A Demonstration of True Compassion

By Harry Browne

February 15, 2000

It is fashionable these days for politicians to talk about compassion.

But it turns out that by "compassion," they mean confiscating other people's money and spreading it around ostentatiously robbing Peter to show off to Paul. Not only is such an act devoid of any real feeling for anyone, it corrupts recipients by hooking them into dependency on someone else's resources.

Today, February 15, we can witness thousands of acts of true compassion. This is the date the Justice Policy Institute estimates the U.S. prison population will reach 2,000,000. More than half these prisoners are non-violent offenders and by far the largest category are non-violent drug offenders.

To mark the occasion, thousands and thousands of people will leave the warmth of their homes to attend vigils in 37 cities. Alongside people whose lives have been affected directly by the insane War on Drugs will be standing people of authentic compassion. They can truly "feel the pain" of the families who have been forcibly separated, feel the terrible injustice inflicted on people who are rotting behind bars for nothing more than smoking, cultivating, sharing, or selling marijuana or some other drug.

Politicians speak of "youthful indiscretions" or "experimenting with marijuana." But for young people today, these aren't indiscretions or experiments; they're felony offenses that can send them to prison for 5, 10, 25 years or even life. And, meanwhile, some of Washington's noisiest Drug Warriors call for increased sentences for drug offenders, but use their political influence to obtain leniency for their own children caught violating the drug laws. For them, compassion begins and ends at home.

The insane War on Drugs may be the worst crisis America has faced in the last hundred years. Fortunately, its days are numbered. All over America, journalists, public figures, and just plain folks are coming to recognize the terrible damage the Drug War has inflicted on our lives. The idea that government could produce a drug-free America was uncontested five years ago; today it is a subject of great controversy; tomorrow it will be looked upon as period of temporary insanity.

One reason I'm running for President is to accelerate the demise of the Drug War. And I want to highlight the injuries that have been inflicted by the people of no compassion.

That's why I've said that, if elected President, on my first day in office I will personally pardon everyone who has been convicted on a federal, non-violent drug charge, order the immediate release of those in prison, reunite them with their families, and restore their civil and voting rights.

I invite you to join those who are demonstrating true compassion on this day of solidarity by joining one of the vigils.