I recently read a blog by long time anchor Walter Cronkite regarding the war on drugs. He makes a legitimate argument but, like most broadcast journalists and some bloggers, he assumes people are knowledgeable on the subject he addresses enough to know the alternatives. He wins the argument but fails to persuade.
Is Cronkite's argument really that the war on drugs is a failure or that the focus on punishment and the blame on drugs the wrong approach to the problems? Is it a success when the "freest country" in the world has a higher percentage of its population in the world in prison for "altering their mental states" by using drugs. Who are the victims? All of this costs more than we spend on education. It seems we make a false cause fallacy when we assume the problems with drugs are with the drugs themselves. Just as in the 20s during prohibition of alcohol, there was violence associated with the illegal sale. Now that alcohol sales is legal, there is no violence. Could it be the case that making drug sales "non-criminal" would have the same results? This is the alternative he fails to mention but some would say goes without saying. When the crime is "drug use" and "possession", who is the victim?
His premises are true. Drugs are MORE pervasive than ever before, despite the fact more are in prison. Is punishment the best approach? Or could we finally address the causes of drug use; unfair, painful society where 1% owns 90% of America? Are not drugs the result of this? Is it that blacks and are genetically or socially inferior such that they are "naturally criminals"? Or is it possible they use drugs at a higher rate because they are poor and suffering and wish to escape? Meanwhile, do we imprison rich people who abuse drugs? No, we rack it up to "youthful indiscretion" and we send them to expensive rehab centers.
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Yes, Cronkite fails to address the alternatives: 1) decriminalizing drug sales reversing gang crimes associated with sales 2) treating the cause of drug abuse (mental illness and social injustice)
So, it could be said his argument is strong but would be stronger if he more deeply addressed alternatives. Keep in mind, one of his premises is not "there is no drug problem." He simply says the current approach is failing; false conclusion?
Thanks for addressing the argument, Mr. Cronkite. Your position in the for a of public discourse is undeniable and maybe the same questions need to be asked until answered, but nothing new has been said in a while and the government has ignored the alternatives. But let’s not make Cronkite’s attack on the government’s policy an attack on the men enforcing the laws. Yes, the police are to be commended for their “failed efforts” to solve a problem with the wrong approach. The government should not however, be commended for simply creating failure then punishing the poor for it and punishing the rest of society by creating a huge human and financial expense for lack of productivity of those imprisoned.
In the future, it is best when motivated by rather short pieces like his, to look more deeply even if he doesn't; as this is not really the arguer's responsibility. Premises are true and relevant to a true conclusion. His facts are reliable and relevant, and we have had how many years to evaluate the efficacy of punishment on drugs? When do we try different approaches like giving people a decent education and the opportunity to make a living therefore reducing the need for drug escape?