“The history of corruption is really the history of reform” — Walter Lippmann
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
That’s the question put to Americans monthly by Gallup, which reports that they consistently respond by saying the biggest non-economic problem is government corruption.
But as one historian warns, change has brought about a new style of corruption that exposes the American economy to a danger previously unknown.
Another, contemporary trend, altogether new in its scope and magnitude, is the spread of corruption financed by the stupendous resources of the illegal drug “industry” – gross sales of which neared the $120 billion mark in 1988, far exceeding the combined profits of the nation’s five hundred largest industrial corporations.
Top Cash Crop
However, experts argue that a significant amount of the corruption can be stopped by repealing the federal prohibition on marijuana. It’s estimated that marijuana accounts for more than half of the annual $10-billion cash flow from American drug consumers to Mexico.
“Legalizing grass in the U.S. would mean increased competition for Mexican exporters and lower profit margins, thereby depriving the monopolies of important income,” a leading economist says, explaining how legalization would help put an end to the Mexican cartels that monopolize much of the new corruption.
Ending marijuana prohibition — taxing its profits to help eliminate the deficit — is an issue that interests a growing number of Americans, like the cancer patient who was surprised to discover how many of her friends and neighbors were responsible users.
What really shocked me was how many of my old, dear, married, parenting, job-holding friends smoke pot. I am not kidding. People I never expected dropped by to deliver joints and buds and private stash. The DEA could have set a security cam over my front door and made some serious dents in the marijuana trade. The poets and musicians were not a surprise, but lawyers? CEOs? Republicans? Across the ideological spectrum, a lot of my buddies are stoners. Who knew?
We can overcome disappointing change in patterns of corruption by adapting and improving on the best of our tradition in the ongoing fight against the economic fallacy of marijuana prohibition. We have not yet begun to succeed — join me
Edwin G. Burrows, “Corruption,” in The Reader’s Companion to American History, eds. Eric Foner and John Garraty (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991).
Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “The Economics of Drug Violence: Competition in the narcotics trade is preferable to monopolistic syndicates,” The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2010.
Diana Wagman, “The Cancer Drug,” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2007.