Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The War on Drugs is Over and Drugs Have Won

Nobel Laureate economist Gary Becker’s article from the Wall Street Journal from two years ago.

Right now, the War on Drugs appears to where the Vietnam War was in the period between 1971-1973. The war was still going on, but it was obvious it was a doomed effort. Public opinion was starting to turn away from it, and more and more public officials and mainstream figures were speaking against it. Reforms like phasing out the draft were starting to take place.

Likewise, the War on Drugs is still going on, but it is obvious it is a doomed effort. Public opinion is starting to turn away from it, and more and more public officials and mainstream figures are speaking against it. Reforms like decriminalizing marijuana are starting to take place.

By Gary Becker and Kevin M. Murphy

Wall Street Journal

The American "war on drugs" began in 1971. ENLARGE
The American “war on drugs” began in 1971. Stephen Webster

President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in 1971. The expectation then was that drug trafficking in the United States could be greatly reduced in a short time through federal policing—and yet the war on drugs continues to this day. The cost has been large in terms of lives, money and the well-being of many Americans, especially the poor and less educated. By most accounts, the gains from the war have been modest at best.

The direct monetary cost to American taxpayers of the war on drugs includes spending on police, the court personnel used to try drug users and traffickers, and the guards and other resources spent on imprisoning and punishing those convicted of drug offenses. Total current spending is estimated at over $40 billion a year.

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