CHAPTER 6 OF BOOK “HOW I WOULD RUN THE COUNTRY IF I WERE DICTATOR” by Argus C. Zall
Chapter 6 Drugs
In these chapter I describe how I would deal with the drug problem: Dry up demand, interdict the flow of money, and impede the flow of substances.
(Copyright July 31 2006)
It is estimated than more than half of the crime, and a much greater fraction of violent crime, results from the epidemic of drugs plaguing the country. We will not solve the crime problem until we solve the drug problem.
Usually, in this context, the word “drugs” means cocaine and heroin, and to a lesser degree, the synthetic or “designer” drugs such as “crystal meth”, and marijuana. In fact, however, alcohol and tobacco are drugs that kill far more people than any of the others, despite the fact that they are totally legal. They may not be associated with the violent and other crimes that the illegal drugs are, but their cumulative damage to society is far greater, because of their widespread use. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 1987, the deaths of 105,000 people were attributable to alcohol. They are mute witnesses to that damage. So are the 139,000 people who die every year from lung cancer, 85% of which has been attributed to smoking.
Consequently, the widely-proposed solution of “decriminalization” of the illegal drug industry is a cure that is worse than the disease. Legalizing these substances would simply expand the number of users by reducing the cost, and add impairment of judgment from mind-altering drugs to the shocking total due to alcohol as a cause of fatal auto and other accidents. Similarly, filling the lungs with marijuana smoke may ultimately prove as potent a cause of lung cancer as tobacco smoke.
The other major mantra of the government in the past has been to try to jawbone the countries that supply us with cocaine, heroin, and marijuana into cutting off the supply at the source. “Grow something else, and we’ll buy that”, we tell them. I think our hands are not clean enough for that approach, and anyway, it won’t work. We grow about 1.2 billion pounds of tobacco every year (even providing agricultural price supports for it!) in spite of the fact that we know very well that nicotine is a toxic addictive drug that will ultimately kill most of its users. Ask a tobacco farmer why he grows it, and he’ll give you a very straight answer. He makes more money growing tobacco than peanuts, and if he didn’t use his acreage quota to grow it, somebody else would get that quota and grow it anyway. Do you think a Colombian peasant who can become a rich man in a few seasons growing coca is going to waste his time with coffee? Moreover, the crystal meth problem has been largely home-grown, with basement and garage labs throughout the country turning out tons of the stuff.
There are only three ways that will work to reduce the consumption of illegal drugs in this country. One is to dry up the demand; the second is to interdict the flow of product; the third is to cut off the flow of money.
I would use all three approaches in tandem, but start with reducing the demand. To do this, we have to recognize that there is not one “drug problem”, but at least four, each requiring a different solution: first, the adult “casual recreational user”, (not yet addicted) whose purchases help support the habits of the addicts, and who should know better; second, the neophyte elementary or secondary school child, playing with fire and not realizing it; third, the hard-core addict, who can’t stop without help; and fourth, the innocent victims, the addicted babies born to addicted mothers.
Drying up demand will start with the first category. For openers, scare the living hell out of the casual user. Institute extensive random drug testing to find a significant proportion of them. Make having any detectable quantity of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or any of a growing list of synthetic designer drugs in the bloodstream a misdemeanor, punishable on the first offense by a fine plus a mandatory 14 days in an “education center”. The education center will include horror movies of the stages of degradation in addiction, plus at least one visit to a “shooting gallery”, and to hospital wards with drug-addicted babies. Education into the statistics of the drug trade will also be included: the numbers of addicts; the way they finance their addiction by becoming dealers and selling drugs to the casual users, as well as through crime; the rapidity with which addiction can occur; the out-and-out wars that are staged over control of the drug trade, and have turned our inner cities into free-fire zones.
The fines will be very substantial, probably a thousand dollars or more, because these fines will be used to finance the random-testing and the education center programs. Those who by their behavior impose a burden on society will have to bear a major part of the cost of eliminating that burden.
