America's "Disastrous" Drug Policy

Thank you for having the courage to print "To beat Colombia's guerrillas, legalize drugs in the U.S." (Economic Viewpoint, Mar. 13). Drug Czar Barry McCaffery has said we can't incarcerate our way out of our drug problem, but no one in the business of "controlling" drugs has had the intelligence or courage to complete the logic: If you want to destroy an industry, destroy the basis for its profitability.

The real question is why, in the most powerful capitalist country on the planet, are we unwilling to apply simple capitalist principles to solve this problem? A cynic might point out the millions of dollars that law-enforcement agencies receive from drug-related civil asset forfeiture, or the billions of dollars in income that our current strategy creates for companies in the prison and drug-testing industries, to name just a few. The drug cartels aren't the only ones that will suffer economically if we legalize drugs.

Alan Mason

Aguanga, Calif.

My compliments to Robert Barro for suggesting that we end the chaos in Colombia by decriminalizing drugs. The destruction of another country's economy and society is only one consequence of the drug war. There are others, equally serious and of more proximate interest to Americans: the overcrowding of our courts and prisons, the corruption of our law-enforcement officials, a frightening escalation of crime and violence, and the trampling of our constitutional rights, through:

-- Asset forfeiture (seizing Americans' property on merely the suspicion of a crime)

-- Threats to free speech (such as the government's recently revealed manipulation of TV scripts or its threat to arrest any doctor who even mentioned medical marijuana to a patient)

-- Gross violations of privacy, including the very kind of "unwarranted search and seizure" tactics that drove our founders to revolution.

No one wants kids using--or adults abusing--drugs. But there are viable and constructive alternatives to a policy that is clearly not working.

Alan M. Perlman

Highland Park, Ill.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.