By Lauren Kennedy http://www.InsitetoExcellence.com
This morning I was enjoying the luxury of lying in bed and drinking my coffee. The kids were, gratefully occupied, and I was contemplating if I could put off going to the grocery for one more day. There’s actually plenty of food, but the items that my children like have been consumed. The television was turned to the history channel, and while I was deciding if staying home was worth the complaining I was certain to hear, a documentary on prohibition aired.
As I watched, my thoughts about the obvious parallel between the effects of the 18th Amendment (prohibition) and the government’s current war on drugs were again confirmed.
The proponents of prohibition intended that the 18th Amendment would mandate that the public adhere to the moral values and principles that they, themselves did. They sought to elevate the moral fiber of the masses.
But Prohibition not only failed to improve the public moral fiber, but set the stage for increased violence and organized crime. Prior to prohibition, the gang were unorganized, unsophisticated, and marginally profitable.
The process of producing, obtaining and distributing liquor created the need for organization and teamwork. And the thirst of the American public made the enterprize well worth the effort of cooperation. Thus organized crime was born.
With the advent of organized crime, murder, violence, police corruption and tax dollars for fighting them rocketed. To maximized their profits, mobsters cut the liquor before it reached the public, just as drug dealers do today. Some of the alcohol was just diluted, but some gangsters added toxic substances to enhance the flavor and the kick. This resulted, as it does today, in many consumer fatalities.
Finally, even some of the original proponents of the 18th Amendment, realizing that it didn’t have the desired effect, called for its repeal. The American public rejoiced. But the mobsters were in mourning.
The war on drugs has produced parallel results in nearly every way. Increased violence, street gangs have become organized, organized crime has partnered with banks to launder money, and corrupt police or government officials aide in the import of contraband. People die from poorly cut products. In addition, due to the high cost of illegal drugs, consumers have resorted to theft, forgery and prostitution to pay for the drugs, making up 70% of the prison population. Alcoholics seldom have to resort to criminal acts because their drug of choice is legal and thus much more affordable.
Tax dollars are spent on this war. Tax dollars that could be levied on the substances if they were legalized, are being lost. Some undercover agents have become indistinguishable from their suspects. Is this working?
Educating people about the dangers of drugs is next to useless. Has the cancer label on cigarettes stopped many people from smoking? When one is in emotional pain, health concerns take a back seat. And emotional pain on some level is the basis for addiction, not the substance. I knew many people, some of them lawyers and judges, who used cocaine. Not everyone who used became addicted. They were akin to social drinkers, they were social users. One does not become addicted to pain medicine because their doctor wrote them a prescription. All prescriptions for pain medicine have directions that state “as needed.” If you take it when you are not in physical pain, it isn’t the doctor’s fault. Many people take pain medicine on occasion without it resulting in addiction.
In a free society, by definition, only laws necessary to protect the public from harm from another person, organization or business are appropriate. Laws protecting people from themselves are an invasion of privacy and laws protecting people from their fate in the hereafter are in violation of separation of church and state.
But the real lesson here has little to due with drugs, alcohol or laws. It is the world’s need for tolerance and compassion. It is feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and worthlessness. It is the negative consequences of judgment and punishment. It is the feelings of inadequacy, the perception that to be important and respected one must fit into a narrowly defined image, role, or segment of society. It is view that only positive feelings are acceptable. It is valuing material success and power over valuing individual purpose, allowing spontaneity, and honoring principles. And it is making goal achievement a priority over experiencing life as an adventure and a journey. These are some of the issues that leads to addiction, all addictions. It leads to gangs. It leads to teen suicide.
In a free society, legally mandating moral behavior is unacceptable, and it doesn’t work. It didn’t work during Prohibition and it’s not working now.