After release from the education center, the first-time offender will be required to submit on demand at any hour of the day or night to a blood test to prove that he is drug-free, for a period of five years. A second offense will result in a longer sentence, including mandatory public service in the de-tox centers, dealing first-hand with addicts who are either irretrievably addicted or nearly so. It will also re-set the clock on the five-year period of special surveillance. A third offense will result in the offender being classified as a “Registered Addict”, and his enrollment in the treatment program for this class of users, to be described presently.
Civil Libertarians will insist that such random searches are unconstitutional, being “unreasonable searches without demonstration of probable cause”. I would contend that there is much more probable cause to carry out searches for illegal drugs than there is to search the baggage of every airline passenger for illegal weapons. The proportion of drug users in the population as a whole is much greater than the proportion of terrorists and hijackers among airline passengers, and in total they do more damage to the rest of us. The only difference is that the technology of searching baggage has been developed to be reasonably non-intrusive for most passengers, and the majority of passengers welcome the improved security it provides for them on their journeys.
Given a national commitment to a large-scale random screening program that would include every adult member of the population at least several times a year, I would venture that the analytical instrument industry could come up with a “sniffer” for detecting drugs or their metabolites in an individual’s body odor. Any individual who “sniffed” positive would be required to give blood samples on the spot for later laboratory verification or lack thereof. Roving portable screening stations would be set up in public places, in stores, calling at places of business, and could probably process several hundred people per hour anonymously. A positive reading would result in the person being diverted to a police officer for producing identification, and to a nurse for extraction of two blood samples. The fact of a misdemeanor would be established only upon positive analysis in both blood samples, analyzed by different analysts using different analytical instruments.
All workers in jobs affecting the public safety would be required to pass a sniffer screening at the start and end of every shift. This would be used to detect alcohol as well as illegal drugs. A first offense would result in suspension for six months in addition to the term in an education center; a second offense would result in automatic termination, and a lifetime ban from any job affecting the public safety.
It has already been demonstrated in the US Army that random drug testing via the cumbersome and degrading urine-sample technology has reduced the percentage of drug users among the populations tested from double-digit figures to about two percent. The much wider and more frequent screening that I would mandate will essentially eliminate the casual recreational use of illegal drugs, at least among those with something to lose. The risk of detection is too large, and the penalty significant. The very strong negatives in the educational aspects of the program will have substantial impact for most of the casual users, though not for those whose lives are so impoverished in opportunity and meaning that addiction into insensibility looks like an improvement. I’ll have more to say about this group in a later section.
The second major problem area is the initiation of school children, elementary as well as secondary, into the drug culture. The drug industry looks to this large pool of potential users to become its new market. Hook a kid young enough, and he’s your customer for life (however short that may be). This is a problem in school security and supervision, and unfortunately will require massive amounts of money, especially in the inner cities. There is an opportunity for killing two birds with one stone, here, however. I would mandate that every child spend all day at school, and I would make the schools absolute drug-free zones. Every school will have a wall built around the entire property, patrolled by armed guards. Entry will be at only a limited number of access points, and every person and object entering is to be sniff-tested and searched for weapons.
The school program will have to be significantly expanded to include after-class activities as well as classroom teaching and study. Supervised intramural sports, elective classes, music, art, drama, study halls, hands-on projects, field trips, and other similar activities would be used to keep active minds and bodies busy after the day’s class-room studies had been completed. Parents would deliver children to school in the morning on the way to work, and pick them up in the evening on the way home from work. There would be no “latchkey children” left to fend for themselves in streets and playgrounds without adult supervision. The school would also house the day-care system for pre-schoolers, meeting a crying need in the inner cities, particularly.
This would, of course cost a great deal of money, probably twice as much as we presently spend on schools. In the long run, it will save money, because it will prevent the present cycle of initiation of school children, roping them in as couriers and watchbirds, then making them dealers and addicts. I’ll have much more to say about reforming the school system in Chapter 8, but for now I will use it as a sanctuary to isolate the impressionable from the drug culture until they can be thoroughly indoctrinated into the evils thereof.
