.: Noam Sayin'? The High Times Interview with Noam Chomsky

Brandon Bird: "Signifier and Signified"

Noam Chomsky  - interviewed by T.A. Sedlak - High Times, July 29, 2011

Q: You've spoken out against the War on Drugs, explaining that it's
essentially a means to lock up poor people, that it actually increases
drug use, and that it serves as an excuse to control foreign nations.
Would you briefly elaborate on these points?

A: Let's grant that there's a drug problem, for the sake of argument --
drugs meaning, you know, cocaine, marijuana and so on. Suppose you
accept that. How do you deal with it? There are studies -- government
studies and others -- that say that the most cost-effective way is
prevention and treatment. More expensive and less effective is policing;
still less effective and more expensive is border interdiction. And the
most expensive and the least effective is out-of-country operations,
like what they call "fumigation" -- which is, in fact, chemical warfare
-- in Colombia and so forth. I've seen it firsthand; it really is
chemical warfare. So those are the basic facts, and I don't think anyone
questions them very much.

Now take a look at the way the Drug War is conducted over the past 40
years. It goes back farther, but start from 40 years ago: There's very
little spent on prevention and treatment. There's a lot on policing, a
ton of stuff on border control and a lot on out-of-country operations.
And the effect on the availability of drugs is almost undetectable; drug
prices don't change on measures of availability. So there are two
possibilities: Either those conducting the Drug War are lunatics, or
they have another purpose.

Well, in the law, there's a standard way of trying to determine
intention, and that's by looking at predictable consequences. You have
40 years of experience with almost no effect on what they claim they're
trying to do, and you have very predictable consequences -- in fact,
several. At home, you lock up the people who are essentially
superfluous. The economy shifted dramatically in the '70s away from
domestic production and towards financialization and the export of
production. That leaves a class problem: What do you do with unemployed
workers? We happen to have a very close class/race correlation in
America, so that means, overwhelmingly, black males and Hispanic males.
Well, you know, we're a civilized country, so you don't assassinate them
-- you stick them in jail. And, in fact, the incarceration rate has
been shooting up, especially since the early '80s; it's now way out of
line with any other comparable country. Meanwhile, overseas, the War on
Drugs contributes to counterinsurgency operations. So a rational
conclusion is that those are the purposes. The only alternative I can
think of is sheer lunacy....'

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