments, but is an integral part of them all. There are many
urban legends claiming that one government or another (e.g., Holland)
does not participate in the Drug War. Academic research has shown
these rumors to be false. The Drug War extends throughout the Solar
System and beyond.
price supports have a very short history, as government functions
go. There were no US price supports for drugs of any kind until
the Harrison Act (passed December 17 1914, took effect April 1915).
The Harrison Act specifically reserved the rights of physicians
to prescribe opiates. Within months this had been "interpreted"
to mean the right to imprison physicians for prescribing opiates.
The courts allowed this bizarre progression down into legal Wonderland,
and the Federal government had its precedent. The bloodstream of
all US citizens was now owned by a government agency.
widely felt at first than the Harrison Act was the Ethanol Price
Support Program ("Prohibition"), Amendment XVIII, passed
in 1919. While
the EPSP had some of the same effects as the Drug War (more murders,
more deaths from adulterated products, etc.), it fell short
of its potential for several reasons. The most prominent of these
reasons was that Alcohol Prohibition operated within the US legal
system, and thus died ignominiously in 1933 when it was repealed.
Drug War did not repeat this mistake. The Controlled Substances
Act of 1970 and the other informal traditions of the Drug War simply
asserted their own legitimacy, with no appeal to Constitutional
authority. In fact, many government agencies draw the authority
for their actions from their alleged usefulness to the Drug War,
rather than from any obsolete Constitutional precedents. The invasion
of Panama, foreign aid to the Taliban regime and other dictatorships,
etc., derived their moral authority from the Drug War itself.
Inversion of Authority
new inverted authority supersedes all other civil authority, in
the same way that the witch manias of medieval Europe did. At this
point in history the entire US population, drug-using or not, lives
in a state of perpetual Double Secret Probation. At any time of
day or night, black-masked hoodlums waving German submachine guns
and cursing wildly may kick in your doors, shoot you and/or your
Labrador retriever and throw your family on the floor. Your property
may be forfeited without trial. And just as in the witch manias,
all sorts of false testimony can be used against you without recourse.
If the ritually masked hoodlums bring their own drugs with them,
and "find" them on your property, you are guilty. (In
Dallas, they only have to "find" some billiard chalkÖ
but that is another long story).
Conspiracy Theory of Drug Price Supports
are many in the mainstream media who promote a conspiratorial origin
of the Drug War. Their claim is that the Congress, CIA, DEA, etc.
(all groups noted for their altruism and concern for the common
man) are engaged in a massive conspiracy to promote public health
by raising the cost of certain drugs. Like most conspiracy theories,
it is somewhat nondisprovable as to its claims for the motivations
of the political classes. However, we can disprove the notion that
raising the cost of drugs to users is good for them.
have been many controlled experiments in this field. Take the previously
mentioned case of US alcohol Prohibition. Deaths from adulterated
alcohol soared during Prohibition, then went back down after repeal.
Murder rates also went up, as did the economic cost of providing
alcohol. Alcoholism rates were not affected. Then to add insult
to injury, large well-controlled medical studies proved that moderate
alcohol consumption, especially of red wine, is an important component
of cardiac health. So itís a good thing that Prohibition failed
so completely, or millions would have suffered early heart attacks.
controlled experiment was Canadaís attempt to put a $5 tax on cigarettes.
Mass smuggling began immediately through the Mohawk Nation, with
the usual murders and mayhem. Did Canadians quit smoking because
their nicotine cost more? Did anyone expect them to? Of course not.
New York has tried
the same thing many times, with similar consequences.
same story is repeated with opiates and cocaine. Before the Harrison
Act, Americans used cocaine and opiates. Just like Rush Limbaugh,
most of them used their drugs to overcome the various pains of life,
while continuing to hold down their jobs and live their lives. Cheap
heroin and cocaine didnít cause financial havoc for the users. And
of course, most people werenít affectedÖ because they didnít touch
the stuff. Abstinence was somewhat promoted by the fact that drugstore
sellers of legal drugs didnít come into the junior high schools
and push their wares.
rates from illegal drugs are less than precise. Still, it is clear
that hundreds of thousands of people die from tobacco use yearly,
while deaths from all illegal drugs are estimated to be in the neighborhood
of 5,000. Deaths from alcoholism and alcohol/drug interactions are
in the tens of thousands; overdose deaths from marijuana (a drug
with some substitution potential for alcohol) are zero.
final nail in the benevolent-conspiracy theory is this: it is forbidden
to sell safer alternative recreational drugs. The pharmaceutical
companies are quite capable of providing drugs that mimic alcohol,
nicotine, or whatever you want with fewer side effects. In fact,
there is an alcohol mimic that has a "sober-up pill" to
go with it; anyone concerned about the safety of children on the
highways would have to see this as a positive social good. But there
is no FDA category for "recreational drug." Anyone who
tries to save the cirrhotic liver of the alcoholic will be locked
up. This shows that whatever the motivation of the Drug War, it
isnít concern for health.
