In my syndicated column this week, I discuss what happens when government tries to protect us from ourselves.
Forty years ago, the United States locked up fewer than 200 of every 100,000 Americans. Then President Nixon declared war on drugs. Now we lock up more of our people than any other country -- more even than the authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.
A war on drugs -- on people, that is -- is unworthy of a country that claims to be free.
Defenders of the drug war ought to consider the unintended consequences.
John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, indicts the drug war for "destroying black America." McWhorter, by the way, is black.
McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. "Enduring prison time is seen as a badge of strength. It's regarded (with some justification) as an unjust punishment for selling people something they want. The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way."
As I discuss in my book, "No, They Can't: Why Government Fails -- but Individuals Succeed":
...when the public is this divided about an issue, it's best left to voluntary social pressure instead of legal enforcement. That's how most Americans decide to drink alcohol or go to church every week. Private voluntary social networks have their own ways of punishing bad behavior and send more nuanced messages about what's unacceptable. Government's one-size-fits-all rules don't improve on that.
The rest of my column here.