Søren Roest Korsgaard

Public Enemy Number One: Government, not Drugs!

Governments have learned that laws can be used as revenue and control measures by criminalizing more and more of human activity. Indeed, the term “criminal” is now meaningless as law enforcement has become a greater threat to ordinary people than actual “criminals.”
At an accelerating rate, western governments are criminalizing victimless trivialities for profit and control of the masses. In Denmark, the laws governing unemployment benefits are more than 36,000 pages and grow by almost seven pages daily on average. A massive 20,000 laws have been formulated to control ownership and use of guns in the US. The taxfoundation.org has shown that in order to understand and comply with US tax laws one must go through about 80,000 pages. The UK is more moderate as the British tax code is only in excess of 17,000 pages. On the other hand, the Old Testament’s 613 laws that are spread over 929 chapters appear quite moderate to the totalitarian conditions created by governments. As it is impossible for a person to peruse all the required pages in order to comply with the laws, we are all probable criminals. Thus, the word “criminal” has effectively lost its meaning.
Regardless of which country you find yourself in, the government of that country is everyday criminalizing previously conceived normal behavior in which there is no victim. However, as we shall see in the following, such laws produce millions of victims and “new criminals” who hitherto were law-abiding citizens. Lawmakers and power brokers inform us that without these laws society would explode into chaos and fury, and to ensure order and social control, laws governing every aspect of human behavior must be enacted. They often fail to mention, however, that Nazi Germany was an orderly society kept in place by thousands of laws. As philosopher Jerry Day observes, “Order may be nothing more than evidence of tyranny. Order may be nothing more than the prohibitions on freedom, the elimination of rights and the suppression of liberty. You are just as unsafe when things are too orderly as when they are disorderly [1].”
Coercive monopoly is a term that is mostly used in economics to describe an organization that maintains its status as the exclusive supplier of a certain good or service via the threat of force (legal or non-legal). It is clear that governments exercise coercive monopoly of legislation. They ban competitors from entering the market and are in full control of definition, design, and implementation of legislations. As we shall see via example, this has been a disaster for millions of people in full agreement with the American economist Murray Rothbard who observed that “a coercive monopolist will tend to perform his service badly and inefficiently [2].” 

Public Enemy Number One

A good example to illustrate the disastrous consequences of government coercive monopoly of legislation is that of drug laws. Most governments worldwide have formulated thousands of laws for a variety of arbitrarily chosen substances and waged war on private persons who want to use and distribute these. President Nixon set an example to the world by launching the US War on Drugs in 1971.
While Nixon declared that drugs are “public enemy number one [3],” history has shown that anti-drug policies of governments have resulted in millions of incarcerations, one trillion dollars in tax revenue have been used on a war that is failing and –as we shall see – hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered by reckless anti-drug governments worldwide. The official rationale for launching drug wars is the notorious concept of deterrence. Drug policy initiatives are intended to deter production, distribution, and consumption. Notwithstanding the rationale, numerous detailed reports attest to direct US government involvement in illicit production and distribution of drugs. For example, San Jose Mercury investigative reporter Gary Webb found an abundance of evidence for CIA involvement in drug trade and how they had helped foster the crack epidemic of the 1980s [4]. The Mercury published his findings, after which the CIA used its media assets, such as the Washington Post, to carry on a campaign against Webb to discredit him. Investigative reporters got the message and have not looked into the CIA’s presence in the Afghan opium drug trade despite the massive growth under US occupation of Afghanistan’s opium share of the world market. The Taliban had suppressed the opium trade, but under US occupation the percentage of the world market supplied by Afghanistan rose from about 6% in 2001 to 93% in 2007 [5].

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, 1994-2017 [6] (the vertical  lines represent upper and lower bounds of the 95% confidence interval).