Costs of Drug Price Supports
#1: Taxes. The US
Bureau of Justice Statistics has moved some of the drug war
off the books since 2003; they now count "only those expenditures
aimed at reducing drug use, rather than those associated with the
consequences of drug use." This Enronically reduces official
Federal drug war spending to only 13 billion dollars, from the 19
billion of 2003. The most recent figures the site provides on state
spending are from 1998, given as 78 billion dollars. Given that
the cost-cutting Republicans have been very busy since 1998, I think
we can safely say that the actual direct tax costs of the drug war
are over $100 billion.
#2: The high prices of illegal drugs. All estimates of this cost
are suspect (they are provided by those with a vested interest in
making the problem appear as big as possible). But while the actual
number of drug users may be open to debate, there is no question
that legal heroin and cocaine only cost about as much as aspirin;
marijuana is literally a weed. Now that they are illegal, they cost
the economy tens of billions.
#3: Loss of labor. About 1.5 million people were arrested for drug
possession and/or sale in 2003. The overall US prison and jail population
is over 2 million. Letís say roughly half that number is related
to the drug war. When each drug user is criminalized, they turn
from a worker making an average of $40,000 to an inmate costing
around $30,000; that would be another $70 billion or so annually.
#4: Real (not victimless) crime. Murder
has soared since the Drug War expanded in the 1970s.
crime rates attained heights in recent decades that make the Wild
West look like Amish country. Inner-city youth can find easy "careers"
as drug distributors. If drugs were legalized, these careers would
disappear, along with drive-by shootings and "gangsta culture."
#5: Terrorism. Every half-baked wannabe dictator with a few AK-47s
can fund his nonproductive lifestyle with illegal drug sales. From
the Taliban to the FARC in Colombia, US-designated "terrorist"
groups make money from the US drug trade. If cocaine and heroin
cost no more than aspirin, all these moochers would have to get
of course, all the law enforcement effort and prison space that
goes into catching and jailing marijuana users is not available
to look for murderers and terrorists. After 9-11, supposedly our
politicianís security priorities changedÖ but they didnít. Any serious
attempt to catch terrorists smuggling weapons (or low-flying drones
carrying biological weapons) doesnít have a chance of finding them
among the thundering herds of drug smugglers.
Why Drug Price Supports?
Prohibitionís costs are obviously much greater than any possible
benefit to the general public. So why does every drug-using political
hack from Rush Limbaugh to the most leftist pot-smoking Democrat
advocate Drug Prohibition? For the same reason that politicians
support price supports for milk or sugar: they increase the power
of politicians. All price supports confer arbitrary power on those
who administer them. Every "cost" Iíve listed above is
a "profit" for the parasitic class. Letís run through
#1: Taxes, ~$100 billion.
the politician, a bureaucracy isnít a cost. Itís a source of patronage
and lucrative contracts.
#2: The high cost of illegal drugs.
the politician, an artificially high price isnít a cost. Itís a
source of funds; study the career of Chiang Kai-Shek or any number
of US politicians.
#3: Loss of labor.
ability to lock political opponents up at will is worth billions
to any politician. Not to mention, felons canít vote or own firearms,
so the more convicts, the fewer effective political opponents. Of
course politiciansí children may get arrested occasionally for Prohibition
violations, but that just makes them more dependent on Dear Old
like any other bureaucracy, the prison industry is a source of patronage
#4: Real (not victimless) crime.
was no Federal gun control in the US until after Prohibition; pre-1935
US citizens had machine guns, artillery pieces, tanks, whatever
took their fancy. The first national gun control law was passed
in the 1930s, supposedly as an anti-gangster measure; it put a $200
tax on great-Grandpaís tommy gun. Todayís gun control is justified
as an anti- "gangsta" measure; supposedly if we confiscate
Grandmaís .38 revolver, this will prevent drive-by shootings from
inner-city youth using illegal full-auto AKs. While not heavily
dependent on logic, the contemporary support for gun control is
driven largely by the violence caused by Prohibition.
to say, terrorism is not a "cost" to those who want to
expand government power. Drug Prohibition can be used by the US
Imperator as a casus belli against any nation anywhere, for
what nation does not "harbor" evil drug lords who sell
their wares in the US? Even the sinister Canadians have numerous
websites selling cut-rate pharmaceuticals to Americaís elderly poor.
Drug Prohibition can be used as an excuse to give foreign aid to
literally any regime; even the Taliban received "anti-drug"
obvious solution for the productive classes is to abolish all price
supports, whether for milk, cocaine, or sugar. Abolition of Drug
Prohibition in the US would effectively end it worldwide. This would
return trillions of dollars and millions of people to productive
work, and divert their support from the parasitic classes around
obvious solution for the political class is the opposite; their
solution is to try to make nicotine, caffeine, and phenylethylamine
illegal too. If you like your green tea or dark chocolate, better
oppose cocaine price supports on principle.
Walker [send him mail]
works as a Research Associate in telomere biology at an undisclosed
(thanks to legal threats from his tax-financed employer) location.
© 2005 LewRockwell.com