Some children, of course, will live in households where there are drug users. These will probably frequently sniff positive from “second-hand-smoke”, although they themselves may be clean. A pattern of positive sniff tests of a child should alert the authorities to require blood tests of members of the household. A parent who is a drug user that re-education does not reform is obviously unfit to rear a child. Such a child should be removed from the household and placed in foster care.
Universal implementation of these two programs should substantially reduce the consumption by casual users, and essentially eliminate the flow of new victims into the addict pool. This will leave the problem of two classes of addicts: the innocent victims addicted at birth because of their mothers’ habit, and the lost generation of present addicts.
The first would be eliminated by never getting born. I would require the abortion of every fetus conceived by a woman with drug or alcohol addiction. I realize that there will be a great uproar about “rights of the unborn”. In my opinion, however, the fundamental right of every child is not to be born with three strikes against it. These fetuses are hopelessly damaged in the womb by their mothers’ consumption of narcotics and alcohol during their gestation. They can never be normal physically or mentally, and would have a totally bleak future existence. As infants, they would become a burden with which their mothers could not cope and would promptly unload on society. They would be better off not born, and I would insure that they were not.
This leaves the hard-core population of present addicts to deal with. These would be required to enroll in a “Registered Addict” program, and treated in resident detoxification programs. These programs would include medically-managed withdrawal, followed by extensive psychological counseling. The staffs of these programs would be primarily former addicts who had successfully avoided re-addiction after detoxification. The structure of these programs, and their duration, would be developed with the active participation and inputs from the recovered addicts, to maximize the probability of success.
Registered Addicts whose disease had been successfully arrested would be released from de-tox centers into a carefully structured work environment for a period of at least two years. This would be operated like the “Civilian Conservation Corps” of the 1930’s, under military-type discipline, with residence in secure facilities under careful supervision. Sniffer screening at the beginning and end of every work shift would be required, as would screening of every person entering into the secure housing facilities. This labor pool would be paid an adequate wage and used in a program of public works to help rebuild the decaying infrastructure of the country: roads, bridges, water works, public buildings and the like. If these arrested addicts had insufficient educational background or job skills, a substantial part of the program would be directed toward training them for useful employment following release.
After two years without relapse, progress toward recovery would be sufficient that the recovered addict could be released to return to his former home if he wished to do so. Placement in a job, and continued monitoring, would be a part of this release program. Periodic submission to blood testing would be required to demonstrate continuing freedom from addiction, for the next three years. At the end of this time, full recovery would be assumed, and the recovered addict would be free of all further supervision.
Despite the counseling, supervision, support, and minimization of contact with the drug culture during the work-recovery program and during the final probationary period, it is inevitable that some of those in an arrested state of addiction will relapse and become re-addicted. They will be re-admitted a second time into the entire cycle of detoxification, work-recovery, and probation. A second relapse will mark the proverbial “three strikes and out”. These victims would be declared “Legally Dead, Incorrigible Addicts”, quarantined in maximum-security facilities, supplied with clean needles and a daily ration of whichever drug they cannot do without, and allowed without interference to destroy what little remained of their lives.
This multi-pronged program within a few years would substantially decrease the market for drug sales to casual users; stop the initiation of children and teen-agers to drug use; separate the addicted from the source of supply; and eliminate the army of dealer-addicts desperately trying to find new victims to sell to, to help support their own habits. The ultimate cure will take decades, however, because some of the incorrigible addicts may take that long to kill themselves off. But at least, after a few years the number of new addicts being created would be drastically curtailed. The reduction in demand just from the first phases of the program will greatly reduce the market for drugs and the attractiveness of the drug trade as a business.
I can hear you saying, “OK, wise guy, even assuming that this program doesn’t produce rioting in the streets from the interference with the People’s right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, how are you going to pay for it? You castrated the Federal Budget in Chapter 1 to curb the deficit, and there isn’t any money left for this vast expansion.”
It’s a fair question, because it will be undeniably expensive. But there are several sources of money that can be diverted for this program. First of all, I mentioned that there would be substantial fines for casual users caught by the sniffers and blood tests. I intend to load a good part of the cost of the screening program on to them. The education centers, and the secure housing for addicts will be a cost that may require additional taxation to support.
