To fulfill the promise of the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko needs a legal reform and a public health reform. A legal reform is simple to define: all laws must be based on a win/win principle. Public health reform means defeating the epidemics of AIDS, TB, drug and alcohol abuse. The Revolution was a reaction to Ukraine’s being a lose/lose society, a society where, in most social interactions, participants sought to inflict damage on one another. The Revolution proclaimed that it should not be so: each interaction can, and should, be structured to benefit all those involved.
Let us start with the legal reform. A law can no longer be defined simply as any rule that a Parliament happened to pass. A law should appear in response to a social interaction that has a potential to be resolved on a basis other than a win/win, this law should require that such social interactions be resolved on a win/win basis, and it should formulate a method whereby such a resolution should be achieved. All existing Ukrainian laws must be tested to see if they fit these criteria, and it will be discovered that most Ukrainian laws seek to impose a lose/lose solution. In some cases, a law may seem to be decreeing a win/win solution, but then it usually fails to point to a realistic way whereby such a solution could be achieved. And this is not surprising: framers of the law almost never start with an achievable win/win solution as a goal to which a social interaction that is being regulated must be directed: instead, they tend to come up with a win/lose solution, designating the guilty or simply the weak. But such a win/lose solution is very unstable, tending to transform itself into a lose/lose or, rarely, and by extra-legal means, into a win/win.
I will now formulate a set of laws aimed at defeating the epidemic of drug abuse, Ukraine’s most threatening public health and law enforcement challenge. The paradigm is always the same: first, the realities and the inclinations of people must be clearly stated, and then the losses of all sides must be minimized and the gains maximized.
Current approach to the problem is lose/lose in its full glory: it assumes that malnourished policemen would refuse huge bribes, it exposes young people to drugs and AIDS, adds tens of thousands to prison population - and sees the drug situation rapidly becoming worse.
Search for the win/win solution starts by recognizing the realities: (a) drugs will be offered to the public until it is profitable to do so and (b) those already addicted need their fix. The solution thus is a combination of giving their fix to the addicted and making sales of drugs unprofitable. Both of these are simultaneously achieved when the price of drugs is reduced to zero. Now all we need to do is to create this price for both categories involved: for the addicts, it means free distribution, while for the dealers and producers it means lack of the market and/or risks that are greater than benefits.
Here is the crux of the problem: if drugs could be sold at great markups, drug dealers will concentrate their efforts on creating new addicts, distributing drugs for a free trial, creating venues conducive to drug use, and trying to convince people that drug use is glamorous. Our primary goal is to make sure that there are no new addicts, and this can only occur when hooking a person on drugs is no longer profitable.
From that, comes the solution. Specialized medical institutions should dispense drugs for free to registered addicts, and the drugs must be taken only on the premises, under medical supervision. Psychological counseling must also be provided for those addicts who request it.
Today the existing laws force addicts into the circumstances in which they are likely to cause unnecessary additional harm to their health, be it by taking drugs mixed with harmful substances, overdosing, using dirty needles, or attending crime-ridden shooting galleries. Thus, addicts risk contracting AIDS, hepatitis, and STDs: against their will, just because of ill-conceived laws, addicts are turned into a mortal epidemiological threat to the society at large.
Since drugs are expensive, addicts turn to crime to support their habit. They start by financially ruining themselves and their families and then proceed to robbery, theft, and prostitution, turning themselves into criminal and public health hazards. Eventually, they end up in jail or in the hospital, thus becoming a burden on public finances. Thanks God that insulin or aspirin are not illegal!
Since drugs are illegal and the customers are hooked, dealers are able to sell drugs at immense markups to their true production costs. Just like sugar is a concentrated sap of sugar cane, heroin is a concentrated sap of an opium poppy and cocaine is concentrated sap of a coca plant. Cocaine and heroin could probably be produced roughly at the price of sugar, and yet they cost 10,000 times more than sugar. These profit margins far outweigh the risks run by drug dealers.
With millions of addicts as active customers, criminal syndicates earn billions of dollars. These billions are spent on four main activities: first is keeping drugs illegal so that they continue to be expensive and the bonanza will last; second is attracting new addicts, since each new addict means additional profits; third is corrupting the law enforcement, especially in keeping up their all-important resolve to continue the “war on drugs”; and fourth overtaking legitimate businesses, starting with banks and establishments that would facilitate recruitment of new addicts and distribution of drugs. I repeat: just like a diamond is nothing but a piece of hardened graphite, worthless without its image; drug lords need the war on drugs to maintain their high profit margins.
Here is what we do: first, we artificially create conditions where it is hugely profitable to hook someone on drugs, then we expose these victims to additional hazards because their habit is illegal, then we turn these victims into criminals, expose the society-at-large to diseases like AIDS, and finally, at great cost to ourselves, put drug addicts and dealers in prison. A person had a great misfortune of becoming chemically dependent, and we turn him into a criminal. A perfect example of a lose/lose approach.
The most important feature of the specialized medical institutions that would dispense drugs to addicts for free is that it would be impossible to leave the clinic with the drug. Now, every instance of drug use outside of the clinic would stand out as a sore thumb. Since drug use outside of the clinic would be illegal, it would be possible to incarcerate an intoxicated person until he reveals the source of drugs that he used and helps to convict the dealer on charges similar to attempted murder. Now, it would be both extremely dangerous and absolutely unprofitable to introduce another person to drugs. Hard drugs will disappear from the Ukrainian market, and the only way to start using them would be to go abroad.
The cost of such a program will be small as drugs cost very little to produce. If we add up all the costs associated with drug abuse now - lives lost, corruption, crime, spread of AIDS, people in jail - a hundredfold decrease of the social cost of the drug epidemic could be expected. But even that is not the main argument: current approach to drug problem threatens very existence of Ukrainian society.
Some people say that giving drugs to addicts is immoral. But this objection simply refuses to deal with reality of drugs being widely available. An addict will get his fix on the street, but in so doing he will financially ruin himself, commit a crime, get a communicable disease, endanger others, financially reward a crime syndicate, and create an incentive to recruit more drug users. Instead, a medical institution would turn drug addiction into a serious, but treatable disease, somewhat similar to diabetes that has a much lesser impact than today on the addict’s quality of life, health, and life expectancy. Moreover, an opportunity to quit will always be offered. The subculture of drug use will be separated from the society at large by the walls of a specialized medical establishment. This proposal is not tolerant of drug abuse at all: on the contrary, it creates a very inhospitable atmosphere for drug distributors and offers maximum protection to citizens.
Here is the secret: when you write laws aiming to reach a win/win solution, you are not afraid to see the reality as it is, even when it is horrible, because you are confident of victory, but when your arsenal is limited to the lose/lose and win/lose solutions, you tend to deny the reality because you know you cannot improve it. For example, how can we expect to reduce corruption in Ukraine while keeping a multi-billion dollar drug industry illegal and yet thriving? The Orange Revolution demanded much more than to install Yushchenko as President: it was about creating a win/win society.