Three civil rights issues on which the GOP should lead
Issue #3 is the failed war on drugs. Here the GOP has to get more libertarian and less conservative. The war on drugs is a moral and practical failure just as prohibition was before it. While it is not my immediate intention, as a grown-up it’s nobody’s business if I want to spend my weekend as part of a “choom gang,” and the party of Liberty should support this idea (if anyone has advice on where to find whatever “choom” is, or, for that matter, where to find a gang, please help). The war on drugs is an epic economic failure. If we want to help the economy, we need to stop much of this utterly useless spending and either give the money back to the people, reduce the deficit, or even (my last choice) spend it on something else. But most of all, the war on drugs is an absolute tyrannical scourge that touches all walks of life but is particularly devastating to lower-income, and yes, minority, families. Scaling down this war (we can separately debate the degree), incarcerating far fewer young minorities (and thus allowing more minority families to flourish in a more traditional fashion; something clearly linked to economic success), spending far less on this incarceration and all other aspects of the “war,” and creating a new lawful industry that we can tax and regulate, is a no-brainer morally and economically, and, fitting this essay’s theme of civil rights, would disproportionately benefit society’s downtrodden. Only the paternalistic soft bigotry of the Left’s nanny state, claiming that the downtrodden in particular would make poor choices in a freer world, would argue otherwise. We should leave this false argument to them.
Note that I’m not arguing for zero laws unless slow deliberative experimentation supports that. But at a minimum, we could ask that drugs be restricted based on scientific evidence of their pharmacological properties, and, in the true spirit of dealing with externalities and not policing individual consequences, emphasize most those drugs that cause violent behavior. And we can make these changes gradually, learning along the way (perhaps earning ourselves the label “the grand old party of science”). Where to draw the precise line is obviously difficult. But, for instance, if one surveys the many arguments for why marijuana, but not liquor or cigarettes, is illegal, one finds a wasteland of confused cognitive dissonance (nobody show this to Mike Bloomberg, who will immediately try to fix this dissonance from the wrong end!).