When George P. Shultz (pictured left) took office as Ronald Reagan's secretary of state in 1982, his first trip out of the country was to Canada. His second was to Mexico. "Foreign policy starts with your neighborhood," he told me in an interview here in the Canadian capital last week. "I have always believed that and Ronald Reagan believed that very firmly. In many ways he had [the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement] in his mind. He paid a lot of attention to both Mexico and Canada, as I did." Mr. Shultz, now a co-chair of the North American Forum-which pulls together members of the business and government community for an annual pow-wow-is still paying a lot of attention to the American neighborhood. These days that means taking seriously the problem of drug-trafficking violence on the Mexican border. "It's gotten to the point that . . . you've got to be worried about what's happening to Mexico, and you've got to realize that the money that's financing all that comes from the United States in terms of the profits from the illegal drugs. It's not healthy for us, let alone Mexico, to have this violence taking place." – Wall Street Journal
Dominant Social Theme: A necessary debate?
Free-Market Analysis: For some reason, George Schultz has decided to reopen the books on the "drug war" – which took further wing with the Reagan administration of which he was part. It seems there is a history of drug war veterans recanting as to the effectiveness and the validity of the madness that is regularly taking place. But that doesn't stop the Washington DC intel community from continuing its phony fight against people who choose to ingest substances the political and police elite deem harmful to them. Much healthier apparently to throw them in the penitentiary.
In fact, the drug war has put millions of Americans in jail, killed millions more and at one point early in the 2000s it corrupted American networks TV – or anyway worsened the corruption. The Bush administration (does anyone remember?) bribed TV networks with tax dollars to carry anti-drug programming – probably a violation of payola laws. But the Bush administration did so many things that are likely illegal (for the worst kind of political expediency) that it is difficult to keep track. The Obama administration will likely do as many more, only of a different kind.
The drug war itself is ugly and unnecessary. It is an excrescence of the American police state and the necessity of finding work for the thousands of excess security officers that the Imperium has accumulated. The founding fathers used cocaine, apparently, and were none the worse for it. And Coke's initial formula called for it too. The drug war really didn't get going in earnest until the 20th century. Given the grim rhetoric one wonders how the Republic survived for 150 years (or longer) without a Swat bust breaking down the wrong door or a bunch of TV cameras filming some crack-addled welfare Mom rousted in her underwear for a date with "justice."
Supply and demand is one of those inconvenient laws that the state ignores at its own peril. Schultz actually refers to supply and demand in his interview above with a kind of weary wonderment. We wonder too. The Obama administration has obviously never heard of the law of supply and demand and Bush wouldn't have recognized supply and demand if it pulled him over by the side of the road for inebriated driving.
In fact, the billions of dollars and hundreds of millions of accumulated man-hours policing the American drug supply is a kind of authoritarian sinecure. It is the gift that keeps on giving to the American intel/domestic security regime, which profits mightily from people's use of recreational drugs no matter how many laws are passed. Indeed, American and overseas' intel agencies have retired many an official with fat pensions and fine speeches based on the absolutely specious idea that destroying a desirable product will CERTAINLY result in a diminution of demand. Only fine legal minds and the Anglo-American para-military police establishment could come up with such a theory. And still the farce continues. Billions are wasted, lives are ruined and many driven into criminality and destruction, all because they choose to ingest substances that the state declines to authorize.
Every now and then some official, usually long retired – like Schultz – will come forward to explain that the war on drugs is not going well (how could it be otherwise) but his or her voice will usually get lost in the general din of disapprobation that follows such a confession. Too many officials make their living from the criminalization of drugs. Mexico right now is torn virtually in two by drug cartels and their "illicit" traffic of narcotics to a grateful North America that will soak up all that it can get. In response to the tremendous corruption, the Mexican government recently legalized small amounts of drugs. A sign of the times?
Schultz, in his amiable way, calls for massive education to overwhelm youth's desire to ingest narcotics. Young people throughout history have utilized narcotics of some sort to fracture the understandable social reserve that retards sexual commerce. It is part of the cycle of life. But Schultz and others will "educate" youth about the dangers of this kind of excess. Schultz and others no doubt would have worked earnestly with the Dionysian Greeks to create drug-free harvest festivals.
Where is the evidence that such education works? In fact, there is plenty of evidence that such messages actually ENCOURAGE drug taking. It's the reason cigarette companies have never been especially concerned with such messages. What right-thinking young male DOESN'T want to whip out a package of cigarettes adorned with a skull and crossbones and a dire warning. That's the whole point, after all. The outlaw mentality is much beloved by the young, also a biological imperative of sorts.
We have noticed the preparations of the Obama administration to back away from former president Bush's doctrine of the preventive first strike. Now we see a major interview by George Schultz on one of the more obscene gambits of Western jurisprudence, the drug war. The elite has profited mightily from narcotics trafficking ever since Queen Victoria addicted China to opium. It is inconvenient to legalize such a lucrative business, one that provides mighty profits to banks as well, since drug funds need "laundering." But the elite is reeling in many ways these days and we expect more such pullbacks – and trial balloons on a number of fronts – as authoritarian efforts in Britain and America crumble in the face of the Internet's sea surge of genuine liberalization (not the progressive kind). We are sure at some point, the tide shall lap at the feet of domestic para-military police forces as well. That story – and generally the incredible abuse of civil liberties in the 2000s — has yet to be told.