Drug Legislation is a Business Model

An explosion in drug laws and incarcerations saw the light of the day after President Nixon launched the US War on Drugs in 1971. After 50 years of stable incarceration rates, the number of US prisoners went from 161 per 100,000 population in 1972 to 767 per 100,000 in 2007, almost a five-fold increase. In 2007, federal and state prisons and local jails held nearly 2.3 million inmates (over 20% of the world’s prisoners), but if parolees and probationers are included, the total US correctional population exceeded 7 million [7]. If all of them lived in a single city, only New York would have more residents.  
Prisoners have become integrated into the corporate world as privately owned prisons and forced labor have become big businesses. Corporations who owe their low labor cost to prison labor have a vested interest in harsh sentences and expansion of the already seemingly infinite number of laws. Criminalization of virtually everything is furthermore a necessity for the continued operation and expansion of inflated states and consequently, governments on a global scale collect billions of dollars in revenue from penalties and fees. In many countries, the tax burden cannot be significantly increased any further (e.g. in Denmark it is effectively 80%) and the state’s survival and growth are becoming increasingly dependent upon revenue from penalties. Thus, more laws need to be written and enacted.

The Drug War is a Designed Failure

Prohibition of drugs does not deter people from using them. If harsh drug laws deterred people from drugs, not many offenders would be found in correctional facilities with a drug offense on their rap sheet. If we consider the 2015 statistics for people on probation and parole, 25% and 31% respectively had a drug charge as their most serious offense, a total of 1,217,305 people [8]. In 2016, 47% and 15% respectively of federal and state prisoners were in prison for drug violations, their most serious offense [8]. In 2017, federal agents and state police made 1,632,921 arrests for drugs violations whereof 85.4% of these arrests were for possession [9]. These numbers clearly show that harsher sentences do not deter people from drugs. This was also echoed in a study by the Pew Research Center which showed that drug use, drug arrest, and overdose death had no statistically significant relationship with drug imprisonment. That is, higher incarceration rates did not deter people from drugs [10].
Moreover, prohibition leads to secondary crimes as indicated by a study that showed “17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs [8].” If cigarettes, alcohol, and chocolate were outlawed tomorrow, prices would rise, vicious syndicates would appear and people would commit real crimes, including robbery and theft in order to get their preferred stimulant. Prohibition of alcohol in the US and elsewhere produced a new class of criminal activity. It should come as no surprise that a study by Coyne et al concluded that “prohibition is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, at achieving the goals of policymakers both domestically and abroad … the domestic War on Drugs has contributed to an increase in drug overdoses and fostered and sustained the creation of powerful drug cartels [11].”
Getting access to drug war expenditures is notoriously difficult, but a 2010 estimate showed that one trillion dollars in tax revenue have been spent on the War on Drugs since 1971 [12]. Nevertheless a multiyear study, published in the British Medical Journal by Werb et al, concluded that “expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing [13].” It appears that the US War on Drugs has been a disaster for the average American, but has enriched certain powerful organizations.

Governments are the Biggest Drug Dealers

Some governments not only participate in the illegal drug trade, but also approve the production and sale of addictive drugs by private businesses. In the following, the focus is on the US although the dynamics are not much different elsewhere.
Many of the drugs that can be purchased on the street from your average drug dealer have been approved by the FDA, including amphetamines, MDMA, opioids, psilocybin, and methamphetamine. One of these drugs is called Adzenys which is a formulation of amphetamine , even so it has been approved by the FDA for children. This amphetamine drug comes in “great-tasting” fruit and candy flavors for children who do not like taking pills. Possible side effects include addiction, heart attack, and death.
Large pharmaceutical corporations which have deep financial ties to policymakers produce and distribute these drugs on a grand scale. The US government cashes in on the drugs via taxation and through campaign contributions from these multibillion dollar industries. Transparency International concludes: “Pharmaceutical companies can unduly influence national political systems through their large spending power. Pharmaceutical companies often fund candidates that support their position on key issues. Outside of elections, the pharmaceutical industry spends vast sums of money lobbying [14].”
Professor Peter Gøtzsche, former director of the independent Nordic Cochrane Centre, shows in his book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, that legalized drugs kill at least 200,000 Americans and also 200,000 Europeans every year [15]. Half of those people take their drugs as prescribed, the other half die because of contraindications and accidental overdoses. Data from the CDC show that in 2017, heroin and cocaine killed 15,482 and 13,942 Americans respectively. However, 88,000 died from alcohol related causes, over 480,000 from tobacco, but zero died from a cannabis overdose [16]. With these numbers in mind it is clear that the motivational forces behind the War on Drugs are not humanitarian.

