When writing about money laundering laws, I’ll sometimes highlight gross abuses by government and I’ll periodically make the usual libertarian arguments about privacy.But I mostly focus on how the laws simply don’t make sense from a cost-benefitperspective. Anti-money laundering laws and regulations impose large burdens on the private sector, which creates disproportionate hardship for the poor. Yet there’s no evidence that the laws actually hinder criminal activity, which was the rationale for imposing the laws in the first place.
I have the same attitude about the War on Drugs. Yes, I get upset that people are mistreated and it irks me as a libertarian that people aren’t free to make their own choices (even if they are dumb choices) about what to put in their bodies.
But what really gets me angry is the absurd misallocation of law enforcement resources. Consider this info from a recent WonkBlog column in the Washington Postabout the ever-expanding efforts of government to harass drug users.
“Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 … hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people … despite the tough-on-crime push that led to the surge in arrests in recent decades, illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s. Federal figures show no correlation between drug-possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time.”
But here’s the part that should upset all of us, even if we don’t like drugs or even if we think they should be illegal.
Instead of focusing on the fight against crimes that actually have victims (such as robbery, murder, rape, assault, etc), the government is squandering an immense about of time, energy, resources, and money on drug arrests.
“…arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work. “Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.” In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.”
That last sentence is breathtaking. Does anyone think that busting potheads is more important than fighting genuine crime?
Read the rest of The War on Marijuana Impairs Fighting Real Crime at the Foundation for Economic Education.