The most dangerous prohibitionists…are those who oppose no particular behavior or thing, but rather the very freedom of choice itself. – “Thou Shalt Not”
As I have pointed out many times in the past, all prohibitionism is the same:
…some object, substance or activity is depicted as intrinsically harmful regardless of context or actual outcome, a connection to children is invented if one does not exist, and the prohibitionists then argue that any abrogation of personal liberty (no matter how invasive) and any expansion of the police state (no matter how destructive, evil and counterproductive) is justified to stop the threat to Our Treasured Way of Life…
The primary tool used by prohibitionists to drum up support for their crusades is the Big Lie, a gigantic state-sponsored myth totally unsupported by facts which plays upon people’s primitive fears and tribalism to justify the criminalization of consensual behavior and the use of grotesque levels of state violence to suppress it. For most of the 20th century the most aggressively-promoted campaigns of prohibition were those directed against intoxicants of one kind or another; first alcohol Prohibition, then the “War on Drugs“, were used to increase the power of the state to control, spy upon, harass, brutalize, rob, cage and murder its citizens, with the full approval of the useful idiots who never understand that once a weapon is forged, there is no way to stop government from expanding its use to persecute those who supported giving it to the government in the first place.
But now, this abomination which has resulted in the deaths of many millions and the waste of several trillions is finally on the way to its long-overdue demise. The week does not pass that some retired official or politician who fervently supported the depredations speaks out against it, governments all over the world are ponderously drifting away from drug-war policies, and one would be hard-pressed to find a reputable human rights or public health authority or organization which has not yet denounced the vile insanity of destroying the lives of large segments of the population in a futile attempt to stop them from enjoying themselves in a way the “authorities” disapprove of. But most of the foes of prohibition, whether long-standing or Johnny-come-lately, are wrong in one vitally important respect: many of them declare the Drug War a “failure”. This is absolutely incorrect; prohibition can only be considered a “failure” if one accepts the rationale for it publicly promoted by politicians, that of actually stopping whatever it is the government claims it wants to stop. But that isn’t the real reason for its existence, and never has been; if it were the government would surely have learned its lesson from alcohol Prohibition, and wouldn’t have begun its drug prohibition with those substances favored by three minority groups it wished to suppress (marijuana was favored in the Hispanic community, cocaine in the black community and opiates in the Chinese community). Simply put, the Drug War exists as an excuse for expanding government power, and for no other reason.
But now, that excuse is not working any more; few well-informed older people and virtually no younger people believe the propaganda, and even those who do often recognize the ruinous costs of the suppression. Within a few years, it is very likely that drug prohibition will be scaled down dramatically or even ended entirely, and good riddance. This does not mean, however, that governments will give up the powers they have granted themselves; far from it. There are police budgets to be justified, prisons to be filled, minorities to be suppressed, populations to be terrorized, surveillance powers to be expanded and rights to be eroded, and if the Drug War no longer serves to allow those things the rulers will have to replace it with something else: that “something” is “sex trafficking”. I have often demonstrated the interchangeability of the rhetoric used to justify suppression of drugs and of prostitution, and Carol Fenton and others have pointed out that “sex trafficking” laws are usually built on “drug trafficking” laws, right down to the terms used and the penalties inflicted (such as asset seizure). Gangs which were targeted for drug-war operations are now blamed for “sex trafficking”, and the most stories in which some cop vomits out propaganda onto a passive reporter or credulous audience now contain some variation on the claim that “gangs are now switching from drug trafficking to sex trafficking, because a quantity of drugs can be sold only once while a sex slave can be sold many times.” The truth, of course, is that gangs are doing nothing of the kind; it’s just that the “authorities” are switching to a new excuse to justify their anti-gang campaigns.
In some places, the new “anti-trafficking” operations are being carried out by the same police units that are assigned to harass people for drugs; in Oklahoma, for example, the “Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs” is the entity assigned to persecute sex workers and spread the new propaganda, and they didn’t even bother to change its name. Even in states and cities with a slightly higher opinion of their citizens’ intelligence, however, the situation is the same: cops, funds, resources, policies and even laws are being gradually reassigned from inflicting violence in the name of stopping one consensual behavior to inflicting it in the name of stopping a different one. And this pattern will continue until society rids itself of the evil delusion that governments own the bodies and lives of individuals, and therefore have the right to harm or even murder them for behaving in some way those governments have arbitrarily prohibited.