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The War on Poverty and the War on Drugs

July 29, 2014 in Economics

By Randall Holcombe

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As an apparently war-minded people, Americans (or at least, our American political leaders) have been comfortable framing parts of the domestic policy agenda as wars for decades. Two of the most prominent have been the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs.

Despite the similarity in their names, there is an important difference between the two. The War on Poverty is not a real war. The War on Drugs is.

The War on Poverty is not a real war because there is no enemy that we are attacking to fight poverty. Quite the opposite. The War on Poverty identifies poor people and them gives them stuff. Sometimes it is income. Other times it is food, or health care, or education.

If some analogy to war is made, the War on Poverty is more like the Marshall Plan that provided aid to the victims of war regardless of any fault in causing the war. If people are victims of poverty, the War on Poverty gives them stuff, perhaps with the idea that the stuff can help them escape poverty.

The official poverty rate in the United States has not fallen since the late 1960s, so if the idea of the War on Poverty was to reduce poverty, then according to the government’s own statistics, it hasn’t worked. But that’s a different issue. The point here is that the War on Poverty is not actually a war.

The War on Drugs is a real war. It’s name obscures the people who are the combatants. It is actually a war on the buyers and sellers of drugs. The police are arming themselves with military-style weapons and using military tactics to attack the enemy—drug buyers and sellers—and the members of the declared enemy are also taking up arms to defend themselves and their property, partly against the police, but also partly against other citizens. Obviously, the police will not protect the people with whom they are at war, or their property.

Indeed, with civil forfeiture laws, the police will not only seize the property they have declared war against,but all property associated with those they treat as enemy combatants.

For the most part, laws in the United States are written and enforced to protect minorities of any type, whether defined by race, gender, age, sexual preferences, or religion, but the one big exception to protection of minorities is that the War on Drugs has singled out people for persecution based …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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