03 April 2009

Down on the farm

There seems to be an unusually high volume of talk about the drug war lately, or, as Avedon Carol and the gentlemen of LGM more precisely term it, the War on Some Classes of People Who Use Some Drugs. This has apparently been brought about by the alarming casualty rate of the battle between the Mexican government and the well-armed drug cartels.

Prohibitionism has long been one of those sacred arguments in American politics that, no matter how absurd it may get, no one in either party is going to step over the line. It's commonly assumed by the pundit class that breaking lockstep on this issue would result in instant electrocution. Perhaps it would. The American Calvinist ethic is usually a-OK with locking up the Bad People indefinitely and indiscrimintely.

But prohibition also has some tangible benefits to the ruling class that will keep them clinging to it as long as possible. As its distant cousin in political untouchables, Israel, does in the Middle East, the drug war a persistent excuse for the United States to stick its nose into Latin American affairs. What business would the US have in Bolivia, for example, if we couldn't pretend to be concerned about Evo and his coca farmers? Domestically, prohibition keeps the lucrative prison industry filled to overflowing with all manner of undesirables, largely poor and minority, permanantly disenfranchising them from civic participation.

Many liberals and libertarians have opposed the drug war for years, but what's surprsing about the latest outburst is the number of reliably mainstream voices who have started to doubt the wisdom of outright prohibition and recognize the damage it causes at home and abroad. But, as it does with Israel, the two-party monopoly will continue to prevent democratic debate on the issue.