I'm very unlikely to vote for Bob Barr. I'm more of a civil libertarian and he's more of a federalist libertarian. But that's a discussion for another day. For today, via John Cole, I see that Barr has made a statement that I wish more (relatively) serious candidates would stand up and say: the War on Drugs is a failure.
And let me just say, if you have to flip-flop on an issue, this is the way to do it:
I'll admit it, just five years ago I was "Public Enemy Number 1" in the eyes of the Libertarian Party. In my 2002 congressional race for Georgia's Seventh District, the Libertarian Party ran scathing attack ads against my stand on Medical Marijuana.
Today, I am their presidential nominee and will represent libertarians at the top of the ticket on November 4th.
That's right, Bob Barr, formerly the War on Drugs loving, Wiccan mocking, Clinton impeaching Republican is the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party.
Now, you may be asking how this happened and my answer is simple: "The libertarians won."
They were right, I was wrong. That's the way to reverse course.
He admits the extent of the failure:
Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.
America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.
The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs.
Barr is rather short on specifics. He touts a WWE program of vigorous drug testing, and recommends that it be used throughout private industry — again, more a federalist libertarian solution than a civil libertarian solution. But a a significant candidate (again, comparatively) openly calling the War on Drugs a failure and questioning what we spend and whom we incarcerate is huge progress.
I'd like to see the issue addressed in a debate with McCain and Obama. Not happening, though. For a major party candidate, the prospect of coming out and saying we should even talk about decriminalization is unthinkable.
Like Barr, I was a federal prosecutor and put drug traffickers in jail. I was following the law. I now view most of it as wasted time, wasted resources, and a further drop in the bucket of the expansion of federal criminal authority. Like Barr, I was wrong.
By the way, Talk Left is unconvinced, not unreasonably, given Barr's record.
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