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Sowell challenges the “crusaders” and “deep thinkers” who think every problem has a solution. In an essay on the 1980s drug war – which could just as well be reprinted today following Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s legislation on marijuana – Sowell advocates legalization not as a “solution” but a trade-off. Noting that bootleggers often financed the campaigns to ban liquor, Sowell brings an economic perspective to the issue:
Legalization of narcotics would similarly destroy the profits of today’s drug pushers. There is no way that they can compete with drugs that can be mass-produced cheaply by big pharmaceutical companies.
This is not a complete “solution.” Nowhere is it written in stone that there are always answers in the back of the book. What we can do as a society is to cut our losses. It is bad enough that some people destroy their own lives with drugs. We don’t need to add vast numbers of innocent victims who are robbed, mugged or murdered by addicts trying to get money for a fix.
Sowell also has his eye on foreign policy and applies this paradigm of compassion versus guilt and solutions versus trade-offs. The United Nations was created with the noble, “compassionate” agenda of preventing wars and facilitating peace talks and negotiations. But this emphasis on trying to make negotiations the “solution” to every conflict has unequal costs for different nations:
Nothing is more predictable in any war today than a U.N. call for a “cease-fire” and “negotiations.” Non-democratic aggressors, like the Soviets in Afghanistan or the Syrians in Lebanon, ignore such calls with impunity. But in democratic nations, the political weight of this call from “world opinion” cannot always be brushed aside.
This has made aggression a game of heads-I-win and tails-we-tie.
Those words were published in September of 1983 but almost 30 years later they are just as relevant and accurate, particularly when it comes to the Jihadist war against Israel. This is what Caroline Glick means when she talks about Israel as a “shackled warrior” unable to fight its enemies properly.
A new Sowell column arrives only once a week. However for those who cannot get enough of the thinker’s insights and refreshingly straightforward prose, perhaps it’s time to dig into the archives a bit.
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