Is legalizing everything a way of reducing crime? Well, in a way it is. If everything is legal, then by definition, there is no such thing as crime!
In my last posting, I mused that the drug wars have destroyed Mexico. And the minute I hit "POST" I realized I would get howls of protest from the Libertarians, who would argue that it was the illegality of drugs that created Mexico's drug gangs, not the drugs themselves. An interesting argument, but during the height of the "war on drugs" no such decapitating drug gangs existed. Indeed, when we drove through Mexico in 2002, there was plenty of crime, but not on the level we see today. Maybe it just took them time to get organized?
It was pretty funny, but on the way back to the US from Acapulco, we drove up Route 200 along the Pacific coast - not realizing that back then, it was a major drug-running route. The scenery was beautiful, and the road would climb up into the mountains and then plunge back to the sea. On these narrow, shoulder-less mountain roads, a guy driving a tanker truck full of fuel - "Doble Remolques" or two-trailers - would pass us on a blind curve. Coming the other way was an overloaded bus full of people. We could see the drivers doing "hail Mary's" to the small statuettes on their dashboards before all three of us squeezed by, nearly trading paint.
Coming down to the sea, we came upon a town shrouded in what we thought was fog. As we approached the town, we heard helicopters and saw Army trucks and many soldiers - most of whom looked to be about 16 years old. Mounds and mounds of burning greenery lined each side of the road. And at the roadblock was a young man in Army fatigues carrying an M-16 that was almost larger that he was.
As soon as I rolled down the window, I thought, "Gee, this smells like a college dorm" - and then I realized what was happening. They were burning the marijuana fields. And instantly, everyone in the camper was high as a kite - as high as the soldiers were. The young man with the gun said to me, "Si?" and I said, "Roadblock?" and he nodded and said "Oh, Si! Si! Roadblock, Yes!"
"You wanted to see inside the camper?" I replied, and he said "Si!"
So we let him inside and he marveled at our Casa de Camiones with a microwave and a refrigerator and even air conditioning. He looked inside the fridge and saw a bottle of Coca-Cola. He looked at me inquisitively, obviously having "cotton mouth."
"Oh, please, help yourself!" I said, and he handed me his M--16 and started drinking the coke. One of our friends offered him a bag of Sabrinas or Lay's Potato Chips as we call them, and before long there were three thirsty young soldiers in the camper, having snacks and carrying on. It was a regular Cheech and Chong moment.
Finally, I said, "Can we go now?" and he said, "Si! Si!" and I said, "Don't forget your gun!" - handing him his M-16 back.
He said, "Si! Gracias!"
They never asked about the trailer we were towing behind the motorhome. It could have been filled with bales of the stuff! It was a surreal experience.
We later landed in Zihuantanejo, which is a nice town. We ended up flying back there the next year - you can get a direct flight from Houston. Nice place!
But I digress. But not by much. Zihuantanejo was famous for resisting the efforts of the central government to develop into another Acapulco. The government built Ixtapa next door (hence the airport) and built high-rise "all inclusive" resorts that are favored by some. But Zihuantanejo remained a sleepy little town with small hotels lining the beach. In the village, they had a bulletin board where people would post pictures of corrupt government officials, and what bribes they asked for. Maybe they couldn't change the system, but they could at least try to shame the people involved. Of course, part of the problem is that government officials and police are paid so little that bribery becomes part of their salary plan. The whole country is messed-up!
Anyway, a reader writes, arguing that if drugs were legal, all of this would go away. I am not so sure about that, although the argument has a core of truth to it. We tried, at one time, in America, to outlaw alcohol, and you know how that worked out. The Mafia and the House of Seagram made millions of dollars supplying the illegal booze. And today, we still have organized crime, although increasingly, much of what was bread-and-butter for the Mafia is now legal. Take that, Libertarians!
For example, in the old days, you went to the corner "Candy Store" and would "play the numbers" or bet on horses or maybe on college or professional sports. Today, the Candy Story is now a 7-11 selling lottery tickets legally. The Off-Track Betting parlor takes your bets on horse races and even sports can be gambled on, thanks to the Supreme Court. In America today, no one is more than a half-hour's drive from some sort of casino - we have one ten minutes from where I live. They put you on a boat and drive it three miles offshore.
And loan-sharking? Why bother when you can legally ruin yourself with a payday loan or a title pawn loan? Loan-sharking is now legal - so what does the Mafia do for a living?
Well, funny thing, even when things are legal, there is still an illegal trade. Reports are coming in that pot is still being sold illegally in States where it has been legalized, as the illegal pot is still cheaper than the heavily taxed legal pot. As I noted before, any criminal enterprise can be profitable simply because it is untaxed. So yes, people sell untaxed cigarettes to make money. People still run moonshine - or did for a long while after prohibition. I suspect if you legalized cocaine, there would still be an illegal market for it.
Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky TopLookin' for a moonshine stillStrangers ain't come down from Rocky TopReckon they never will