In the middle of Anthony DiStefano’s column “The real issues of the 2020 election” he asked one good question. As usual, most of his column advocated more collectivism (moving towards socialized medicine, expanding government’s role in education, taking more from those who have to reduce “economic inequality,” spending our taxes to rebuild infrastructure and create jobs, curbing free speech nd buying into the falsehood of catastrophic, man-made climate change).
His good question was, “How many of these [2.3 million] people are in jail for victimless crimes?” Unfortunately, his implicit answer to that question is: “Capitalism is to blame because many prisons are private and more prisoners means more money for those companies.” I agree that prisons should be government-run but that is not the reason there are so many in prison.
I wish he had applied some thought to his question and known two important facts: 1) that the purpose of government is to protect individual rights and 2) that the only way to violate an individual’s rights is to use force to cause him to act against his choice. Then he could have raised the deeper question of “Why do we have laws that imprison people who have violated no one’s rights?”
The answer to this question is that collectivists of every stripe have used politics to enforce their morality. The left is the prime mover behind the “nanny state” restrictions of freedom and the religious have been behind moral restrictions such as on sexual practices and abortion (mostly in the past).
Both have favored the laws responsible for more than half of today’s prisoners – the drug laws. It’s too bad that Americans did not learn from that terrible experiment called prohibition. Possibly the most effective legal reform would be to legalize drugs. The "War on Drugs" is responsible for gangs, organized crime, filling jails with people who have violated no one's rights, paying for 10,000 DEA agents, militarizing the police, corrupting many police officers, leading to unnecessary confrontations between motorists and cops, driving up the cost of policing, and other bad effects on U.S. citizens.
If Mr. DiStefano wants to reduce the number of people in jail for victimless crimes, he should argue for legalizing drugs.