I understand this type of argument is frequently tendentious and rarely persuasive, but I think it is truly apt in this case: if one of the casualties of the drug war was that things like this were happening in middle class American towns there would be no drug war

Just after Christmas, drug hitmen rolled into the isolated village of Tierras Coloradas and burnt it down, leaving more than 150 people, mostly children, homeless in the raw mountain winter….

On December 28, two days after the initial raid, a column of 50 to 60 men, some in military-type uniforms and ski masks, filed on foot down a steep mountain road and torched three dozen homes — about half the village — as well as two schools, 17 trucks, the radio receiver and the community store.

The attack on Tierras Coloradas is one of the most dramatic examples yet of a still largely hidden phenomenon of Mexico’s drugs war: people forced from their homes by the violence.

It’s hard to grow up in any class in America without knowing someone with some kind of drug problem. So when voters in this country think about the costs of decriminalization, I think they’re probably mostly considering the people they know who would have developed worse drug problems had they been more available. What they don’t think of are the Mexican villagers being harassed and murdered because our drug laws create profit centers for their criminals.

Who we are or aren’t thinking about is important, because the only way the utilitarian calculus of our drug laws comes down in favor our of current system is if you value the well-being of Mexicans as being worth an order of magnitude less than Americans. Even then you’d probably have to value the welfare of the Americans who are rotting in jail for non-violent drug crimes very low in order to tip the utilitarian scales in favor of current policy. Something is dreadfully wrong with our social welfare function if we can’t clearly and unambiguously declare that the costs of the status quo are vastly outweighing it’s benefits. I suspect the problem is the people whose welfare we aren’t fully considering.