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Bob Barr

Bob Barr

Posted: June 10, 2008 10:59 AM

I Was Wrong About The War On Drugs -- It's A Failure


I'll admit it, just five years ago I was "Public Enemy Number 1" in the eyes of the Libertarian Party. In my 2002 congressional race for Georgia's Seventh District, the Libertarian Party ran scathing attack ads against my stand on Medical Marijuana.

Today, I am their presidential nominee and will represent libertarians at the top of the ticket on November 4th.

Huh?

That's right, Bob Barr, formerly the War on Drugs loving, Wiccan mocking, Clinton impeaching Republican is the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party.

Now, you may be asking how this happened and my answer is simple: "The libertarians won."

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Party and small "l" libertarians have done their part to prove to America that liberty is the answer to most of the problems that we face today. Over the past several years, I was one of the many people influenced by this small party.

Whether through the free market or by simply allowing families to make their own decisions regarding the education of their children, libertarians have taught us that liberty does truly work.

In stark contrast, when government attempts to solve our societal problems, it tends to create even more of them, often increasing the size and depth of the original problem. A perfect example of this is the federal War on Drugs.

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.

America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

One such solution was presented to me recently by a libertarian friend and supporter, Glenn Jacobs.

Glenn is a very unique guy with a very unique job. To say Glenn is a "big guy" or "intimidating" is an understatement. He gives people nightmares... literally.

Each week Glenn, who stands nearly seven feet tall, walks into a wrestling ring under the stage name "Kane" to beat other large men for sheer entertainment purposes.

Had I not pursued a career in politics -- and were about two feet taller -- I might have chosen a similar career path. Maybe...

In June of 2007, Glenn and many of his friends and co-workers in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) were rocked by the news of the Chris Benoit tragedy that took place in my home state of Georgia.

It was speculated that Chris had murdered his family and committed suicide in a steroid or "roid" rage. While it is unclear how much of a role drugs played in Benoit's actions, and whether mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) may also have been a contributing factor, it was clear the WWE had some serious problems within its organization.

In the wake of the tragedy, the head of the WWE, Vince McMahon, and its other leaders looked internally to recognize these problems and address them. Although in the two years before Benoit's death, dozens of wrestlers had been suspended, gone to rehab, or been dismissed under the WWE's recently adopted "Wellness Program," the WWE strengthened its drug policy further, re-emphasizing that its policy wasn't merely a document, but the internal laws of the company that would be enforced.

Additionally, in response to speculation by brain trauma experts that Benoit may have been suffering from brain damage caused by years of blows to the head, WWE added a MTBI component to its Wellness Program.

McMahon didn't wait for Congress to pass a law or parade his wrestlers in front of congressional committee hearings; he took the lead and assumed responsibility over the health and welfare of the individuals who work for the WWE.

As part of the WWE Wellness Program, wrestlers go through regular drug testing and even cardiovascular testing. The latter identified a previously unknown heart condition for the wrestler "MVP" and he was treated for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The government's War on Drugs wouldn't have done that.

Sadly, the long standing War on Drugs also did not save the life of Chris Benoit and his family. The truth is, only Chris could have saved himself through personal responsibility. However, the efforts of Vince McMahon are making progress in preventing other tragedies and harm.

The WWE is taking responsibility for its talent and giving its participants the resources that they need, through rehabilitation, testing and even anonymous help lines, to deal with any possible problems.

While there may be some employees of the organization who may not like random drug tests or being thrown on a treadmill for an EKG, they have the choice of finding a new employer.

That's the beauty of this libertarian solution. It does not take government intervention or our tax dollars. It also does not force anyone to do anything, as it only requires voluntary action and decisions.

While I applaud the WWE for taking on this responsibility with a libertarian solution, don't bother looking for me at an upcoming cage match on Friday Night Smackdown. I don't want to be responsible for hurting any of those little guys.