While America’s economic woes have been dominating the news, Mexico has been wracked with terrible drug violence.
One thing that really struck me about the coverage of the violence in the US media is the emphasis on how the drug violence might affect Americans. For example, one commentator remarked, at length, about how US college students should be careful about going to Mexico. Naturally, a clip prominently featuring hot American college girls dancing around in their bathing suits was played. While I took this as an ironic contrast to the seriousness of the violence, no doubt its intended purpose was quite different.
While warning college students is certainly a good thing, the emphasis on how the drug violence might impact Americans does seem to show us as being rather selfish and self-focused. After all, while other people are being murdered, it hardly seems decent to be worried primarily about whether college kids will be able to party wildly in Mexico in safety. In another bit of irony, some college students no doubt help fund drug operations in Mexico by purchasing drugs.
While exact figures regarding criminal activity can be hard to determine, it seems likely that a major consumer of Mexican drugs are Americans. Americans have (or perhaps had) the money to buy drugs in abundance and also the appetite for them. Of course, we also like to preach against drugs and take self-righteous stands as well.
As a nation that consumes a significant amount of these illegal drugs, we would certainly seem to bear some moral responsibility for the drug violence in Mexico and elsewhere. As long as the drugs are in demand and are illegal, then we can certainly expect drug violence to be a relatively common occurrence-not only in Mexico, but elsewhere (including the United States).
People have long called for the legalization of drugs and have contended that doing so would significantly reduce drug violence. After all, the argument usually goes, we do not see beer dealers shooting it out in the streets (unlike during prohibition) nor do we see tobacco companies engaged in violence. The standard counters against this argument tend to be moral in nature.
One moral argument is that drugs are simply immoral and hence must not be tolerated. Of course, the strength of this argument depends on whether drugs are immoral or not (or rather, whether the currently illegal drugs are more immoral than the currently legal drugs).
Another moral argument is based on an appeal to the moral harms of drugs. The contention is that legalizing drugs would create significant harms and harms that presumably exceed the harms caused by keeping drugs illegal.
For example, it might be argued that the damage done by drug using people to themselves and others would exceed the damage done by the problems stemming from drugs being illegal. After all, it could be argued, alcohol is legal and is still involved in many deaths (often automobile related) and health problems. Just imagine the damage that would arise if marijuana, heroin, and such were made legal.
Of course, it would have to argued that drug use would spike dramatically if such drugs were legalized. After all, people already use drugs and those harms are already occurring while drugs are illegal. Perhaps use would spike-if so, this argument might be reasonable.
Another way to cut down on the drug violence would be to significantly reduce demand. If little money could be made from illegal drugs, then there would be far less incentive to engage in such violence. Of course, this would require that drug users give up drugs-or at least cut way back on their consumption. This, however, seems rather unlikely. While most people do not like the violence, it is difficult to imagine people giving up their drug use.
The most likely thing is that people will keep using drugs, they will remain illegal and drug violence will continue in up and down cycles.