Police State/Civil Liberties

Drug War Prisoners are Political Prisoners

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The “war on drugs” is the third worst domestic policy the United States has pursued in the entire history of the nation, after slavery and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people. Drug prohibition is the modern version of crusades against witchcraft. https://www.amazon.com/Ceremonial-Chemistry…/dp/0815607687

If you go to a university library, you can find a good number of works critiquing the drug war from a scholarly perspective. There’s also a lot of popular level works of that type. It all depends on the angle you want to take from the perspective of criticizing the drug war. My personal favorite when it comes to describing the police state aspect of the drug war is Richard Lawrence Miller’s “Drug Warriors and Their Prey.” There are other works that look at the issue of drugs from a medical and scientific perspective and criticize the drug war from that angle. The best organization that I know of that opposes the drug war is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s an organization of former cops, judges, prosecutors, narcotics agents, prison wardens, and other veterans of the drug war that want to end it.
“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander discusses the impact of the drug war on blacks, particularly inner city blacks. There hasn’t been a policy that the US has ever pursued other than slavery that did more harm to blacks, although I disagree with the way the Left frames their critique of the drug war (to the degree they pay any attention to this issue at all) in terms of “the drug war is racist” and leave it at that. Pointing out the racial disparities and impact of the drug war is great, but the drug war is much more than that. You can’t really thoroughly criticize the drug war without criticizing virtually every aspect of US government, politics, economics, foreign policy, culture, history, etc.

The drug war is the foundation of mass incarceration. There has been something close to 50 million arrests since Nixon declared the drug war originally, and the prison population quintupled during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush years. I don’t know what the current data shows, but at one point nearly 2/3 of federal prisons and 1/4 of state prisoners were incarcerated for drug charges alone. In addition,there is the incentivizing of property and theft related crimes by the black market pricing system, and the homicides generated by the illegal trade in drugs. Drug prohibition caused crime to skyrocket in the 70s and 80s. Crime has fallen a bit in the last 20 years, but a substantial number of crimes, arrests, prosecutions, incarcerations are still drug related.

Michelle Alexander’s work on “The New Jim Crow” is excellent, but it is also an example of the limitations that can be found in mainstream critiques of the drug war from both the mainstream left and mainstream right. In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of commentary of that kind, but it’s scope is usually pretty limited. For liberals and the Left, it’s usually just a matter of “the drug war is racist.” For the mainstream right it’s usually just “the drug war is a fiscal problem and undermines community cohesion.” For libertarians, the emphasis is all about government overreach in the same sense as zoning laws or whatever. All of these critiques are fine and have value, but the drug war is all of this and much more.


I’d say the drug war and its derivatives have been the defining aspect of US domestic social and legal policy for the past few decades in the same way that neoliberalism has defined economic policy and neoconservatism has defined foreign policy. US policy over the past few decades has amounted to three core ambitions 1) achieve world domination in foreign policy and international relations 2) reproletarianize labor in the economic realm and 3) subject the general population, particularly the marginal or disadvantaged sectors by means of construction a police state under the guise of the war on drugs (which has since been expanded to a “war on everything” e.g. crime, guns, gangs, terrorism, improperly packaged shrimp, unlicensed orchid seeds, etc).

One thing that’s interesting is that the police state in the US has become so pervasive that even a lot of traditional conservative “law and order” groups are starting to criticize it. The Heritage Foundation is a case in point: http://www.heritage.org/issues/legal/overcriminalization

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