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Prohibitionist societies – A study in failure

Updated on December 26, 2010
Crime is one of the major sources of poverty, providing yet another way for poor people to lose money.
Crime is one of the major sources of poverty, providing yet another way for poor people to lose money. | Source

Making something illegal is the equivalent of providing an income to crime. The sheer number of things which are illegal around the world have turned the Mafia into a multibillion dollar industry and people smuggling into one of the largest criminal activities in history. Even slavery has made a comeback.

All this has happened as a result of continual Prohibitionist policies over the last 60+ years. It's an interesting fact that prohibition is based on the concept of social norms translated into law. Societies have changed beyond recognition in that time, and yet the antiquated Prohibitionist laws still rattle around like skeletons costing billions of dollars per year and achieving virtually nothing in terms of actually preventing what they're supposed to prevent.

Many of the substances and materials which are banned by law are thousands of years old. Marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and other drugs are actually prehistoric stimulants. Many modern drugs are derived from or based on similar principles to these original types.

If drugs are supposedly delusive, so is the propaganda of Prohibitionist law. Apparently the world is made safe for humanity if a tiny fraction of captured drugs are put on television. The actual effects of rampant crime, in the form of untold numbers of dead and damaged people rarely get a mention, except as examples of the effects of Prohibitionist laws which have effectively created the situations. The almost total collapse of Mexico, for example, is being covered like a sports event.

It is impossible to believe that even the most self-serving of people, like politicians, administrators and others with a vested interest in being seen to be successful, could be unaware of the facts. A lot of banal theories, notably the bizarre belief that the idea is to create a police state to enforce artificial laws, are pretty shaky, entirely negative, alternative to actual management of issues.

It's also interesting that people bleating about paying a few cents in extra taxes don't quibble about the multiple billions spent on failed policies. In the unlikely event that any politician or "media personality" on Earth could survive a second’s scrutiny of their own behaviour or finances, all the self-righteous total failure has to be called into question at some point.

There are a few questions that Prohibitionist laws that need to be answered:

  • What is being achieved?
  • Why is the success rate so incredibly low?
  • Why do the problems that Prohibitionist laws are supposed to solve get worse every year?
  • Why are there now more drugs on the market than ever before?
  • Why is so little being done about human trafficking?
  • Why is crime so prevalent in every society on Earth?
  • Why is corruption the main source of income for so many people?

So much for the obvious. The real question is the competence of the people passing the laws. Even an infant, if engaged in very obviously unproductive activity will eventually stop. Not the world's governments. Having failed repeatedly in the past, apparently the idea is to continue failing in the future.

The amount of money spent on this charade could have effectively ended global poverty by now. The sheer human misery over the last 60 years could have been completely avoided. The ridiculous waste of court time in possession of a few grams of something or other, and the multiple billions spent on this type of "law enforcement" wouldn't have happened.

The basic policy issues of those situations are actually quite clear:

  • Don't create income streams for criminals.
  • Don't create the sort of distorted priorities which have been crippling budgets for decades.
  • Don't create social problems where there were already plenty.
  • Don't waste the time of law enforcement agencies on penalizing stupidity of personal choices.
  • Don't obscure the legal fact that crimes constitute identifiable injuries at law, where misdemeanors are basically behavioral offences.

That last point is important. The definition of "crime" is unambiguous in its intent. Murder is a crime, jaywalking is not a crime. Ironically, Prohibitionist laws have probably been the cause of more actual crime than the offences which they were intended to prevent.

Prohibitionist laws have arguably been responsible for more actual crime, and putting the public at more actual risk, then any other factor. An entire sector of the global community has been effectively destroyed socially and economically as a result of a situation which never needed to exist.

Crime can now be considered a "vested interest" in law enforcement. Organised crime stands to lose enormous amounts of money if drugs are regulated. Recent failure of a proposition in California to regulate marijuana indicates that this very large market has its own ideas about regulation. When the original form of Prohibition against alcohol sales was repealed, a large number of criminal organisations were suddenly without a source of income.

Apparently the idea is that that won't happen in future. Given that resistance to regulation of drugs doesn't have any logical basis in terms of the public interest, the obvious alternative explanation is that illegality is in somebody's interest.

Ask yourself:

Why would so many "conspicuous conservatives", social moralists, social Darwinists and other paragons of social virtues be solidly in favor of providing billions of dollars in tax-free income to organised crime?

Why does the world's media, which is prepared to condemn anything or anyone in a few words on any headline, remain totally silent on these subjects?

  • The cash benefits that prohibition to organised crime are never mentioned. Human trafficking is never mentioned.
  • The slave trade, which now affects about 5 million people, is never mentioned.
  • The actual effects on societies are never mentioned.
  • The actual performance of law enforcement, which appears to involve spending $1000 to find $1 worth of drugs, is never criticized or even seriously questioned.
  • The partial destruction of whole generations is never mentioned.

Prohibitionism, like all failed social welfare policies, has become an end in itself. Like most institutionalized social failures, the idea is now to keep the machinery operating, despite the fact that it cannot possibly succeed, and nobody expects it to succeed. In this case, however, even new ideas are not permitted. The jobs of thousands of people who achieve exactly nothing are on the line. The reputations of politicians who achieve absolutely nothing are on the line.

Another situation is pretty obvious, too. Criticism of Prohibitionism can get exactly nowhere "through channels". There is no actual mechanism available to members of any society in the world for effective scrutiny of the operation of Prohibitionist law enforcement. What happens, happens, and the society is expected to pay for it, with blood, money, burglaries, assaults, and totally trashed generations of kids. The world has created a situation where failure is the only option, and seems to be dedicated to making sure that that remains the case.

Liberal/progressives shouldn't feel aloof from the situation either. For a part of the political spectrum which prides itself on its own enlightenment, the total lack of ideas coming from this area are hardly grounds for self-congratulation. Conservatives aren't expected to know anything about anything related to human beings, but liberal/progressives are. The Liberal side of politics has failed as thoroughly as its opponents in this area.

There are quite literally tens of thousands of people on this side of politics fully qualified to come up with fully costed legislation and forms of regulation which would be quite effective in managing social issues and the mechanics of correcting the situation. Not a word has been heard. Even if doing something about these issues were part of an official policy, even the idea of addressing the problem has apparently been buried under the massive makeovers of electioneering and ideological compromise.

There are no innocent parties in these issues. Social failure is a collective effort, and everybody is to blame. These disasters are self-inflicted, and there are no excuses.

This situation will continue as long as the public is prepared to tolerate incompetence, corruption, crime and greed and elect ineffectual idiots, all at the expense of the public. Nobody else is paying for this, it's all yours. The choice is a totally futile set of laws and the useless mechanisms that go with them, or good social management.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      great, perfect hub but at the end it leaves us with a question instead of an answer. How do we, the little man, change it? Make no mistake we are all fed-up of it.

    • christine almaraz profile image

      christine almaraz 7 years ago from colorado springs

      Interesting hub. Very well written.