The great expansion of the school costs I am going to get in part from a greatly attenuated welfare program. There will be thousands of new jobs for paraprofessional adult supervisors, hall monitors, study-hall monitors, day-care workers, and other similar functions, that can be filled by single mothers now on welfare. Their infants and pre-schoolers will be in the school day-care centers all day, their school-age children will be in school all day, so that there is no reason why they can’t work. The American taxpayer would a thousand times over rather pay people to do something useful than pay them for nothing. The welfare mothers themselves would a thousand times over rather have jobs than welfare. They would, of course, have to be trained for these tasks, and would be given the opportunity to train as teachers as well. Because of the extremely large numbers of new jobs and the provision for full-service child care, the only people left on welfare will be the physically disabled and the unemployable incompetents. As a consequence, Federal, State, and Local budgets for welfare can be drastically cut, freeing funds for the expansion of the school system. Moreover, the upgrading of the public school system is something that has to be done even in the absence of any drug problem, as I will discuss in a later section. Consequently, these expenditures will do double duty.
The rebuilding of the infrastructure is also something we have to do anyway. It represents a reinvestment in America’s future, and is something for which we can legitimately issue revenue bonds, amortized by gasoline taxes, water and sewer assessments and other traditional means of payment over the life of the asset. A major portion of the cost of this rebuilding is labor; and a portion of that labor would be the work-recovery program for addicts. Thus, the wages and housing costs for addicts in that program do not represent additional costs.
In the short term, the casual users will undoubtedly shift to increased use of alcohol as the recreational drug of choice. They would be met with a greatly expanded tax on alcoholic beverages, which would be earmarked to provide funds for the drug program. Undoubtedly, the higher alcohol tax and the drying up of drug markets will provide opportunity and incentive for the illegal drug trade to shift to ordinary bootlegging. I will discuss in a later section how to counter this threat.
Since the costs of this program will depend on how many casual users there are, which nobody really knows, and how many of the addicts are truly incorrigible, which nobody really knows, I can’t predict at this time how big they will actually be. But because the long-term payoff in ridding the nation of this albatross is so great, it will be cheap at double the price, whatever it is. If the sources of funds I have outlined above aren’t enough, I would have no compunction in spending whatever it costs to carry out the program and assessing a special surtax to pay for the unfunded balance. After all, I said I would be a dictator.
So much for the demand side of the equation; how about supply? As I mentioned before, there are two ways to prevent trade: one, interdict the goods; two, cut off the money. As I have already mentioned in Chapter 3, my greatly expanded military will seal the borders of the country and physically inspect every item that comes into it. The principal purpose of this will be to squelch the thriving trade in illegal immigration, but as long as the troops are in place, they can open every box and container and seize every bit of contraband drugs and other goodies as well.
Make no mistake, without drying up the demand, this effort would be totally ineffective. If I blocked every single ounce from entering via the southern route, it would simply come in via Canada if the demand was still there. Reducing the demand reduces the sales; even a partially effective blockade increases the costs. Eventually, it ceases to be a profitable enterprise for the scum to operate, and they will find something else to do.
To begin with, all aircraft, general aviation and commercial airliners, could only enter the United States along defined corridors. Any not within those corridors could be shot down without warning. All aircraft entering along the defined corridors would be required to land at designated airports immediately upon entering the US airspace. On the ground they and their passengers would be hand searched by members of the armed forces: every piece of baggage, every parcel shipment, every nook and cranny on the aircraft. For example, the contents of every toilet holding tank would be filtered, and the filtrate examined by closed-circuit TV.
