Saturday, February 24, 2007

The War on Drugs = The War on Poverty

The basic premise of this post is in no way a new idea: the war on drugs is predominantly a war fought against the poor population of the nation. This is obviously the case as by and large most convicted drug offenders - either dealers or users - are poor. When matched against the fact that there are as many or more drugs flowing through the middle class suburbs (such as the one that I grew up in) as there are in the inner city (such as where I live now) the absurdity of this conviction statistic is revealed.

None the less I feel I have a few things to add to this discourse. If you will take note of a few staggering statistics since Reagan began the "War on Drugs." The prison population in the United States has doubled since the initiation of this program, skyrocketing our prison population to heights never before seen (not even in the Soviet Union). This happened for a variety of reasons, but mostly because drug crimes became much more heavily prosecuted and there were stiffer penalties placed on drug offenders. With the birth of the "War" we also saw the birth of manditory minimum sentances and 3 strike laws, and it is these two factors that have most influenced the size of the prison population. All of these things have also been documented. And also since this war on drugs we've seen a decrease in unemployment, a decrease in the number of people living below the poverty line in the USA and rises in Gross Domestic and Nation Product per Capita.

One might think, based on these stats, that the war on drugs is doing very well, convincing people not to do drugs, and to live healthy and successfull lives. One would be wrong, as drug use in the USA has increased exponentially since the war on drugs began as well. The good improvement we see in these statistics, I believe can largely be attributed to the fact that alot of poor and unemployed people are now in prison. People who are incarcerated are not considered to be "unemployed" and are also not tabulated in the GDP and GNP per capita calculations. I think what's happened here is that we have merely "juked" the stats, to make the USA look stronger on paper, when in fact it has gotten weaker.

In addition to that, the war on drugs costs alot of money. Lots of new prisons need to be built, we need more prison guards, more wardens, more everything. To inforce the war on drugs we also need more intelligence agents, a larger federal intelligence infrasturcture, larger police budgets, more local officers and more training for officers. All of this means jobs, and lots and lots of money. This is considered to be good, because here we actually see the creation of new jobs and wealth, but at what cost? Is it worth giving jobs to millions of american's at the expense of locking up millions of americans? Is more jobs worth freedom?

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