In what will likely be seen as something of a Freudian slip by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said recently in a Mexican news interview that the United States cannot legalize drugs as a means of fighting the black market because "there is just too much money in it."
Asked by Denise Maerker of Televisa what she thought of drug legalization, Clinton said it was unlikely to work.
"There is just too much money in it," Clinton said. "You can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped. They can’t be given an even easier road to take, because they will then find it in their interest to addict even more young people."
The comments drew criticism from legalization advocates who argued her position was a misunderstanding of the situation.
"Clinton's response illustrates not only the intellectual bankruptcy of the prohibitionist position but the economic ignorance of a woman who would be president," Jacob Sullum argued at Reason.com.
Clinton evidently does not understand that there is so much money to be made by selling illegal drugs precisely because they are illegal. Prohibition not only enables traffickers to earn a "risk premium" that makes drug prices much higher than they would otherwise be; it delivers this highly lucrative business into the hands of criminals who, having no legal recourse, resolve disputes by spilling blood.
At the Drug War Chronicle, Scott Morgan called Clinton's argument "perfectly incoherent" and argued it flew in the face of economic theory.
I can't help but wonder what everyone on the left would say if this preposterous analysis came from Sarah Palin, rather than Hillary Clinton. It's the sort of profound nonsense that ought to get you skewered by Jon Stewart, yet our Secretary of State will almost certainly get a free pass on misunderstanding literally everything about the escalating violence below our border.
Clinton's interview focused mainly on Mexico's drug war, which was launched in 2006 by President Felipe Calderon and has cost an estimated 34,000 lives, including more than 1,000 minors.
The toll's severity prompted former Mexican President Vicente Fox to come out in favor of legalizing drugs as a way of taking the steam out of organized crime.
President Calderon has not gone as far himself, but did approve legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of most recreational drugs, and has called for a debate on new approaches to dealing with drugs.
-- With additional reporting by Stephen C. Webster