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I love how whenever a major world leader comes out against the war on drugs, it is always after they are out of office and generally retired from political life.



I'm glad Kofi Annan is doing this. I've long felt that the war on drugs has backfired, much as the U.S. Prohibition on Alcohol did. Both efforts gave rise to rich, powerful crime syndicates that inflicted untold misery and suffering on the people these laws were designed to protect.

For a fraction of the cost of drug enforcement, we could fund drug treatment facilities to help people get off meth, crack, heroin, etc., and meanwhile allow marijuana to become a taxable commodity like cigarettes.

There are no perfect solutions obviously but the war on drugs has proven to be probably the worst of the lot.


Given that both drug prohibition and the War on Drugs both started as highly racist policies, it seems to be working as intended.


I'd like to read more about this. Do you have a source for this?


One random factoid, that's a favorite of mine: the Ku Klux Klan supported the right of women to vote. They did so because women voters supported temperence/prohibition. And those laws allowed them to target the Catholic Irish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan#Prohibition


Ken Burns' excellent documentary miniseries Prohibition goes over this more in-depth in its overview of how disparate voting blocs banded together to accomplish the improbable -- passing a Constitutional amendment to ban alcohol.

It's also an eye-opener in revealing the historical origins of the expansion of police powers like wiretapping, and IIRC, overreaches of the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Once you've watched it, it's easy to draw some very damning "learn from history of be doomed to repeat it" parallels between Prohibition and the War on Drugs at a more detailed level than "drug prohibition doesn't work, just look at Prohibition."


You'd have to google around for authoritative sources, but the history is pretty straightforward. Opium/heroin prohibition started as anti-Chinese policy. Marijuana prohibition was drenched in anti-black and anti-Mexican racism, as using it for intoxication was virtually unknown in the white community (although it was often an ingredient in "patent medicines").

There's a healthy bit of conspiracy theory that says the real motivation for the marijuana prohibition was a Dupont family political move against Henry Ford, who was looking at alternative fuels based on hemp. Certainly, Harry Anslinger, the primary campaigner for anti-marijuana laws, was a Dupont in-law, lending credence to the theory. Still, it's conspiracy theory and should be taken with a grain of salt.

But in the longer political run, marijuana makes an excellent nuisance crime for harassing social undesirables - blacks, latinos, and white hippies and artists who were unduly influenced by black culture. That's not a matter of research, it's just plain obvious. And since it's kind of hard to actually show that marijuana causes black men to rape white women or that it leads directly to heroin and communism or whatever, there is quite a cottage industry in faux-science to "prove" the dangers of a basically harmless herb.

The bigger problem in modern years, imho, has been the rise of the private drug testing industry. It doesn't hurt the self-image of big businesses to demand that potential employees pee in a cup to prove their competence, but it's completely shameful socially. It's ridiculous.


Last Call: The rise and Fall of prohibition is a very interesting read on the topic.

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Call-Rise-Fall-Prohibition-ebook/...


The New Jim Crow by Stanford professor Michelle Alexander is a treasure trove of policy and Supreme Court decisions that have calcified a racial undercaste.


More sectarian than a pure race thing it was Nativist Protestant's vs recently immigrant Catholics.

the KKK started out as an Anti catholic group


This is not true, or is only partly true depending on which KKK you are talking about. The original group formed in the 1960s as an anti-reconstruction organization and used terror tactics to chase politicians and businessmen they didn't like out of certain communities in the South. It didn't last long though and was disbanded in the early 1870's.

The 'second' Klan was originally a merchandizing effort surrounding the movie "Birth of a Nation." It quickly turned into an actual political organization which adopted the white nativist views which were in vogue at the time. It was largely anti-immigrant focusing on Catholics, but also targeting Jews and Eastern Europeans.

It's worth noting that in all of it's incarnations, the Klan was racist and anti-black. It wasn't until the 1960s that this became the center-point of their politics, but it was always there.


FYI, you have a typo. The first clan started in the 1860's.


Unless they started in the 1960s and wrapped up in the 1890s due to time-travel.


The Irish & Southern Europeans were looked upon as lesser races at the time. It was only later that "white vs black" became the socially accepted racial classification.


I remember reading, quite a while ago, some 19th or 18th Century piece of fiction in which a Caucasian lad with black hair was referred to as a "little black boy".


Well its still withing living memory that Irish people with darker complexion and black hair where refered to as "black" Irish.



Wanted to recommend this as well. Really interesting documentary, it features (among others) David Simon, creator of The Wire.

Here's a quick review from the Guardian to get you a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryCfjX7DRqM



In a far off yet inevitable future of bounty and abundance... physical and emotional pain have been edited out of our genetic code, replaced by neurochemically enhanced empathy & bliss & a lavish minimum income frees our leaders to put social good ahead of job security.

