Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Must the War Go On and On?


I was still a kid, but I remember: as the Vietnam War dragged on, and on, we Americans continued to receive hopeful missives about how the next assault, or regroup, or dedication of manpower and weaponry, would lead to better results.

That’s what came to mind as I read the latest dispatch from the War on Drugs, in the Los Angeles Times. “White House announces push to combat growing heroin epidemic,” ran the headline.

So, it’s growing again? Haven’t I read this about a thousand times?

Talk about a familiar story:

The path to heroin addiction and overdoses can begin when patients are legally prescribed drugs containing opium, said Dr. Walter Ling, professor of psychiatry and founding director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Program at UCLA. . . .

“Once they get hooked they find out it’s very expensive to get these medicines and it’s much cheaper on the street. . . . That leads to street heroin abuse, which leads to the increase in opium overdoses,” Ling said.

But the rest of the story? Not reported.

Oh, sure: we were regaled with how dangerous the cheap street drugs are, because of how they are diluted. What we are not told, though, is that this is not a characteristic of heroin, as such, but of illegal heroin.

Decriminalize it. Let the legitimate market do what black markets cannot: provide responsible information that would discourage accidental overdoses.

Instead, we have a new and futile $1.3 million plan.

We’re overdosing on government. The cure is to cut down government to the proper dose.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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By: CS Admin


  1. JFB says:

    We are living with the results of attempting to legislate morality.  If the country can stand the legalization of abortion surely  there should be no trauma associated with opiates and othe mood adulterants.
    Oh, but wait, it is the unelected judges for life that approved, actually forced, that and most recent social change.  It seems the country generally cannot distinguish between crimes, private morality and a civil, even constitutional, rights. 
    Maybe the solution is a dictator? We have been permitting one to operate recently, but he appears to be inconsistent  and waiving in his moral view. 
    Let’s pretend we are a democracy have a vote or take a pole. 

  2. Brian Wright says:

    Great line: “We’re overdosing on government.”

  3. Not So Free says:

    Like so much of what government does, this is not about helping the public.
    It is about pure unadulterated POWER!

  4. Karen H says:

    Mixed feelings about this column, Paul. I agree we are overdosing on government. The Leviathan of government seems to grow exponentially daily; reaching it’s tentacles into all our lives. Also agree that the War on Drugs has been mostly ineffective. However, decriminalizing .powerfully addictive drugs like heroin is troubling.

    How do you propose to do that? How would the rise in theft and other violent crime be handled? (I see drug related crime on a weekly basis in LA.) How would we care for the sick, addicted masses that will most certainly grow? In Holland addicts register so that they can obtain clean syringes & their necessary fixes; or if they desire, methadone to clean up. They are also tested for HIV & other communicable diseases. Can our country help the addicted instead of prosecuting? .

  5. “How would the rise in theft and other violent crime be handled” [be decriminalizing heroin]?

    Are you serious? Drug prohibition causes, not prevents crime! Heroin junkies steal to feed their habits, because their habits are expensive.. They are expensive because heroin is expensive. It’s expensive because supply is limited. It’s limited because heroin is illegal.It’s baffling to me how anyone can miss the connection between heroin being illegal and the increased crime rate. It’s as obvious as a slap in the face.

    • N. Joseph Potts says:

      Can’t Like, so . . . I like this comment.

    • Rick E. says:

      Mark — Of course, you are correct. There is nothing violent about peaceful consumption, production, and trade
      In a free market, any adult could buy all the drugs he wanted for pennies because that is all they cost to produce.
      — Rick  [Freedom_First (at) verizon (dot) net]

  6. Interesting piece by Paul Jacob. I not only agree, but am pleased to see the “overdose of government” theme addressed (I wrote about this in my recent foreword to a book on Amazon, “The Outcome of Individualism”). But I guess that means that I should take Karen H.’s worries seriously. 

    Ms. H. wrote that “decriminalizing powerfully addictive drugs like heroin is troubling.”