The Filipino Holocaust

While it is well-known that the US is the world’s leader in imprisonment of drug users and sellers, it is lesser known that the US War on Drugs has resulted in thousands of killings by police officers and federal agents as well as by other means. As police are seldom held accountable for their crimes, the legal and constitutional protections of citizens are being lost.
Drugwarrant.com lists some of these deaths. In 1999, police officers murdered Ismael Mena when they raided his house looking for drugs. They had the wrong address. In 2000, Curt Ferryman sat in his car when a Drug Enforcement Administration officer knocked on the window with his pistol to get his attention. The gun went off killing Curt. In 2003, Alberta Spruill was getting dressed for work when police officers who acted on a tip related to drugs threw a grenade into her apartment. She had a heart attack and died. It was the wrong address.
In Asia, some policymakers have gone one step further and have systematically exterminated alleged drug lawbreakers. It has been reported that China executes drug offenders, sometimes immediately after sentencing. Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines who has an admitted history of drug use, directed his armed forces and officers in 2016 to indiscriminately murder alleged drug offenders without due process. It has been demonstrated in the Journal of Genocide that Duterte policies satisfy Gregory H. Stanton’s eight stages of genocide: “symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial [17].” A New York Times photojournalist, Daniel Berehulak, has reported that police officers heeded Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all” and shot “anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs [18].” One eyewitness to the ongoing carnage told him that “they are slaughtering us like animals [18].”
It was reported in 2017 that drug law enforcers and death squads directed by Duterte were dumping truckloads of corpses of alleged drug users and distributors at hospitals. Doctors said that the condition of the bodies indicated they had been executed.
Duterte has expressed his genocidal intent and disregard for human rights on numerous occasions in a manner that has few historical precedents. He has said: “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful [19],” and “I don’t care about human rights, believe me [20].” He has even compared his actions to those of Hitler: “Hitler massacred three million Jews [sic]. Now there are three million drug addicts … I’d be happy to slaughter them [21].”
Chito Gascon, the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, stated in December 2018 that the death toll could be as high as 27,000 due to the drug war [22]. Assuming the figure is reasonably accurate and the murders continue at a constant rate, simple extrapolation shows that the drug war will approach 1,000,000 victims by 2100. Duterte will not live that long, but considering his popularity among other policymakers it is not unlikely that the war will continue unabated, especially if the systematic slaughter becomes integrated into the corporate world. While human rights groups and activists have condemned Duterte’s methods, powerful policymakers have, perhaps not surprisingly, perceived it in quite a different light. In 2016, US President Trump and Duterte talked about the drug war among other things. Before Trump is quoted, it is advisable to think of the incredible carnage and horror taking place while they were talking: Execution of children, bodies being hurled onto trucks, mothers crying out hysterically and having nightmares over the loss of their loved ones. Trump told Duterte that you are doing it “the right way [23].”
President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka has similarly praised Duterte’s war on drugs, saying “the war against crime and drugs carried out by you is an example to the whole world, and personally to me [24].” He added, “Drug menace is rampant in my country and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard [24].”

The Mexican Holocaust

This article has briefly looked at the US and Philippine drug wars, but it is worth dedicating a footnote to the Mexican drug war. The government of Mexico decided in 2006 to go tough on drug offenders and militarized the conflict. The murder rate of Mexico had been declining since the 1990s and significantly declining from 2000 to 2007. As a consequence of the war, the homicide rate exploded soon after and reached a record high in 2018 [25]. Depending on which source is relied on, the homicide rate was 9.5 or as low as 7.9 in 2007 per 100,000 inhabitants while statisticians have informed us to deal with a new record high of 29 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 [26].   

