Want to Reform the Criminal Justice System? End the Drug War

Protesters say America’s criminal justice system is unfair.

It is.

Courts are so jammed that innocent people plead guilty to avoid waiting years for a trial. Lawyers help rich people get special treatment. A jail stay is just as likely to teach you crime as it is to help you get a new start. Overcrowded prisons cost a fortune and increase suffering for both prisoners and guards.

There’s one simple solution to most of these problems: End the war on drugs.

Our government has spent trillions of dollars trying to stop drug use.

It hasn’t worked. More people now use more drugs than before the “war” began.

What drug prohibition did do is exactly what alcohol prohibition did a hundred years ago: increase conflict between police and citizens.

“It pitted police against the communities that they serve,” says neuroscientist Carl Hart in my new video. Hart, former chair of Columbia University’s Psychology department, grew up in a tough Miami neighborhood where he watched crack cocaine wreck lives. When he started researching drugs, he assumed that research would confirm the damage drugs did.

But “one problem kept cropping up,” he says in his soon-to-be-released book, Drug Use For Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, “the evidence did not support the hypothesis. No one else’s evidence did either.”

After 20 years of research, he concluded, “I was wrong.” Now, he says, our drug laws do more harm than drugs.

Because drug sales are illegal, profits from selling drugs are huge. Since sellers can’t rely on law enforcement to protect their property, they buy guns and form gangs.

Cigarettes harm people, too, but there are no violent cigarette gangs—no cigarette shootings—even though nicotine is more addictive than heroin, says our government. That’s because tobacco is legal. Likewise, there are no longer violent liquor gangs. They vanished when prohibition ended.

But what about the opioid epidemic? Lots of Americans die from overdoses!

Hart blames the drug war for that, too. Yes, opioids are legal, but their sale is tightly restricted.

“If drugs were over the counter, there would be fewer deaths?” I asked.

“Of course,” he responds. “People die from opioids because they get tainted opioids….That would go away if we didn’t have this war on drugs. Imagine if the only subject of any conversation about driving automobiles was fatal car crashes….So it is with the opioid epidemic.”

Drugs do harm many people, but in real life, replies Hart, “I know tons of people who do drugs; they are public officials, captains of industry, and they’re doing well. Drugs, including nicotine and heroin, make people feel better. That’s why they are used.”

President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. America’s drug war funds a prison-industrial complex. Hart says his years inside the well-funded research side of that complex showed him that any research not in support of the “tough-on-drugs” ideology is routinely dismissed to “keep outrage stoked” and funds coming in.

America locks up more than 2 million Americans. That’s a higher percentage of our citizens, disproportionately black citizens, than any other country in the world.

“In every country with a more permissive drug regime, all outcomes are better,” says Hart. Countries like Switzerland and Portugal, where drugs are decriminalized, “don’t have these problems that we have with drug overdoses.”

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drug use. Instead of punishing drug users, they offer medical help. Deaths from overdoses dropped sharply. In 2017, Portugal had only 4 deaths per million people. The United States had 217 per million.

“In a society, you will have people who misbehave, says Hart. “But that doesn’t mean you should punish all of us because someone can’t handle this activity.”

He’s right. It’s time to end the drug war.

Open This Content

Rioting is Wrong Way to Protest

There’s a correct way to protest injustice and there’s a wrong way.

You may have recently noticed people in several big cities doing it the wrong way. Although, perhaps people pretending to side with the protesters were intentionally making the protesters look bad — it’s hard to know which.

I’ve been writing about, and opposing, police brutality for years. It’s an important topic. When someone commits wrong while using the defense “I was just doing my job,” I’m among the first to reject the excuse.

Don’t hide your contempt for human life behind your job. A badge can’t grant extra rights and shouldn’t shield bad guys from consequences.

Fighting against a wrongful kidnapping — whether by a freelance kidnapper or by someone committing the ritual euphemistically called an “arrest” — is not a legitimate reason to be killed. Any protest triggered by such a death is justified.

However, if your protest targets the wrong people by violating the life, liberty, and property of people who weren’t the problem, you are behaving no differently than those you protest.

Rioting is the wrong way to protest. Looting, arson, and vandalism are even worse. Blocking traffic will also turn opinion against you. At that point, you’re no longer on the side of justice and I want nothing to do with you. I might agree with every point you are protesting, but I will stand against any rioting or looting. You’ll lose your chance to have another person on your side.

Multiply this effect by thousands and you might see why it’s a bad idea to treat everyone as your enemy.

Don’t harm your own cause. Don’t drive people away if you want them to agree with you.

You’ll also risk wasting your life by forcing people to defend themselves and their property from you.

Your life matters. Act like it matters to you. To be treated as though your life doesn’t matter is wrong, whether or not your treatment is recognized as a crime.

Other people’s lives matter, too. For someone to take a life when the death wasn’t necessary to defend the life, liberty, or property of innocent victims is wrong even if your job allows it or you believe your cause justifies it.

I have no love for police, but they are no worse than the rioters, vandals, and looters. I won’t choose sides in that battle but will stand with those who refuse to violate other people in any way. It’s the right thing to do.

Open This Content

On Qualified Immunity

Of all the things I’m pessimistic on, the abolition of the doctrine of qualified immunity is probably at the top. I do not expect to see any significant progress made on abolishing this horrible statist practice in my lifetime, or the lifetimes of my children. I’m more optimistic on the police becoming obsolete in some way and simply disappearing in any form requiring qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is protected by police unions, and police unions are protected by their willingness and ability to cause major disruptions in society. If we think social justice rioters are bad, imagine organized police union protests in the name of protecting qualified immunity. Talk about a civil war. And that’s today’s two cents.

Open This Content

Privilege Binarism, Euphemism, Statesmen, & Genes and Memes (24m) – Episode 304

Episode 304 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the binarism of so-called privilege fought against by social justice warrior types; the evils of euphemistic language; why “Statesmen” are not respectable; biological knowledge, cultural knowledge, and evolutionary mismatch; and more.

Listen to Episode 304 (24m, mp3, 64kbps)

Subscribe via RSS here, or in any podcast app by searching for “everything voluntary”. Support the podcast at Patreon.com/evc.

Open This Content

Police Violence: “Reform” Is Not Enough

Every few years, some particular instance of a pervasive phenomenon — police violence in the form of unjustified or at least highly questionable killings — “goes viral” with the result that America’s cities explode in protest.

Every time that happens, some American politicians complain about a non-existent “war on police,” while others promise “reforms” such as closer supervision (like the increase in body camera use following the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri), civilian review boards to investigate complaints, better training, and of course more money.

After each round of “reforms,” the problem continues.

“We can’t settle for anything other than transformative structural change,” says US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She’s right, but the bill she’s  promoting — the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — isn’t any such thing.

The bill isn’t likely to become law. It may pass the Democratic House, but the Republican Senate and White House are already busking for support from police unions and their faux “law and order” base in November’s elections.

And even if it did pass, it’s a glass not even half full. Pelosi herself contradictorily describes it as both “full, comprehensive action” and “a first step” with “more to come.”

The bill would “reform,” rather than eliminate, “qualified immunity.” It would reduce some of the barriers that plaintiffs have to get over in holding police accountable for rights-violating misconduct, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Cops need to be held to EXACTLY the same standards as civilians when it comes to use of force.

The bill would also outlaw “no-knock raids,” but only for drug cases. “No-knock raids” are nothing less than violent home invasion burglaries. They’re precisely the kind of “unreasonable searches” forbidden by the Fourth Amendment and need to be outlawed entirely.

The Justice in Policing Act isn’t “transformative structural change.” It’s a band-aid on a gaping, traumatic wound that is, indeed, structural.

The root of the problem isn’t police violence.  It’s police themselves, and the system they serve. The purpose of police as we know them is to hold the productive class down so that the political class rule and rob us, full stop. Everything else — “serve and protect,” etc. — is incidental or illusory.

Progressives calling for “defunding” of the police are on the right track, or would be if they were serious. Most of them seem to use “defund” to mean “shift funding between state activities,” not to mean “eliminate a state activity.” They don’t want the pepper balls and rubber bullets, but they refuse to abandon the system the pepper balls and rubber bullets prop up.

“Transformative structural change” would require more than re-training and de-militarizing the police. It would require dis-empowering them and going back to voluntary community “peace officer” models of law enforcement.

Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, et al. know their control over the rest of us relies on the existing police state model. The only way for it to go is for them to go as well.

We need a real revolution, not fake “reform.”

Open This Content

This Anarchist Condemns Rioting and Looting

I am an anarchist.

I do not believe in the legitimacy of any rulers, politicians, political governments, or other non-consensual institutions. No exceptions. That’s what “anarchist” means.

I condemn archation (the initiation of force and property violations) no matter who commits it.

Cops are the bad guys.

Antifa are the bad guys.

Looters, arsonists, vandals, attackers of any sort are the bad guys.

As are all who use the political means.

Defenders are on the correct side, but not everything claimed to be defense is. It’s not “defense” if you use force (or politics) against someone who isn’t currently violating your life, liberty, or property, nor credibly threatening to do so.

Those who protect the innocent and private property are doing the right thing, whether their actions are “legal” or not. Yes, that means it is right to shoot looters and vandals or anyone who is violating others.

Doing the right thing, without violating anyone, with or without “official permission”, regardless of what legislation permits, is anarchy. Do anarchy right.

Don’t claim to be an anarchist if you don’t want to be burdened with the responsibility inherent in the philosophy, and especially not if you’re a socialistic thug (or thug of any other variety) who violates the inflexible principles for sport. Or for your twisted notions of “justice“. You can’t get justice by being a non-anarchist.

Open This Content