Kevin Carson on the Constitutional loopholes of the immoral drug war.
23 Apr 09 | C4SS
If it had been dreamed up by Satan himself in the bowels of Hell, the War on Drugs couldn’t be more diabolically calculated to destroy our liberties and promote the cause of evil in the world.
In the Netherlands, where marijuana is (de facto) legal, and most hard drugs are virtually decriminalized and available to addicts by prescription, the rates of drug use are actually lower than in the United States.
That means we’ve militarized and corrupted our police forces, turned the Bill of Rights into toilet paper, and handed the country over to gangs (including gangs in police uniforms)—all for absolutely nothing.
Radley Balko regularly reports on the gross abuses—or standard practices, rather—of SWAT teams. Urban police forces, using military surplus equipment and given military training, increasingly see the local population as an occupied enemy to be terrified into docility.
The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments are so riddled with loopholes, after thirty-odd years of helpful “interpretation” by a compliant judiciary, as to be absolutely meaningless. Your “reasonable expectation of privacy” doesn’t extend to uniformed trespassers snooping in a woodlot or pasture, or any other acreage beyond your actual home and the yard immediately surrounding—even if you have “No Trespassing” signs posted. It doesn’t extend to helicopters over your home, or snooping your home itself with infrared heat sensors. It doesn’t extend to your car on the road—no need for a warrant or probable cause at a “random checkpoint.”
The prohibition against depriving you of your property without “due process of law” doesn’t count against “civil forfeiture.” The government can steal everything you own without ever formally pressing charges or convincing a jury, all on the bare allegation that you were engaged in drug crime. See, the Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply because the government’s not acting against you—in lawyerese, it’s an action “in rem” against the property itself, so there’s no need to give you any due process protections.
Criminalizing consensual behavior necessarily leads to a police state. In a non-consensual crime, involving aggression against person or property, there’s no need for the surveillance state because the injured party will complain to “the authorities.” But when a “crime” consists entirely of voluntary trade between two non-violent parties, there’s no injured party to complain. The only way to stop such “crime,” therefore, is for the state to keep the citizenry under total surveillance.
As for gangs, when you prohibit the sale of any commodity people want to buy, a lucrative black market in that commodity will inevitably spring up—followed by organized crime fighting to control the black market. That’s how Al Capone made his living back during Prohibition, and how organized crime got its start in this country.
Organized crime lords are by far the leading supporters of drug criminalization. It’s quite likely that the campaigns of the most hardcore drug warrior politicians are financed, to a large extent, by laundered drug cartel money. In the American Bible Belt, it’s known as the “Baptists and Bootleggers” phenomenon. In Mississippi, when a county’s “dry” status periodically came up for a vote, according to Willie Morris, the most prominent displayers of “Vote Dry” bumper stickers were bootleggers. “A handful of people would come right out and say that liquor should be made legal, so that the bootleggers and the sheriffs would not be able to make all the money….”
And as that last quote suggests, police forces are the biggest gangs of all. Paying protection money to local police for the right to operate on their turf is just another cost of doing business in the drug trade. But the police gang activity doesn’t stop with protection money and collusion. Even when drug traders are prosecuted, police motivation is frequently identical to that of their non-uniformed gangster cousins. Never mind outright, unambiguous illegality like planting evidence (even though it’s hardly uncommon). Just consider the legal gray areas, like coerced testimony from jailhouse snitches, the use of plea bargain blackmail, entrapment, etc., all of them frequently used in conjunction with civil forfeiture when the cops covet some particularly valuable item of yours for funding the civil forfeiture gravy train and buying themselves a new helicopter or other expensive cop toys.
But so far, we’ve only seen one side of the problem—the domestic side.
Outside the United States, the black market price of drugs is an enormously valuable tool for the organized criminals in the CIA and the rest of the “national security” community, for whom drug running is a primary source of funds for illegally funding death squads and other “black operations” around the world, independently of Congressional oversight or appropriations.
The main beneficiaries of drug prohibition are the criminal gangs that control the drug trade. And of the criminal gangs that benefit from drug prohibition, the criminal gangs in uniform are the biggest beneficiaries of all.
C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, both of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.