THE BLOG
05/19/2013 04:16 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2013

Drug Warriors and Gun Violence: The War on Drugs Fuels Violence

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Drugs can kill users. Drug warriors can kill anybody.

A CBS report on street violence in Chicago makes clear that a major cause -- if not the major cause -- of these deaths is because drug gangs are fighting over turf. Jack Riley, the DEA chief for Chicago, says that he is absolutely sure that most the gun deaths are part of the fight for drug turf.

This is absolutely true and drug warriors like Jack Riley are responsible for the fight.

Consider what Riley considers a success for drug warriors: the arrest of drug dealers and the confiscation of their product.

What exactly does this success do? If they are successful enough to reduce the street supply of drugs they increase the price of drugs. The first thing that happens is that they give windfall profits to all the dealers who they didn't arrest. They didn't hurt those dealers, they rewarded them.

Second, the increased profits make drug dealing more attractive.

Riley and his crew strap on their SWAT outfits, prepared for battled. They're armed, dangerous and prepared to kill. The DEA is willing to use war-like violence.

This will drive out peaceful dealers and the more placid distributors. But with massive profits created by the DEA all they do is attract more and more violent dealers to the market.

The more violent the DEA is willing to be, the more violent the dealers will be. We don't see beer distributors killing for "turf," at least not anymore. But, when we allowed the Jack Rileys of the country to set liquor laws from 1920 to 1933 we had violence, gang warfare and murder. When Prohibition was repealed and liquor legalized the violence stopped.

We still have alcoholics, but their addiction isn't a crime. They aren't forced to deal with criminal gangs to get what they want.

Drug users risk their lives, but even a good deal of that is due to impure drugs with varying qualities -- directly attributable to the illegality of the drugs themselves. If you take heroin, however, that in itself does not risk the lives of others.

Drug warriors regularly raid the wrong homes and sometimes shoot innocent people. At least the drug dealers don't pretend they are a force for good. You can't say that for drug warriors.

They are sanctimonious and self-righteous. They are convinced that their tanks, SWAT raids, concussion grenades and assault rifles, which they regularly point at their fellow citizens, are signs of their righteousness. They are really signs of everything that is wrong with the war on drugs.

The DEA is acting like just another rival drug gang. They propel their competitors, the other drug gangs, to match them in violence. They raise the stakes -- and the dealers see them and raise them again.

The way to destroy the drug gang violence is to take the profit out of it. The Drug Warriors know that, they just don't understand the most basic principles of economics. They think that they take the profit out by reducing the supply. That is entirely foolish. Reducing the supply, without touching the demand, only raises the profits.

End the war on drugs and legalize the product and profits plummet, the cost of drugs decline. Users would no longer have to deal with street gangs. Of course, the DEA thugs will be out of a job. The war on drugs also profits the DEA and the local drug warriors. They get billions in funding, decent salaries, and the adrenaline rushes they are addicted to. They, and the bureaucrats who profit from the war on drugs, will fight attempts to treat drug use as a medical problem, instead of a criminal one.

Portugaldecriminalized drugs and treats users as individuals who need help, not as criminals. Drug related deaths dropped as a result.

As bad as drugs can be, Drug Warriors are worse. They raise the stakes of the drug fight, incentivize the drug gangs and push them to greater heights of violence. Then these pious frauds storm in, guns blazing, Constitutional rights being shredded, and high on the rush they get from their violence. They pat themselves on the backs and pretend they are making America a better place.

When a solution becomes worse than the problem it is time to abolish the solution. The gun violence in Chicago is directly linked to the incentives created by the war on drugs. Ending the war on drugs will do more to end gun violence in America than any other policy change we can implement. But it is the only solution that the Drug Warriors, on both side of the aisle, won't contemplate.

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