Addicted to Incarceration

A new American Civil Liberties Union report documents an area of public policy you’ll never hear much debate about within the political class: “How private prison companies have capitalized on the nation’s addiction to incarceration.” The report sheds light on a societal cancer that generates billions for plutocrats.

The Drug War is among the ruling class’s expedient multitools, used to justify every totalitarian extension of the state from domestic repression to global meddling. As it does with everything else, the use of authority to constrain the drug trade creates in illegal drugs a new and artificial importance, a pot of gold materializing from “restrictionist price.”

Since drug prices are determined not by free exchange between consenting adults, but by arbitrary legal controls, drugs become far more profitable than they would otherwise be. The result is a state-created point of intersection with society that not coincidentally serves the ruling class’s interests.

Whatever its outward objectives, the War on Drugs is in fact primarily an economic distortion, formulated — deliberately or not — to accomplish specific goals. Among these goals is to provide life support for an unparalleled and well-documented mass incarceration society.

Per Damon Barrett’s exhaustive study of drug policy Children of the Drug War, America’s War on Drugs “giv[es] ‘the land of the free’ the contradictory distinction of having the highest incarceration rate of any country on the planet,” by no insignificant margin. US political administrations from Reagan’s through George W. Bush’s, Barrett points out, increased imprisonment of drug offenders by more than 1,000 percent.

This has naturally redounded to the benefit of America’s overgrown, welfare-hounding prison companies, firms like Corrections Corporation of America, which consume hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Even as states throughout the country go functionally bankrupt, prison companies are doing better than ever, cashing in on their relationships with policymakers and regulators.

Given that the Drug War hasn’t corresponded with anything like a reduction in drug use or drug-related crime (indeed, most data indicate that drugs are more readily available than ever), we can only conclude that monopoly capitalism is the true engine behind that war.

But we should take care to note that using the coercive mechanisms of the state to profit by caging human beings is not characteristic of a free market. Genuine free markets stand in stark contrast to the dishonest system of profiteering that binds the state and capital together today, colluding to produce prisoners faster than the prisons can swallow them up.

Market anarchists believe, in the words of Benjamin Tucker, that “attempts to arbitrarily suppress vice [are] in themselves crimes.” However one regards participation in drug use, alcohol consumption, or any other popular vice, a free society treats only invasion against others as a criminal act.

And it is invasion against peaceful society that the Drug War prescribes, allowing elites to capitalize on a market that would not exist but for that invasion. Like alcohol prohibition before it, drug prohibition has been a blessing only for organized crime — the “legitimate” sort sitting in Washington, and the gangs that wish to protect the high prices rendered by illegality.

Genuine free markets would vastly decrease the destructive power of drugs within society, a power that is today guarded greedily by powerful interests.

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