Monday, March 17, 2008

Drug War = Death in the East Bay

Looks like Richmond's anti-violence event held last week didn't stop the violence for long.

As is typical for these things, the event involved a bunch of people staying up late at night and walking the streets to stop criminals. Naturally, the criminals simply took the night off, resuming standard operations the following evening.

At the risk of tilting at windmills, let me take another swing here at how the east-bay's crime centers should draw attention to their plight in a more constructive ways.

First, ask yourself, does such an event strike fear in the hearts of the gangsters and drug lords who preside over the violence in Richmond? Of course not. They will either laugh at such an effort or be completely oblivious to it.

Bob Woodward's famous admonition to "follow the money" lies at the heart of an effective strategy to combat inner-city violence. Consider a few basic questions:

Q: Who is committing the violence?
A: A set of unattached, largely unemployed young men.

Q: Where do these people get the money to buy guns, bullets, food and housing?
A: They participate in the drug trade.

Q: Why are they killing each other?
A: Because of financial or turf disputes arising from the black-market trade in drugs.

When a product is illegal but plentiful, a black market naturally arises to support trade in that product. This is the true source of inner-city violence.

As Michael Dell, CEO of the computer maker, tells us, one can economically defeat a competitor by simply draining their profit pool. In other words, if you offer the same product for less money, your competitor will not only make less money selling that product; the competitor will also be unable to do all the other things it previously did.

I am, of course, talking about ending the drug war and offering most street drugs for sale at low prices in a regulated fashion. Even conservative Bill Buckley came to the conclusion that this was the only sensible strategy. (That link leads to a really good video, by the way. I agree 100% with Buckley's logic.)

As things stand now, the government is essentially propping up drug dealers by keeping drugs illegal. Worse yet, this is making all the other illegal activities occurring in the inner cities more lucrative. And, it offers a ready-made recruiting system for kids who want to make some money, since the only people in the inner city with any money are those involved in the drug trade.

This is an issue I feel passionately about, for a few reasons:

  • I have yet to encounter an well-reasoned argument against legalization of street drugs. I encourage readers to post one as a comment if one indeed exists.

  • There are the obvious benefits, ranging from piercing the black market to shifting the billions spent on law enforcement and incarceration over to treatment and eduction.

  • I believe this is a sterling example of government pretending to assist poor people while actually sticking a knife in their backs.

  • I believe this policy would dramatically decrease ancillary crimes such as burglaries which occur becuase people need money to buy drugs.

  • Frankly, I'm sick and tired of the urban culture that so obviously is funded by illegal activities. I think this is one of the best way to force ne'er-do-wells to "go get a job."

Now there remains a question as to what a city like Richmond or even Oakland can do to facilitate street-drug legalization. My answer: Plenty.

Our mayors should call this out as a top priority. To the extent possible, they should instruct police not to cooperate with the drug war. They should organize protests and civil disobedience to bring the issue to voters' attention. They should speak clearly to the public, explaining how the drug war lies at the roots of so many urban problems.

In other words, local officials can play a critical role in making street-drug legalization a mainstream issue.

Why haven't local politicians done this? Honestly, I think it has something to do with some sort of twisted pride they take in seeing at least some people in the inner city get rich. This is too bad, but it's really par for the course for Leftists. They'd rather see money go to someone in a poor neighborhood, no matter the bizarre, horrible consequences, than institute a reasonable policy that could create some short-term pain.

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