Until then, we're still living primitively... in the jungle as a savage, infant race.


Emotional pain is critical for empathy. Unless you believe in the purely rational theory of human behavior, people have to feel what will be emotionally painful for others before acting in a way that minimizes emotional pain.

Physical pain is also important. It keeps you from doing stupid things that end up with you getting hurt.

Both mental and physical pain can be modulated/reduced somewhat through psychological training (one form of which would be meditation). I think making pain reduction any easier could cause more problems than it solves.


Sounds like the Maximum Fun-Fun Ultra Super Happy People from this short story. (Page 3/8)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/y5/

It goes through the horror of what that implies.


is that from a movie?


Going to guess Arthur C. Clarke, but I've never actually read any of his books.


Do you risk your career and your livelihood for your innate principles often?


While I agree with this, it's exactly the reason many governments right now get almost nothing done (and what they do get done is awful): People in power who care more about their job security than their -- or anyone else's -- principles.

A politician's career should be based on reconciling principle with reality. Their livelihood should be linked directly to their ability to do this successfully.

That comes with a certain level of idealism, true, but without that we have to concede that our lives are in the hands of people we don't even expect to care.


It's more complicated than that. Politicians have a limited amount of political capital, and in American politics even getting little things done requires spending a lot of it. Obama put up some huge numbers and ultimately spent all his political capital just doing two things: 1) getting us out of Iraq; and 2) passing the Affordable Care Act.

Ending the drug war is important to some people, but there are tons of people who support the drug war for moral reasons, on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, with an aging populace people are much more concerned with Medicare, Social Security, healthcare, pensions, etc, than the justice or injustice of the drug war.

Even a politician who does care sincerely about ending the drug war wouldn't waste his political capital actually doing it, not in face of all the more important things that people want done.


Support the drug war ... for moral reasons?

That mother showing pictures of her 4 missing boys in the article this thread is about, I think she would argue the war is immoral.

I think the people who think the drug war is moral, would change their mind if they spent more than 30 seconds thinking about it.

Baffles my mind, and when pressed in person, even pious blowhards admit there are serious violent death problems with their methods --- but the people who support them seem totally oblivious to the violent oppressive death that their war causes.

How the fuck is it a moral war?


Not everyone has the same system of morals. A lot of people, probably most, think that bad behavior is socially contagious. It's a premise that is not exactly divorced from reality. E.g. I would certainly be at least concerned if my daughter's friends were drug users, because I do think children and adolescents can pick up bad habits from the people around them. To these people, the possibility of drugs raises the threat of personal danger to their families.

Some people further think that bad habits like drug use can be controlled through legal means. I don't think they believe it can be eliminated, but I think they believe that if we did not have a drug war, drug use would be a lot more common.

Furthermore, those people can justify the damage caused by enforcement on the grounds that it happens to people who bring it upon themselves, by participating in drug use and drug trade. Even this proposition isn't totally divorced from reality, at least within the U.S. There is lots of collateral damage, but by and large the people dying in gang wars are involved in gangs to begin with, and the people in jail for drug crimes did use or deal drugs.

You don't have to agree with any of this to concede that these ideas are rooted in some sort of moral framework. Not a particularly compassionate moral framework, but there is nothing about moral frameworks that requires them to be compassionate.


"Not a particularly compassionate moral framework, but there is nothing about moral frameworks that requires them to be compassionate."

My concern is, they think, and argue that their framework is compassionate --- but they are ignorant of reality and what's actually going on with their war.


Some peoples' morals deny life saving medical treatment. Other morals insist that consuming alcohol desecrates a holy temple. Or that porn is evil, or prostitution a "sin". Why would you expect the morals to be based on reason and facts?


If your daughter was routinely going over to a friend's house where the friend's parent was visibly high on a regular basis how would you feel about it?


What's your point here? If he had a problem with it, he probably wouldn't let his daughter go to her friend's house. Either way, we're still telling people what they can and can't put in their own bodies.


As a result of medical treatment or recreationally? Assuming the latter and a popular choice of recreational drug, I don't much harm will come from a kid seeing a friend's parent saying stupid things and eating snack foods. If the friend's parent was visibly drunk, that would be something to worry about.


It's either up to you and your daughter to decide if going over is a good thing; however; it is not an argument that says wether that parent should be put in prison.


If drugs are legal, and allowed everywhere it takes that choice away from me unless I want to lock my kid up and not let her leave the house.


Alcohol is legal and allowed everywhere (especially at peoples' homes), but it doesn't in any way preclude you from telling your daughter that she's not allowed to visit mr.X because he's an alcoholic, or he's a pothead, or because you simply distrust him.

