Jacob Sullum

The futile effort to stop Americans from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants is the real source of the violence in Mexico, since prohibition creates a market with artificially high prices and hands it over to criminals. "Because of the enormous profit potential," two senior federal law enforcement officials told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, "violence has always been associated with the Mexican drug trade as criminal syndicates seek to control this lucrative endeavor."

The more the government cracks down on the black market it created, the more violence it fosters, since intensified enforcement provokes confrontations with the police and encourages fighting between rival gangs over market opportunities created by arrests or deaths. "If the drug effort were failing," an unnamed "senior U.S. official" told The Wall Street Journal in February, "there would be no violence."

Perhaps it is time to redefine failure. Three former Latin American presidents, including Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo, recently noted that "we are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs." The attempt to achieve that impossible dream, they observed, has led to "a rise in organized crime," "the corruption of public servants," "the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime," and "a growth in unacceptable levels of drug-related violence."

Instead of importing Mexico's prohibitionist approach to guns, we should stop exporting our prohibitionist approach to drugs.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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