A Winning Argument in 60 Seconds: End the War on Drugs

We’re no closer to solving this problem than we were 20 or 30 years ago.

Whenever anybody asks me whether the drug war is working or not it seems to me the answer is obvious.  The war on drugs has been a monstrous failure.  It has failed at its own stated objectives which is essentially to reduce the number of people using drugs.  


It has failed in all the ways that alcohol prohibition failed 70-80 years ago times five or ten or 50.  We now have half a million people behind bars for violating a drug law.  We have over one-and-a-half million people arrested each year.  

We have continuing problems with the number of people dying of an overdose. Last year it was equal to the number of people dying from an auto fatality.  It used to be a three to one ratio between auto fatalities and drug overdoses and now the two are equal.  We have extraordinary levels of violence and crime and corruption in Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean and West Africa. This problem is not inherent to drug markets.  It's the result of failed prohibitionist efforts.  

We’re spending as a society between 50 and 100 billion dollars a year at the federal, state and local level trying to enforce these laws unsuccessfully.  Meanwhile we’re giving criminal records and prison records to a remarkably high percentage of young people of color in this country.  And toward what end?  We’re no closer to having a drug-free society.  We’re no closer to solving this problem than we were 20 or 30 years ago.  So, is it a failure?  Yeah.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock

The world and workforce need wisdom. Why don’t universities teach it?

Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?

Photo: Take A Pix Media / Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
  • The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
  • These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
Keep reading Show less

What the world will look like in the year 250,002,018

This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now

On Pangaea Proxima, Lagos will be north of New York, and Cape Town close to Mexico City
Surprising Science

To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.

Keep reading Show less

Sooner or later we all face death. Will a sense of meaning help us?

As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash
Personal Growth

'Despite all our medical advances,' my friend Jason used to quip, 'the mortality rate has remained constant – one per person.'

Keep reading Show less

3 mind-blowing space facts with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson dives into the search for alien life, dark matter, and the physics of football.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: 3 mind-blowing space facts | Big Think | dotcom
Videos
  • Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson joins us to talk about one of our favorite subjects: space.
  • In the three-chaptered video, Tyson speaks about the search for alien life inside and outside of the Goldilocks Zone, why the term "dark matter" should really be called "dark gravity," and how the rotation of the Earth may have been the deciding factor in a football game.
  • These fascinating space facts, as well as others shared in Tyson's books, make it easier for everyone to grasp complex ideas that are literally out of this world.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…