The above figure shows the number of homicides cases and homicides rates by type (1997 – 2011) [25]. Note that the drug-related homicides increased from 2,826 to 16,414 between 2007 and 2011. Drugpolicy.org estimates that the Mexican drug war has caused over 200,000 deaths since 2006. No one has ever assumed the task of estimating the all-time death toll of drug policies (indirect and direct death), but it is reasonable to assume that on the global scene millions have perished.

The Portugal Approach 

As opposed to eradication and imprisonment of alleged drug users and smugglers, Portugal decided in 2001 to decriminalize drug use (but not distribution) and made the decision to handle the problem as a social one rather than as a criminal one. For example, people with drug addiction would not be sent to prison, but would instead be directed to a panel of social workers, psychologists, legal advisers and then offered treatment. The government also made many other initiatives including anti-drug campaigns.
In a 2011 paper by Jordan Woods at the University of Arkansas, he showed that problematic drug use, such as intravenous drug use, dropped after 2001 while increasing in neighboring countries. This suggests that “decriminalization may have reduced the most harmful forms of drug use in Portugal [27].” Furthermore, Woods showed that Portugal was unparalleled in the EU in the number of drug related AIDS cases and had the second highest number of HIV cases among drug users. New AIDS cases were increasing while decreasing in France, Spain and Italy. However, “drug-related disease” including new incidents of HIV and AIDS have “declined substantially” post decriminalization [27]. In the years preceding decriminalization, the number of acute drug-related deaths increased every year. From 1989 to 1999, drug related deaths increased more than tenfold, but this death rate declined significantly after decriminalization.

Is Anyone Safe?

There is no reasonable and objective method to assess what constitutes a “drug;” thus, cigarettes are legalized in most places despite the fact that “more deaths are caused each year by smoking tobacco than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor injuries, suicides, and murders combined [28].” Smoking cannabis and other plants might get you imprisoned or massacred in the Philippines, but you can safely walk into a cafe in Amsterdam and smoke, drink or eat cannabis. Legal and moral relativity prevail. Governments in their criminalization schemes might change their definitions tomorrow and start to punish, kill, and terrorize former law abiding citizens. The problem is not drugs, but government overall and especially governments who perceive your body as their property.
Although this article has primarily focused on drug laws and wars. The discussion could revolve around a long list of topics, such as taxation. The universal axiom that nobody has the right to take or molest your property, without your consent, puts the practice of taxation into question. Tax evasion usually results in a lengthy prison sentence or a hefty fine. Recently, China executed tax evaders. If we take into consideration the complexity and length of China’s tax regulations, it would appear that perceived tax evasion could easily stem from mix-ups and misunderstandings (85 million Chinese are illiterate). If taxation violates people’s property rights, i.e. theft, as have been demonstrated in numerous papers, it shows that there is no limit as to what can be criminalized. Civil forfeiture is a non-controversial example of government approved theft. Civil forfeiture allows the US government to seize property (cash, cars, real estate, etc) based on a subjective suspicion of criminal activity. The statistics are mind-boggling: In 80% of the cases charges are never filed against those who have had their property confiscated [29]. You are presumed guilty and you have to prove your own innocence – an almost impossible task for citizens who cannot afford superb legal assistance. A leaked memorandum from 1990 demonstrates the deliberate and criminal nature of civil forfeiture. The US Attorney General stated, “We must significantly increase forfeiture production to reach our budget target …. Every effort must be made to increase forfeiture income [30].”
Many will undoubtedly object to the data and arguments presented here, and simply put the blame on a few bad apples. In this regard, American economist, Dr. Robert Higgs, had this to say:
“We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appears to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop. We need only consider the following:
a. A cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them;
b. Many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked;
c. Therefore every cop has to agree to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked.
There are no good cops [31].”


At any time can harmless activities like smoking a certain plant or any other behavior you consider being a part of your daily activities, e.g. practicing a certain religion, be criminalized and police and federal agents will target you and destroy your existence. Every day governments define the word “criminal” more and more broadly. Eventually, by existence alone we will all be criminals.

