Former Reagan Administration Secretary of State and George Shultz has an interesting article on the failure of the War on Drugs:
I have been concerned about the drug issue since I became secretary of labor in 1969, my ﬁrst cabinet position in the Nixon administration….
One day Pat [Moynihan] and I were driving together to Camp David, where I was to make a presentation to the president and some of his advisers. As I studied my notes, Pat, who was in a state of exuberance, kept interrupting me. “Shultz, don’t you realize that we just had the biggest drug bust in history?” “Congratulations,” I replied, going back to my work. “Come on,” he insisted, “this was a huge bust in Marseilles. We’ve broken the French connection!” “Great work,” I replied unenthusiastically. After a pause, Pat said, “Shultz, I suppose you think that as long as there is a big, proﬁtable demand for drugs in this country there will be a supply.” “Moynihan,” I said, “there’s hope for you…”
The war on drugs that has been waged in the United States for over forty years now has failed, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available and their use in the United States is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem. Every activity related to illegal drugs has been formally criminalized in the United States and a large bureaucracy has been created. Incarceration rates are high and a massive, costly, and sustained effort has been made to keep drugs out of the United States.
How costly is this war on drugs? A good friend of mine, Nobel Laureate in Economics Gary Becker, and his colleagues estimated in 2005 that the direct costs are