Fox News Latino reports that “Mexican President Felipe Calderon and a prominent poet … [have] agreed to create a tracking commission to work on the proposals presented Thursday by victims of violence.” Meanwhile, as drug violence continues to rage in Mexico, authorities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are claiming a small victory over drug-dealers in that city, boasting that they’ve killed eight suspected traffickers.
The American daily news cycle is saturated with stories about the War on Drugs, a ceaseless campaign apparently carried out to end the drug trade. While most people probably consider this to be, if nothing else, a worthy goal, they may also harbor a vague, sneaking suspicion that something is amiss.
If they do have such a hunch, then they’re right. The state’s interaction with the global drug trade is a perfectly representative example of the interwoven systems of violent power that culminate in mass death and injustice for ordinary people. By criminalizing drugs — deciding what an adult can put into her own body — the state has immersed the country and the world in a cycle of violence that has very little, if anything at all, to do with actually preventing people from using drugs.
Rather than regarding the regular bloodshed around drugs strictly as an unintended consequence, market anarchists would explain it in terms of the economic motivations of the ruling class. Where market anarchism is based on mutually-consensual trade and nonaggression, the public policy framework around illegal drugs reflects all of the problems with allowing a small group to make decisions for everyone.
The War on Drugs is, like the War on Terror, so utterly void of any clear or accessible definition that it can be cited to allow fathomless expansions of the corporatist police state. It isn’t that the War on Drugs can’t accurately be designated a war, but that it is a war on human beings with a modus operandi that only enhances the noxious power of drugs in society.
Just as the War on Terror, with its prying military imperialism, functions to galvanize potential terrorists, the War on Drugs makes cocaine and marijuana, for example, far more expensive than they would otherwise be. The result is to hand a quasi-monopoly to networks of murderous thugs who want nothing more than an ironclad legal framework for prohibition, stringent drug laws to consolidate profits in a few cartels.
Like everything else that comes into contact with the state’s coercive power, if you follow the money, you soon find a symbiotic interplay of commanding interests using that power to make a killing at our expense. When we begin to consider the political economies of the Drug War, the reasons that it survives in spite of its apparent failures become rather more clear.
All of the supposedly respectable actors we’re taught to regard as “legitimate” — big corporations and banks, law enforcement, etc. — are in fact an integral part of the whole drug racket. As former undercover federal agent Michael Levine has noted, “CIA banking operations were used to launder drug money,” with the Agency and the State Department “protecting more and more politically powerful drug traffickers” — and all so that American intelligence could engage in a worldwide game of Stratego with taxpayer money.
Coincident with domestic crackdowns from reinforced, militarized police departments in cities all over the U.S., the CIA oversaw a system of patronage whereby they would look the other way while drugs flooded the same cities. So long as the political factions that the U.S. supported were ready and willing to undertake what William Avilés has called “integration … into a larger transnational order,” the federal government was just as willing to keep things quiet.
All of that tough talk about prosecuting money launderers and drug-dealers is thus reserved for the very marginal figure of the neighborhood dope man; and that fact, in turn, makes America’s gargantuan prison companies quite happy indeed, their cages overfull with new captives who made the mistake of doing something the ruling class does with impunity — on a much smaller scale.
Market anarchists would leave adults free to do as they wish as long as they leave everyone else free to do the same. Drug use will always be a problem for society to confront, but without the state’s meddlesome prohibition we would be spared so much of the fascism and imperialism at home and abroad, respectively, that we’ve come to expect.