About the writer: Søren Korsgaard, author of America’s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer, is the editor of www.crimeandpower.com and webmaster of www.paulcraigroberts.org. Support Søren’s work by donating Bitcoin: 19Z22vsdaKJX4gy8GDy6J8QU1ZZ9EvSoEo   


1. “How Much Criminalization Will You Tolerate From Your Government?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZTMKfTP6P0
2. Rothbard, M. The Ethics of Liberty. New York University Press, 2002, p. 161.
3. “Public Enemy Number One: A Pragmatic Approach to America’s Drug Problem” https://www.nixonfoundation.org/2016/06/26404/
4. Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, by Gary Webb. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1998.
5. “United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 Executive Summary” https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/AFG07_ExSum_web.pdf
6. “United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017 Cultivation and Production” https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/Afghan_opium_survey_2017_cult_prod_web.pdf
7. Parole and probation have grown far beyond resources allocated to support them www.theconversation.com/parole-and-probation-have-grown-far-beyond-resources-allocated-to-support-them-98372  
8. “Drugs and the Correctional System (Prisons, Jails, Probation and Parole)” https://www.drugwarfacts.org/chapter/drug_prison
9. “Total Annual Arrests in the US by Type of Offense” https://www.drugwarfacts.org/node/235
10. “More Imprisonment Does Not Reduce State Drug Problems”  https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2018/03/more-imprisonment-does-not-reduce-state-drug-problems
11. Coyne, Christopher J. and Hall, Abigail, Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs (April 12, 2017). Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 811. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2979445
12. “AP IMPACT: After 40 years, $1 trillion, US War on Drugs has failed to meet any of its goals” https://www.foxnews.com/world/ap-impact-after-40-years-1-trillion-us-war-on-drugs-has-failed-to-meet-any-of-its-goals
13. “The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24080093
14. “Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector” https://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/corruption-in-the-pharmaceutical-sector/
15. Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, by Peter Gotzsche. Radcliffe Publishing Ltd, 2013.
16. Overdose Death Rates https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
17. Is the Philippine “War on Drugs” an Act of Genocide? https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14623528.2017.1379939
18. ‘They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals’ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html
19. Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte tells people to ‘go ahead and kill’ drug addicts https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/philippines-president-rodrigo-duterte-tells-people-to-go-ahead-and-kill-drug-addicts-a7116456.html
20. Rodrigo Duterte: ‘I don’t care about human rights’ https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/rodrigo-duterte-human-rights-160806211448623.html
21. “Duterte: Hitler killed millions of Jews, I will kill millions of drug addicts” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/29/duterte-hitler-killed-3-million-jews-i-will-kill-3-million-drug-dealers/?noredirect=on
22. CHR chief: Drug war deaths could be as high as 27,000 https://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/12/05/18/chr-chief-drug-war-deaths-could-be-as-high-as-27000
23. Duterte: Trump says Philippines tackling drug problem ‘the right way’ https://www.edition.cnn.com/2016/12/03/politics/trump-duterte-phone-call/index.html
24. Duterte drug war ‘an example to the whole world’: Sri Lanka president https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/17/19/duterte-drug-war-an-example-to-the-whole-world-sri-lanka-president
25. Income Inequality and Violent Crime: Evidence from Mexico’s Drug War documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/236161468299090847/pdf/WPS6935.pdf  
26. Number of murders committed per 100,000 inhabitants in Mexico from 2009 to 2018 https://www.statista.com/statistics/714113/mexico-homicide-rate/
27. Woods, Jordan Blair, “A Decade after Drug Decriminalization: What can the United States learn from the Portugese Model?” University of the District of Columbia Law Review (Washington, DC: The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, 2011) Volume 15, Number 1, pp. 19-20.
28. James E. White. Contemporary Moral Problems. Florence, KY: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009
29. “Asset Forfeiture Reform” www.drugpolicy.org/issues/asset-forfeiture-reform
30. “Seized Property In Crime Cases Causes Concern” https://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/31/us/seized-property-in-crime-cases-causes-concern.html
31. “There are no good cops. – Robert Higgs” https://www.reddit.com/r/quotes/comments/3zvx8r/there_are_no_good_cops_robert_higgs/

Author Since: Apr 09, 2019

Related Post