George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker on why the ‘war on drugs’ has failed—and what to do next

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
. . .
The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation’s approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem.
. . .
The problem starts with the demand for drugs. As Milton Friedman put it forcibly over 20 years ago in the pages of this paper: “It is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials.”


Echoes of the New Deal Heard Today

With his responsibilities as a father of four, (Jacob) Maged should have shunned a life of crime. Instead, he advertised his criminal activity with a placard in his shop window, promising to press men’s suits for 35 cents. This he did, even though President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Dealers, who knew an amazing number of things — his economic aides were not called a “Brain Trust” for nothing — knew that the proper price for pressing a man’s suit was 40 cents.
. . .
Businesses were asked to display the Blue Eagle, an emblem signifying participation in the NRA. Gen. Hugh “Iron Pants” Johnson, an admirer of Mussolini who headed the NRA, declared, “May God have mercy on the man or group of men who attempt to trifle with this bird.”

George Will.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

“. . . to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

“Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections,” Sebelius said in the letter sent Thursday to America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA):

“Insurers are using the consumer protections in health reform as a cover for their own greed,” Stark said Wednesday. “They’re making billions more in profits over last year. Now they want us to believe that they’re hurting so badly they need to keep gouging consumers.”