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Much To Do About Nothing Over El Chapo

El Chapo

Not surprisingly, U.S. officials are hopping mad over the prison escape in Mexico of notorious drug lord Joaquin Guzman, also known as El Chapo. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is especially upset since it had high hopes of having El Chapo extradited to the United States to serve out a long jail sentence for drug-law violations. DEA Deputy Administrator Jack Riley declared, “The hunt is back on—and we’re going to get him.”

To which I retort: So what? What difference will it make?

It won’t make any difference at all. Whether El Chapo is re-incarcerated for the rest of his life or whether he remains on the lam for the rest of his life, all the people who want drugs here in the United States will continue to receive them from people willing to supply them.

It’s called the law of supply and demand, a natural law that trumps the U.S. government’s man-made law against the possession and distribution of drugs.

Here is how this natural law operates.

The government enacts a law that says to people, including drug addicts: It is now illegal to possess or consume drugs.

Of course, the government assumes that because it’s enacted such a law, people are going to obey it.

But life doesn’t work that way. Sure, some people obey the law. All the reputable companies that previously supplied the drugs legally stop doing so. They have no interest in becoming felons. The government is happy. That’s what officials wanted to happen.

But other people, especially drug addicts, don’t care what the man-made law says. They intend to violate the law by continuing to consume drugs.

Then, unsavory people who don’t give a hoot about the government’s drug laws see a big profit opportunity by illegally selling drugs to people who want them and who are willing to break the law. In fact, the minute the drugs are made illegal, their prices soar, given the newly restricted supply.

The higher price means a bigger profit margin. Enter the drug lords, the drug cartels, drug gangs, and the drug dealers.

The government then cracks down on them, which causes prices and profits to soar even more, which then attracts new suppliers, oftentimes regular people looking to score big. That’s how the penitentiaries got filled to capacity.

That’s also how El Chapo became a billionaire — yes, with a “b.” The U.S. government, with its drug war, made El Chapo a billionaire. No, it didn’t intend to do that. That’s what happens when the government enacts laws that purport to repeal the laws of supply and demand.

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which has long been a crossing point for drugs from Mexico into the United States. I have seen DEA officials like Jack Ryan since the late 1960s. I have seen them busting drug lord and drug gangs. I have seen them repeat ad infinitum their drug-war mantras. I have seen them get angry when drug dealers are acquitted or escape from prison. I have seen them ruin countless lives, including those of friends of mine in high school, with drug convictions.

None of it has made any difference at all. For some 40 years, they have busted drug users and drug dealers alike. They have sent people to prison for decades. They have established mandatory minimum sentences. They have encouraged cops to steal cash from innocent people on America’s highways. They have busted down people’s doors and shot them and their pets. They have conducted countless searches without warrants or probable cause. They have infringed on financial privacy. They have employed the military to wage the war on drugs.

None of it has made any difference whatsoever with respect to the demand for drugs and supply of drugs. That’s because government officials are unable to repeal the laws of supply and demand.

At the same time, the drug war has given rise to robberies, burglaries, muggings, and thefts, as drug users have had to pay ever-increasing amounts to purchase their drugs.

And of course, there are the racist aspects of the war on drugs. Given what it has done especially to African Americans, the drug war is the most racist government program since segregation.

In the meantime, the drug war has succeeded in people build up disrespect for law in general. Just think: the Mexican people in El Chapo’s home state praise him as a hero and have vowed not to report his presence to the police, who they absolutely despise. Just another perverse consequence of the drug war, along with, of course, official corruption among judges, prosecutors, and law-enforcement personnel, both in Mexico and here in the United States.

For 40 years, DEA officials have said that it just wants to put drug lords out of business. That’s pure nonsense. They know that every time they bust one, there are 10 more drug suppliers, oftentimes regular people, who are ready to take his place. There is one and only one purpose of the drug war: to maintain income for DEA officials, federal judges, federal prosecutors, and their counterparts at the state level.

All these officials know that if drugs were legalized, their services would no longer be needed. Federal judges and federal prosecutors, especially those along the U.S. border, know that without their big drug-war dockets, they would be twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do. The drug war has become nothing more than a job-protection racket. DEA officials have mortgages to pay, just like lots of other people.

In fact, that’s the same reason El Chapo and his counterparts love the drug war. They know that it’s the source of their financial well-being. If drugs were legalized, these people would be out of business immediately. The supply and distribution of drugs would return to reputable pharmaceutical companies and others operating in a legal market.

The furor over El Chapo’s escape is much to do about nothing. There is only way to put him and other drug lords out of business: End the drug war by legalizing drugs.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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