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Stuart McMillen, a young comic artist residing in Australia, has created a lovely illustrated guide to the social impact of the War on Drugs. It cuts right to the heart of prohibition policies without requiring that the audience read paragraphs of “boring” history and political science/cultural analysis. Beautifully illustrated and succinct in its analysis of the danger of prohibition, this comic will surely helps sway those who are not interested in reading the plethora of historical and analytic information available that shows the dangers and damages of the War on Drugs. Originally published in 2012, this comic remains relevant and powerful today.
The world-renowned economist Milton Friedman plays a crucial role in this comic, which explores his early opposition to the War on Drugs and his predictions about what said war would do to American society. McMillen deftly illustrates how difficult it is, after decades of prohibition, for most people to separate the real dangers of the chemicals themselves from the dangers being created by prohibition.
Friedman predicted that criminal prohibition of drugs would not reduce demand for said drugs, that, in fact, by making them illegal the government would make these substances into tempting “forbidden fruit” that young people would be more interested in seeking out and trying. He predicted that criminals and unscrupulous people would enter the black market upon realizing the massive profit margin that prohibition could create for them, and that the increase in price of drugs correlated to prohibition would create a wave of crime committed by those who needed to purchase drugs. The producers of drugs would also be drawn to more addictive substances, in order to maintain a strong demand for their product.
Friedman also predicted that the criminalization of drugs would lead to an overall decrease in respect for the rule of law, leading to more people disobeying laws of every kind, just not the prohibition laws. He predicted an increase in law enforcement and political corruption, leading to an increase in citizen incarceration and a diversion of funding from the pursuit of violent crime to the pursuit of non-violent drug offenders. Friedman did not believe that criminalizing drug users would cure them, but rather drive them underground, making them more likely to commit other crimes and less likely to seek help for their addiction and its underlying causes.
The follow-up comic exploring “Rat Park” and the science of addition as studied by Bruce Alexander is equally insightful and moving for those struggling to understand the root causes of and best treatments for addiction. He has also recently published an amazing 120-page comic called “Peak Oil.“
McMillen is currently working on a full-length graphic book. Readers can support his work on Patreon (rewards include receiving postcards hand-written by McMillen and featuring his art) and follow him on Facebook for updates about new comics and essays exploring his comics.