Spot The Odd One Out: 'War On Drugs' Edition

Tyler Durden's picture

USA, USA, USA!!!

As we noted previously, the over-criminalization of America is a relatively recent trend. As Holly Harris notes:

It wasn’t always like this. In 1972, for every 100,000 U.S. residents, 161 were incarcerated. By 2015, that rate had more than quadrupled, with nearly 670 out of every 100,000 Americans behind bars.

The over-criminalization of America is rooted in federal laws and regulations, and state and local governments have followed suite. here is Harris's account:

The burgeoning U.S. prison population reflects a federal criminal code that has spiraled out of control. No one—not even the government itself—has ever been able to specify with any certainty the precise number of federal crimes defined by the 54 sections contained in the 27,000 or so pages of the U.S. Code. In the 1980s, lawyers at the Department of Justice attempted to tabulate the figure “for the express purpose of exposing the idiocy” of the criminal code, as one of them later put it. The best they were able to come up with was an educated guess of 3,000 crimes. Today, the conservative Heritage Foundation estimates that federal laws currently enumerate nearly 5,000 crimes, a number that grows every year.

 

Overcriminalization extends beyond the law books, partly because regulations are often backed by criminal penalties. That is the case for rules that govern matters as trivial as the sale of grated cheese, the precise composition of chicken Kiev dishes, and the washing of cars at the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health. State laws add tens of thousands more such crimes. Taken together, they push the total number of criminally punishable offenses in the United States into the hundreds of thousands. The long arm of the law reaches into nearly every aspect of American life. The legal scholar Harvey Silverglate has concluded that the typical American commits at least three federal felonies a day, simply by going through his or her normal routine.

Federal policies reward states for building prisons and mandating harsher sentences:

...federal incentives for states that safely decrease their prison populations and reconsider ineffective sentencing regimes...would represent a stark reversal of legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which did just the opposite, offering federal dollars to states that imposed harsher criminal penalties and built more prisons, which contributed to the explosion of incarceration rates during the past two decades.

How did we become a Gulag Nation of tens of thousands of laws and regulations and mandatory harsh sentences for non-violent crimes--a society imprisoned for administrative crimes that aren't even tried in our judiciary system? I would suggest two primary sources:

First, the relentless expansion of central-state power over every aspect of life. As I describe in my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change, the state has only one ontological imperative: to expand its power and control. There are no equivalent mechanisms for reducing the legal/regulatory burdens imposed by the state; various reforms aimed at reducing the quantity of laws and regulations have not even made a dent in the over-criminalization of America.

 

The second dynamic is the political reality that the easiest way for politicos to be seen as "doing something" is to pass more laws and regulations criminalizing an additional aspect of life. The state and its elites justify the state's relentless expansion of power and control by claiming problems can only be solved by centralizing power further and increasing the number and severity of penalties.

Criminalization is the ultimate expansion of the state's monopoly on coercive violence. As the state expands its power to imprison or punish its citizens for an ever-wider range of often petty infractions, increasingly via a bureaucratic administrative process that strips the citizens of due process, another pernicious dynamic emerges: the informal application and enforcement of formal laws and regulations.

In other words, the laws and regulations are enforced at the discretion of the state's officials. This is the systemic source of driving while black: a defective tail-light gets an African-American driver pulled over, while drivers of other ethnic origin get a pass.

This is also the source of America's systemic blind eye on white-collar crimes while the War on Drugs mandates harsh sentences with a cruel vengeance. When there are so many laws and regulations to choose from, government officials have immense discretion over which laws and regulations to enforce.

Prosecutors seeking to increase their body count will use harsh drug laws to force innocents to accept plea bargains, while federal prosecutors don't even pursue white-collar corporate fraud on a vast scale.

The over-criminalization of America has undermined justice, the rule of law and the bedrock notion that everyone is equal under the law, i.e. legal egalitarianism.

The over-criminalization of America breeds corruption as the wealthy and powerful evade the crushing burden of over-regulation by either buying political favors in our pay-to-play "democracy" (money votes, money wins) or by hiring teams of attorneys, CPAs, etc. to seek loopholes or construct a courtroom defense.

Meanwhile, the peasantry are offered a harsh plea bargain.

The over-criminalization of America is one core reason why the status quo has failed and cannot be reformed.

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DetectiveStern's picture

I can't remember the source but I think there's a stat that says there are more Americans in jail now then there was at any given time in the Soviet gulags.

CuttingEdge's picture

Turning incarceration into a billion dollar industry constantly in need of "labour" sums up how morally decrepit the USA (or at least its government) has become.

Have no fear, though. The same level of untouchable corrupt shite lording it over the plebs is also pretty much the norm across the pond - it just manifests itself in different ways in Europe.

Stuck on Zero's picture

I wish that incarceration curve reflected the growth in the number of politicians we locked away.

