Book Review: The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom


In his book The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, Laurence Vance illustrates the absurdities and inconsistencies of the federal government's drug war in America, and explains why, in his view, the war on drugs is unconstitutional and should be ended immediately.

When it comes to substances that are smoked, injected, snorted, inhaled, or otherwise ingested into one's body, Americans, and conservatives in particular, are very inconsistent, according to Vance.

The book is a collection of 19 of Vance's essays written from 2009-2011 on the subject of the drug war from what Vance calls his u201Cconservative Christian libertarianu201D perspective. Accordingly, there is a good deal of overlap from chapter to chapter (which Vance admits to). Most of the essays were originally written for The Future of Freedom Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit libertarian advocacy group.

As he says in the book's introduction,

This is not a book about the benefits of drugs; this is a book about the benefits of freedom. I neither use illegal drugs nor recommend their use to anyone else. I am even skeptical about the health benefits of most legal drugs. So why this book? Because I believe in freedom. I believe in individual liberty, private property, personal responsibility, a free market, a free society, and a government as absolutely limited as possible. I also believe that my perspective on this subject is unique.

Vance's position is rather unique. He believes that drug, alcohol, and tobacco use is immoral and does not advocate that anyone engage in these activities. However, he does not feel that it is the government's job to prevent people from engaging in any activity that does not harm another person or another person's property. While this position may seem logical to u201Cconservative Christian libertarians,u201D many modern conservatives will likely find his positions controversial.

In light of this, Vance points out the apparent hypocrisy of many conservatives who see no problem with keeping alcohol and tobacco products legal, yet wish to keep all narcotics illegal and spend billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to stop people from using them. He feels that it is the job of families, churches, support groups, etc. to influence society away from vices such as drug abuse. Yet too often these very groups want the government to do their work for them and attempt to force people into moral u201Ccorrectness.u201D

He mentions the fact that the federal u201CWar on Drugs,u201D while costing an astonishing $40 billion or more per year, has been a colossal failure. It has not reduced drug use and has crowded prisons with huge numbers of nonviolent offenders, often turning them into hardened criminals. In other words, the war on drugs is essentially a massive money drain that hurts the very people it is supposed to help. In chapter 12, an essay written for The New American in 2011, Vance states:

Aside from U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and now Uganda, there is currently raging another destructive and unconstitutional war at home. And this war has been going on for over 40 years.

It was just over 40 years ago that President Richard Nixon began the federal war on drugs. Said Nixon: u201CIn order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.u201D The President declared drug abuse to be u201CAmerica's public enemy number oneu201D and u201Ca national emergency.u201D…

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