    I understand. But even more troubling, damaging and widespread was the alcohol addiction prior to the 18th Amendment. What a mess American society was, in terms of strong drink! Too many men ruined their lives with alcohol. That is certain. I completely concede the Temperance League’s case, insofar as it addressed the evils attendant on overuse of alcohol. And yet . . . Prohibition was less than a complete success at saving lives or stopping addiction. I’ve seen studies where the government’s actions actually exacerbated the situation, causing more deaths than occurred under a basically “wet” policy.

    Ms. H. also writes to inquire how Mr. Jacob would “decriminalize heroin.” I have no idea how he would do it. Or, really, how we should do it, optimally. There may be many ways, all with some costs and advantages and inevitable defects. The federal government could simply make it legal, but, like alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition, capable of regulation by the states and counties and parishes of the nation. To this day there are differing alcohol regulations from state to state, county to county. I live in a wet state, but, uh, don’t see a tragedy brewing at large.

    Or we could take Portugal as a model. Have you read about decriminalization in Portugal? It’s worth taking more than one quick look. Portugal decriminalized all drugs, stopped the relentless persecution of drug users. Things haven’t gone downhill. The opposite seems to be the case.

    “How would the rise in theft and other violent crime be handled? (I see drug related crime on a weekly basis in LA.)” There was no rise in Portugal. There was a slacking off of not only addictions, but criminal behavior. And we have reason to believe that theft and violent crime is associated with illegal drugs because they are illegal, not because they are drugs.

    Why? Lots of reasons. Consider Prohibition, again.

    “How would we care for the sick, addicted masses that will most certainly grow? In Holland addicts register so that they can obtain clean syringes & their necessary fixes; or if they desire, methadone to clean up. They are also tested for HIV & other communicable diseases. Can our country help the addicted instead of prosecuting?”

    We could. But “addicted masses that will most certainly grow” doesn’t seem to be realistic. One of the reasons for the sheer perversity of the War on Drugs is that it sends thrill seekers outside the bounds of law to get their thrills, where they contact criminals and criminalize their minds, and in the process become less responsible. Addicts in a free society would tend to be at least a bit more responsible. 
    And there is also the case for not hiding addicts, as we do today. Maybe the worst cases should be allowed to decline in public, so that they can serve as lessons for others. John Stuart Mill suggested this in On Liberty. Maybe we shouldn’t save everybody. At some point, we must merely accommodate an adult person’s chosen path of destruction. 

    So, concentrate on children. And one thing not to do is freak out and tell them lies. Much of what I was taught about drugs when I was a kid was pure fantasy, boogieman scaremongering. When experimenting kids realize adults are lying to them, they then tend to go overboard and disregard all sorts of prudent measures regarding drugs. The War on Drugs, I think, has rested on lies from the beginning. (As well as being racially based, starting out as an anti-Chinese mania, and carrying on as an anti-black and anti-Mexican mania.)

    Drug addiction can, of course, be very bad, especially if not managed well. (Heroin addiction is by far not the worst drug out there, and by making it illegal, governments encourage folks to try more dangerous, easier to make, drugs.) Before made illegal in America, many heroin addicts were fine, upstanding citizens, capable of work and navigating their social responsibilities. Read Jack Woodford’s autobiography for his account of his heroin use in the very early 20th century. Talk about eye-opening!

    I personally have avoided all drugs stronger than caffeine, until recently. Now I’m prescribed Ritalin.

    But here I get a bit tense. Because of outrageous fears about such drugs, it’s far more costly for me to treat my condition than it would be otherwise. I’m not alone in being affected by the War on Drugs. I remember reading from Mr. Jacob that methadone overdoses on up in America BECAUSE of government policy. And methadone is the alleged “cure” for heroin addiction!

    What a mess America is in.

  7. Pat says:

    Who is going to ‘cut down government’? Certainly not bureaucrats or politicians with a vested interest in growing government. Sadly, even the people aren’t that interested in cutting government, since it is perceived as a threat to entitlement programs. We have become as ‘addicted’ to government as any bureaucrat.

    • Good point, but not universally true. Some parts of government are collapsing under their own weight. Government is losing the War on Drugs. It isn’t a rout yet (except for marijuana), but clearly is headed in that direction.

  8. drik says:

    Any organism or organization that does not have as one of its main operating points its own self perpetuation will shortly cease to exist. Governments included.

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