Now that President Obama has exerted “executive privilege” — the president’s unique and quite imperial ability to avoid accountability to the public — the spotlight is shining even brighter on the lethally unsuccessful Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation.
As a result of the ongoing investigation, the Department of Justice has shelved the imbecilic tactic of permitting known criminals to transfer weaponry to violent gangs, and Attorney General Eric Holder will, one way or another, soon be out of a job.
But amid the partisan-fueled scandal, too few are questioning the reason Mexican criminals find it profitable to murder so many people year after year. We know these thugs have an insatiable desire for powerful guns, but why?
The answer, as ever, is the official policy of the U.S. government to prohibit the legal trade of drugs from Mexico.
The War on Drugs is the reason Operation Fast and Furious was conceived. It’s also behind the deaths of 50,000 innocent Mexicans over the last five years, the deaths of 10,000 Americans each year, the imprisonment of 1 million Americans each year and the spending of $44 billion of taxpayer funds annually.
Mexican drug cartels create $39 billion in profits yearly through the trade of illicit substances such as marijuana. It is obvious prohibition does not make the drug lords’ costs of doing business high enough to dissuade them from engaging in this business. To the contrary, the policy itself permits the cartels to profit handsomely from many people’s deaths. By restricting the supply of drugs artificially, prohibition raises prices and pads criminal monopolists’ bottom lines.
In essence, $44 billion from U.S. taxpayers subsidizes $39 billion in profits for Mexican drug cartels.
How’s that for crony capitalism?
And if you still have the mistaken impression that the top goal of government drug warriors is to prevent mind-altering substances from reaching the hands of vulnerable young people, think again. Just as government agents watched recently as known criminal gun-buyers collected huge caches of firearms, they also permit traffickers of drugs such as cocaine to deliver product to buyers in the United States.
The main reason the War on Drugs continues is because it permits some Americans to think the government is “doing something” to prevent young people from ruining their lives through drug abuse. Yet, in practice, the War on Drugs shifts the costs of drug use from willing users to the completely innocent.
Operation Fast and Furious is another reminder that those who govern are mortals who make mistakes, sometimes big ones. And the more government does, the more everyone must suffer from its mistakes.
As we examine who knew what between 2006 and 2011, we should also not miss this opportunity to seriously evaluate the over 40-year mistake of a bad policy that harms the innocent every day at everyone’s expense.
Richard Lorenc is the executive director and co-founder of the Liberty Markets Fund for Freedom.