Complete and Utter Failure

A big thanks to Pete Guither over at The Agitator for pointing me in the direction of this article. Why, it seems like only yesterday I was discussing why the War on Drugs will always fail. Today, we get to look at some hard numbers.

The retail price of cocaine and heroin both dropped from 1981 to 2003. While I question the methodology in that getting reliable price data on illegal substances seems troublesome at best, the trend is pretty remarkable. Your cocaine dollar goes more than five times farther now! Yay! Five times the coke for the same price! Snort up, bitches! Similarly, heroin prices have fallen by almost five and a half times.

This leads the economically aware among us to conclude one of two things. Either demand has decreased dramatically or supply has increased dramatically. Let me see, let me see. Ahh, yes, the ONDCP fact sheet on coke. Well, if I believe the numbers from ONDCP, the decline in persons admitted for cocaine treatment from 1992 to 2002 was roughly 10%. If we assume that works as a proxy for overall usage, demand dropped about 10%. That shouldn't produce a price drop on the order of 5 times. So, my guess is the supply increased. So the past 25 years of drug war efforts has made more cocaine available. Sweeeet.

I design equipment for a living. If I designed things that worked this well, I'd be holding up a sign underneath a freeway somewhere. Yet we persist in giving failed policies and their authors another chance at screwing up the public life of this country.

As a side note, my problem with the ONDCP numbers is one that P. J. O'Rourke pointed out long ago. "I'm from the government and I'm here to ask you about your illegal behavior! Good data is important, so answer honestly!" Yeah, figure the odds on that happening.


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