Surprise: The Drug War Isn’t About Drugs

Kevin Carson

On the morning of November 6 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation trumpeted its takedown of the Silk Road 2.0 website and the arrest of alleged operator Blake Benthall.

In so doing the FBI demonstrated, once again, that the War on Drugs has nothing to do with anything its propagandists claim it’s about. If drug criminalization is a public safety issue – about fighting violent crime and gangs, or preventing overdoses and poisoning – shutting down Silk Road is one of the dumbest things the feds can do. Silk Road was a secure, anonymous marketplace in which buyers and sellers could do business withou the risk of violence associated with street trade. And the seller reputational system meant that drugs sold on Silk Road were far purer and safer than their street counterparts.

This is true of all the other selling points for the Drug War. Hillary Clinton, in possibly one of the stupidest remarks ever uttered by a human being, says legalizing narcotics is a bad idea “because there’s too much money in it” – referring, presumably, to the lucrative drug trade and the cartels fighting over it.

But there’s so much money in it, and the cartels fight to control it, only because it’s illegal. That’s what happens when you criminalize stuff people want to buy: You create black markets with much higher prices, which organized crime gangs fight to control. Alcohol prohibition created the gangster culture of the 1920s. It’s been with us ever since. When Prohibition was repealed, organized crime just shifted to fighting over other illegal markets. The more consensual, non-violent activities are made illegal, the larger the portion of the economy that’s turned into black markets for gangs to fight over.

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