Bill Steigerwald

You don't have to be a Harvard economics professor like Jeffrey Miron to know that America's war on drugs has been a lost cause for decades. Now a bloody war between the Mexican government and vicious drug cartels is raging just across our southern border, killing thousands and threatening to spread into the U.S.A.

The Obama administration's response, typically and predictably, is to send more police and troops to try to protect and control the border. But as Miron recently pointed out in a piece for CNN.com, the cause of the violence in Mexico is our country's own misbegotten policy of drug prohibition, which drives the market for drugs underground and creates the same kind of violence, corruption and disrespect for the law among the populace that we saw during our failed war against alcohol.

Miron, who believes that legalizing all drugs is the best way to reduce drug violence on our borders and in our cities, was in Boston when I talked to him Monday morning.

Q: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently blamed our inability to prevent weapons from being smuggled across the border to arm the drug cartels in Mexico for the deaths of thousands of police officers, soldiers and civilians there. She also said it was America's "insatiable demand" for drugs that fuels the violence on the border. Should she have emphasized that "demand" part of it more?

A: Well, no. Of course at some level she's right. If there were no demand for drugs, there would be no drug market. It wouldn't matter whether we prohibited drugs; there would be no violence. But there is going to be a demand for drugs whether we like it or not, and if we drive the market underground we are going to have many more negative side-effects of that market than if we were to adopt a regime of legalization.. I think she is really missing the key way in which (the U.S. policy of drug prohibition) is responsible for the current situation.

Q: Can you give me your sound-bite synopsis of what you think America's war on drugs is?


Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..