But "I don't want my daughter to meet X" is something that you need to handle within your family, not by asking armed men to forcibly remove X from the community. In your given example (daughter visits friend whose parent is high) you can punish cases if your underage daughter gets offered drugs, as currently would happen if she'd get offered alcohol or sex; but saying that your neighbor should be imprisoned for what he's doing in his own home simply because "my daughter might visit..." seems a bit ridiculous reason.

It's perfectly okay for your neighbors (and parents of your daughters classmates) to do all kinds of wierd sh*t that you wouldn't allow your underage daughter to do - they can practice crazy religions, have freaky sex including blood and bondage, do near-suicidal acts for thrills, implant horns in their foreheads, whatever. If you don't like that, then that is a valid reason for you to avoid them, but it's not a valid reason for requiring them to stop.


I can not allow my (non existent btw) daughter to visit Mr X the Alcoholic, but it's impossible for me to shield her from a culture of alcohol unless I basically remove her from US society. A lot of people don't like that.

Even more people feel that way when it comes to other drugs, which is why they are still mostly illegal.

I'm not saying I agree with their position. I actually largely agree with you. I was just trying to explain to proksoup (the commenter who I originally responded to) how others view the world. He was baffled how people could support the drug war. I think it shows a real lack of imagination and empathy to not see other people's point of view. You don't have to agree with it, but I think it's pretty easy to understand where they're coming from.


I would suggest you do concede to reality: We give control to other people at the behest of rhetoric about "getting things done" or "everything would crumble without me."

We shouldn't put people "in power" in the first place.


I don't think that's fair .. at least not in most cases. Politician is not just a job. It's a leadership role, moral leadership among other things. Being principled is a major component of the job they've undertaken. If a doctor found a discrepancy between his career and the welfare of his patients or a judge between his career and justice, I really do think they are morally obligated to choose selflessly.

Maybe it's naive, but I think it's possible to have a society where most judges are genuinely obsessed with being just.


The problem therein is that, at least in the vast majority of circumstances, everybody thinks that they are being "just", but their justice is always colored by their own personal morals, which may or may not conform to your morals or mine.

I'm sure that the judge who recently disallowed a mother from naming her child "Messiah" felt like he was being just, but that justice was undoubtedly colored by his religious faith.

The judges who uphold "traditional marriage" also probably felt like they were being just, as their justice is shaped by what they personally consider to be 'right' and 'wrong'. The law itself, in too many cases, offers too much ambiguity.

We want states to have the right to do things their own way on issues we want, but not on issues we don't. If we, as people, support the right of gay marriage, we think that states should be required to allow it. However, if we support marijuana is relatively harmless, we think that states should be allowed to legalize it.

These are just examples, but it's hard to come up with a 'pragmatic' solution for what is or isn't just. If justice is based on morality, then whose morality do we base it on? If it's based on whether or not it causes harm to others, then what level of harm do we allow? Freedom of speech is generally harmless, except when it isn't -- except when it's "fire" in a theater, or when it's your neighbors yelling at 3 am, or when it's someone preaching [religion/anti-religion] in contrast to what I want to hear.

In short, it's a very complicated thing, justice, with blurry edges, multiple middles, and an infinite list of value substitutions that muddy the issue. Even those doing the very best things for the most noble of purposes can be considered harmful by others who are also doing the very best things for the most noble of purposes.


I agree. It's hard. But think that's a different type of problem. This is not a case of disagreement about a moral question. This is a case of politicians choosing politically convenient over moral paths and effectively being dishonest about their judgment.

There are certain issues (drugs prohibition is a big example) where politicians often 'come out' about their true position after leaving office. They don't want to be the "weed guy," so they don't publicly support legalization while in office. This is different from genuinely disagreeing about the correct policy.

Even just honesty would be an improvement. "I think marijuana/gay marriage/whatever should be legal, but I don't think the majority want that/it's not worth pursuing right now/insert real reason they aren't pushing this." I don't think that's impossible. It requires a change from us. We need to be willing to let politicians openly hold a position while not pursuing it in legislation.

For example (I'm not American, so this is contrived), my view on the American gun issues is that widespread ownership of firearms for self defense is bad, but it's going to be very difficult to pursue disarmament effectively when so many people disagree so strongly.


I have, basically, the exact opposite view on firearms ownership, so take my reply with salt.

You're completely not wrong about political integrity being key to the process. At least speaking as an American, we don't seem to have any. I watched a neighboring state's election last night and the result was very close. Very close. Out of over 2 million votes, the opponents were separated by less than 60,000 votes in the outcome.

Of the two primary candidates, the winner was a notoriously corrupt politician who is well-known for being a political fund-raiser and (basically) morally bankrupt, while the other is more intellectually honest (at least, as comparing his statements to his voting record), but openly disapproves of things like gay marriage, and wanted to ban blowjobs. Even the libertarian candidate (and I'm a libertarian party member) was sleazy in too many ways.

