Sunday, April 08, 2007
War on drugs on NPR
A few days ago, NPR started a five-part series on "America's forgotten war on drugs." An overview is here. It is certainly not a very complimentary view of the "war" but at the same time, it is nowhere nearly as critical as I would have liked it to be. For example, one of its major points is that the emphasis on reducing supply hasn't worked and the efforts should be shifted to reducing demand. Demand reduction can be good if it is based on educating people about the harm of drugs, but it can be also bad if the government tries to reduce demand by putting consumers in jail. In general, the approach of the reports seems to be about how we tweak the existing policy to make it work better rather than asking whether the entire policy makes any sense. I must say though that I read only the overview of the series and so I might have gotten a wrong impression of it. I did find one thing quite unteresing. The overview report says that experts estimate the annual cost of the war on drugs to be about $40 billion. That's a big number and I think it understimates the war's true costs, but compared to the other seemingly unwinnable and probably counterproductive war we are in now, it no longer seems so outrageous. I now long for the time when the most expensive war we as society were waging cost us only $40 billion per year. Hope we don't get into another mess any time soon that would dwarf the current ones.