All ships and boats entering US waters would be required to enter through designated channels, and dock at inspection stations for search of passengers, crew, their personal effects, and every enclosed compartment of the ship. It would then proceed to unloading docks, where unloading would be under the supervision of the military. All containers, cartons, crates, would be required to be opened for inspection. Fishing vessels and pleasure craft would be permitted to operate outside the designated channels, provided they carried identifying transponders obtained from the local military headquarters. They would be prohibited from having any contact at sea with commercial vessels in designated channels, except in an emergency. Any vessel not carrying a transponder found outside the designated channels could be sunk without warning. Any fishing vessel or pleasure craft which followed a course (monitored by computer analysis of transponder signals) that provoked suspicion would be intercepted for search.
Auto, bus and truck traffic would be permitted to enter at only certain designated border crossings, and would be subject to similar scrutiny, both of their passengers and of any goods.
I have already discussed how the millions of troops needed for this activity would be obtained by reinstituting the draft. Again, the cost of this operation will be defrayed in part by charging the importers of legal goods for the cost of 100% inspection, and in part by fines levied against owners of cargoes and baggage containing contraband and operators of conveyances carrying it. These worthies will no doubt save money in the process, however. The docks and air freight terminals will be swarming with armed troops, part of whose duties will be to eliminate the thievery and pilferage which is now so common as to be considered part of the ordinary cost of doing business in the import trade. These troops, by the way, will only have this duty for a part of their three-year service, and will rotate from port-of-entry to port-of-entry every month or so; there will not be time to seriously corrupt them.
In order to get a strangle-hold on the money flow as well as choking off the goods, it will be necessary for the government to assume control of the entry of funds into the banking system. At the same time, the use of cash currency for most commercial and retail transactions would be gradually eliminated, as described in Chapter 9. My goal will be to get all transactions onto a computerized debit-card system, with the government owning and operating the electronic point-of-sale registers. The entire system will be networked together nationwide, and can compare in real time debits reported by a payor station with credits reported by the payee station. This will be a part of a much larger tax reform system, about which I will have much more to say in Chapter 9. If there is no cash, and the only way credits can get into the banking system is through the government-owned electronic registers of legitimate businesses, it will be impossible for the drug trade to collect dollars for their goods without much more surveillance than they now face. Continuous computerized audits of credits input to a restaurant or jewelry store, for example, compared with debits for purchases of supplies and payments of salaries would identify money laundries rather quickly.
As I said, such a system will also figure heavily in a reform of the tax system away from an income tax to a transaction tax. Credits for taxable transactions input into the system will automatically result in tax payments diverted to the government before the balance was forwarded to the designated bank. The present tax system misses a great deal of revenue from cash transactions and profits in the shadow economy. The increase in revenue from forcing transactions away from cash into government- monitored and controlled electronic banking will more than pay for the cost of the system.
This cashless electronic transaction system will also be the principal weapon in preventing the drug trade from going into the moonshine business to capitalize on the many-fold increase in alcohol tax I have already mentioned I would impose. I would expect that most of this alcohol would be produced domestically in illegal stills. But without cash from their customers to pay for it, nor cash with which to pay their suppliers of grain, yeast, and sugar, all the transactions have to go through the electronic system where they are subject to detailed scrutiny.
This combined approach, simultaneously aimed at eliminating demand, throttling the inflow of goods, and strangling the cash flow, will within five years of full implementation reduce the drug crisis to a problem. Within a decade, it should be a minor nuisance. Many of the costs, as I have described, can be recovered from fines, and from savings in other costs (not the least of which will be the reduction of drug-related crime). Other costs will be shared with other necessary reforms, so they will contribute to the solution of more than one problem. Once the casual recreational use has been markedly reduced, the random drug screening program can be reduced as well. It would be inadvisable to underestimate the resourcefulness of the drug trafficking organizations, however. The bosses of a multi-billion dollar business will not suffer the loss of their market lightly. A continuous alert must be maintained to spot in the earliest stages any introduction of new mind-altering chemicals, synthetic or natural, so that the screening and blood testing analytical equipment can be modified to detect them as well.
As I have said before, the actual cost of carrying out this program is difficult to predict in advance, because so many of the factors are quantitatively uncertain. Again, however, this is one of those areas where it doesn’t matter what it costs: it’s cheap at double the price. We will simply have to spend however much it takes to do the job.