TBT or not TBT's picture

The inflection point happens about a teenager’s a age after LBJ’s Great Society family destruction policy started. Curious eh? Same delay after the 1965 immigration act that opened us to third world immigration.

DPLETTENBERG's picture

The number of trial attorneys in the US is a driving force here too. They have a lot of political clout and are not going to allow any decrease in the number of laws on the books.

The people who are behind bars, on the other hand, have zero political clout.

DoctorFix's picture

The old joke says that the most successful criminal is unknown because they've never been caught.  The truly sad thing is that we see very successful criminals running loose... namely politicians who also happen to be lawyers.

Mr Pink's picture

Where is the last 11 years?

Expendable Container's picture

That's because they've privatised the prison system and there's bucks to be made per intern.....

Buchanan's picture

Their solution is always more government

Iconoclast421's picture

It's like putting a giant steaming turd on your doorstep and then complaining about all the flies. The prison industrial complex keeps growing because these dumbed down sheeple refuse to stand the fuck up and do something about this. Same goes with the healthcare racket and every other damn thing. We are a people apparently begging to be raped. I guess we're all like hollywood actresses...

LawsofPhysics's picture

Such "let the majority eat cake" monetary, social, political, and economic experiments have been tried before, this one will eventually end the same way.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

 

moral hazard can be a real motherfucker...

Lumberjack's picture

This is one case where a different experiment was tried and 200+ years later yielded the same result as all previous ones. Ben Franklin was a wise man and my favorite founding father...If I only could go back in time for a few months...

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/289513.Benjamin_Franklin

1 Alabama's picture

what u dont understand is this one ends w/u being collateral damage( a societal liability), you seem happy about this fact, or r u only entitled to your own facts?

Blue Steel 309's picture

It is difficult to understand, because the complexity is that most blacks and a lot of mexicans really are violent criminals and need to be locked up (at a minimum) so it masks the fact that the whole country is suffering from government tyranny.

I think people would understand the issue, if it wasn't muddled by race realities.

Another reason heterogeneous countries will fail faster than any other.

GoinFawr's picture

"Another reason heterogeneous countries will fail faster than any other."

Hmm, so why hasn't this happened in Canada then, if that is so 'reasonable'?

Stuck on Zero's picture

i.e. the curve exactly matches the growth in the number of immigrants into the USA. European statistics will soon reflect this growth also.

fbazzrea's picture

The prison industrial complex keeps growing because these dumbed down sheeple refuse to stand the fuck up and do something about this.

and what do you suggest?

JohnG's picture

If you need one, get yourself a good damn lawyer.

Proofreder's picture

Popularize and champion Jury Nullification for pot busts.

http://www.famous-trials.com/zenger/99-nullification

Some of the time it works.

DoctorFix's picture

Well, Mr.& Mrs. "Law and order" politicians and police flunkies, will constantly beat the drum for more cops and more prisons because of politically created "problems".  They never cease to instill fear and dependency on their so-called solutions or "protection".

serotonindumptruck's picture

It's a source of cheap, (usually non-violent) revenue.

If local cops target non-violent pot smokers instead of the really dangerous criminals, such as rapists and murderers, then why would cops have a problem with the so-called "war on drugs"?

Benito_Camela's picture

Good point for another reason. If they can incarcerate a bunch of non-violent offenders rather than the violent ones, then they get access to a docile source of slave-level labor. 

 

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/10/15/prison-inmate-work-release-program...

Youri Carma's picture

It's a crazy criminal system setup by psychopaths.

truthalwayswinsout's picture

Under the common law you are presumed to know all the law. Hence, ignorance is not an excuse. But that was when about 40-50 things were deemed to be illegal.

Now there are 100,000's of laws and if all you did was try to know them you would be dead before you get through 1/5th of them.

As as matter of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there is a limit to the sheer amount of what can be made illegal.

While we have judges who pass their own laws about defamation and education and health care, it would sure be nice to have some judges that simply say enough is enough and you cannot do this.

And if you don't think what is happening is dangerous, look at how the small minority of Nazi's who took over Germany by simply controlling judges and interpreting the laws according to National Socialist theory in the same manner in which the majority of the Supreme Court does today. 

Laws are meant to be few and important such that everyone knows what is illegal and legal and no one can interpret it with different theories to make something illegal that never should have been a law in the first instance.

 

LawsofPhysics's picture

yes...

"I give you these 15... < crack > eh err TEN commandments"...

Funny thing about the "law"...

You must remember that all animals are created equal, it's just that some animals are "more equal" than others.

Benito_Camela's picture

What's more, there is a limit to the sheer size of a criminal code that a civilian should be responsible for knowing. Making us memorize the ever shifting/ever growing list of federal, state and local crimes is itself an infringement on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

GooseShtepping Moron's picture

I think the point of the saying is more in the nature of, "Ignorance of the law is not a valid legal defense." It's not that you were presumed to know all the law, it's that you cannot claim ignorance in court as a means of avoiding the penalty, for if you could everybody would do it. That would be the ultimate get out of jail free card.

thinkmoretalkless's picture

People should be free to make their own choices as long a we agree to allow them to experience the consequences whether bad or good.