Ultimately, the contest was won (predictably) by the one who spent the most money. Which means that fund-raising was critical, which means that getting in bed with money is necessary, which makes it nearly impossible to get intellectual honesty in elections. There are pretty noble efforts to eliminate, make transparent, or in some way normalize election contributions, but that just shrinks the list of viable candidates down to the rich, which isn't meant as an indictment of the rich, but isn't necessarily good for the interests of the hoi polloi either. Michael Bloomberg is rich, and he's been objectively horrible for New York City on a few landmark pieces of legislation (not meant as a comment on his entire term, but banning sodas? Really?).

As pertaining to firearms, that issue is, I think, more cut and dry. Our Constitution says we have the right to bear arms, and the job of our federal government, and its employees, is to uphold the Constitution, or to ratify it where it is wrong. The latter point is important, I think, because while I disagree with the notion that "guns are bad" (which is an argument for a different day, perhaps), I would abide the law if the Constitution were amended in the Constitutionally prescribed process. I wouldn't love it, but I am far more offended by those who would sidestep the Constitution to ignore its tenets.

Either there's support to ratify it, or there isn't. There currently isn't, but even if there were, none of the legislation proposed makes any attempt to uphold the Constitution, and all of the legislation, even that which I support, runs afoul of our governing tenets, and such be dismissed out of hand as such.


I'd say the last place to search for "moral leadership" is among the ranks of professional politicians.


Is comming out against the "war on drugs" really a career killer, still? I think some real leadership from public officials would quickly reverse the remnant of public support that exists for this so-called war.


You've vastly misjudged the battlefield. Among actual voters, the drug war is still seen favorably.


I'd love to know where I could find the stats on actual support that drug war policies have. Although I'm sure that majorities exist opposing outright legalization, I think that the people who support "drug war" policies as they are currently implemented are in the minority.

The way the question is posed to people can have a big effect on support. For instance, saying, "The war on drugs is counter-productive because it increases addiction rates and increases the harm caused by addiction, and should be replaced with a well-funded addiction-minimization and education regime," is different than saying, "Drugs should be legalized because adults should be able to choose for themselves what they put in their bodies."

When I mentioned "real leadership" above, I meant leaders that would make a case and design an alternate policy that would convince voters who are afraid of legalization as such, but who recognize that the drug war is a failed policy.


> Although I'm sure that majorities exist opposing outright legalization, I think that the people who support "drug war" policies as they are currently implemented are in the minority.

Remember, the relevant population here is the population of voters, not the population as a whole. Voters skew older and suburban/rural.


You could probably build a coalition in favour of replacing any number of individual policies of "the war on drugs" with "better" policies. It's much, much harder to build one to broadly legalise drugs.

The two problems are that drugs are much too ingrained in society as something incredibly dangerous and that sound-byte politics don't lend itself well to the distinction of wanting an activity to be not prohibited without actually endorsing the activity itself.


Slightly OT, but spending a bit of time on Gallup's website recently has shown me much I've misjudged the popularity of a lot of attitudes.


> Among actual voters, the drug war is still seen favorably.

Some elements of it obviously aren't, as we see marijuana legalization advancing (in some places, at least nominally, restricted to "medical" use, in other places more generally.)


That's exactly what politicians ought to do and exactly why politics should not be a career.

Granted, Kofi Annan was not a politician in the same way as the folks I'm really aiming this comment at, but still.


Yes, but I also don't have to depend on popularity.


Baby steps: plenty of politicians are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.


Yes, but if you decriminalize all drugs then the whole industry surrounding incarceration of all those 'criminals' that are only inside because of drugs falls to pieces. There are plenty of lobbyists on the hill that are paid to do everything they can to prevent that from happening.


There is zero chance that drugs like crack are going to ever be decriminalized.


Would it need to be decriminalized if cocaine was properly sold, like it used to be? One can quite easily cook cocaine into crack if they so desire.


It has been established as physically addictive, so no, selling it "properly" won't help.


So is alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.


Oh, I'm all for banning tobacco. Caffeine's withdrawal is minor an alcohol is only physically addictive to some people.


It's not only about the USA though.

For example in France there is no private incarceration industry, prisons are overpopulated and in inhumane condition, underground drug economy in suburbs create all sort of problems and yet there is no sign of even depenalizing consumption of marijuana.

Why ? I don't know.


Lobbyists can lean on and skew and sway. That's bad enough, but they're not unstoppable forces that will dictate policy indefinitely.


It's a welcome message, but Kofi Annan is one of the most corrupt and least credible politicians out there. It's a shame the message isn't coming from someone more respectable.


It's the modern day equivalent of a deathbed conversion!




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