Bring back “mind you’re own business”.

LawsofPhysics's picture

You mean like allowing BAD management and BAD business models to ACTUALLY FAIL?!?!?!

Hhmm, I guess we should stop bailing out the banking and finance sector with TRILLIONS in FREE money then ?!?!?

"Full Faith and Credit"

1 Alabama's picture

your ability to apply defective human law, never ceases to amaze me

serotonindumptruck's picture

"Bring back “mind you’re own business”."

Perhaps in an ideal world where many people don't suffer from incurable envy, jealousy, and hatred of their immediate neighbors, then your philosophy might be considered practical and perhaps even be considered as a viable plan.

My personal experience has taught me that we live in a world of "snitches" who are incapable of minding their own fucking business.

Sparkey's picture

People don't know their immediate neighbors and the neighbors don't want to know you, people are trouble the less of them you know the less chance one will make trouble for you!

Paralentor's picture

Nancy Reagan's war on Drugs marks the massive uptick in the early 80's.

moonmac's picture

It proves Socialism doesn’t mix well with mixed race nations.

JoeTurner's picture

yes and unfortuantely I think Scandinavia is about to learn the hard way that once your society has been "multicultural" then socialism is no longer possible

 

Benito_Camela's picture

Someone's always got to ruin it with racism. The fact is that socialism doesn't work with mixed CULTURE nations because some cultures, irrespective of race, will have more people doing nothing to contribute to the economy and hence paying taxes rather than collecting welfare, than others. 

 

Thing is in the U.S. it's hard to really pinpoint any one group that abuses welfare more than others because in areas with reduced access to jobs and education both whites and blacks (and presumably Hispanics) are on the welfare dole.  Not sure what that says bout the culture, especially considering that Asians are almost never on welfare. 

JoeTurner's picture

it's strange how almost everything went wrong in America about the time Nixon closed the Gold window and started the fiat-petro dollar mania...

Consuelo's picture

 

 

The 'spike' as it were, really took off during Reagan's term.

Sparkey's picture

Nothing lasts for ever Joe, not the Gold Standard, not the Petro Dollar either, what is coming next and where will Joe and Sparkey fit, that is what we should be thinking about now!

A. Boaty's picture

Conservatives believe in states' rights except for drugs they don't like.

Faeriedust's picture

And religious freedom.  They HATE religious freedom, if it means people can choose to ignore their Churches.

Blue Steel 309's picture

Finally, a TD piece without the veneer of (((MSM))) narratives and newspeak.

A. Boaty's picture

HSBC still launders drug money. In fairness, HSBC execs should go to jail.

Manipuflation's picture

Drugs? Those are cheap.  It took me half the day but I finally tracked down some vanilla beans.  $4 each!!!  Vanilla is going for a pretty penny these days.

Deep Snorkeler's picture

Back in the 1960s, everyone was committing crimes:

1. weed

2. sex before marriage

3. stealing from corporations, supporting mom-n-pops.

4. public nudity

5. draft-dodging

6. sitting during the national anthem

7. moral, public support of US enemies

8. renting motel rooms while faking marriage

9. laughing in church

10. mumbling the Pledge of Allegiance

11. selling bad Acid

Consuelo's picture

 

 

"How did we become a Gulag Nation of tens of thousands of laws and regulations and mandatory harsh sentences for non-violent crimes--a society imprisoned for administrative crimes that aren't even tried in our judiciary system?"

 

Easy.   It's the answer hiding in plain sight and rarely discussed:

Full-time legislatorship.

Full-time politicians and their bureaucrat handmaidens were never part of original construct.  

 


Benito_Camela's picture

 

Overcriminalization extends beyond the law books, partly because regulations are often backed by criminal penalties. That is the case for rules that govern matters as trivial as the sale of grated cheese, the precise composition of chicken Kiev dishes, and the washing of cars at the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health. State laws add tens of thousands more such crimes. Taken together, they push the total number of criminally punishable offenses in the United States into the hundreds of thousands. The long arm of the law reaches into nearly every aspect of American life. The legal scholar Harvey Silverglate has concluded that the typical American commits at least three federal felonies a day, simply by going through his or her normal routine.

 

Presuming these thigs are indeed true, what I find more galling is that missing from this author's (and the government's?) list are high financial crimes and corporate malfeasance. When is the last time a goddamned banker, a Wall Street investment entity (other than obvious Ponzi schemes) or the head of a major corporation (Hello, Wells Fargo, UBS, Goldman, HSBC, Equifax, Volkswagen, etc.) went to trial for criminal charges, much less jail? 

If we can't hold our "elites" accountable, then why do we expect anything other than a militarized police state and mass incarceration for petty crimes for the rest of us plebes? 

metanoic's picture

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes