End the War on Drugs

And while you’re at it, Mr. President, reduce the deficit and protect us from asteroids, too.

01.02.10 6:34 PM ET

Were I able to determine President Obama’s agenda for 2010, I’d presume that the Iraq drawdown is going to continue apace; I’d delegate responsibility for an Afghanistan strategy; and I’d prioritize the following additional items:

—Deficit reduction: We’re spending too much, borrowing too much, and facing unsustainably high interest payments on our outstanding and projected debts. It’s time to get our fiscal house in order. For a start, I recommend means-testing Social Security and Medicare, ending farm subsidies, repealing prevailing wage mandates for government contracts, abolishing public employee unions, phasing out the mortgage deduction, and reducing America’s role in policing the world.

—End the War on Drugs: Surely there is a better way to invest the billions we squander on this obviously doomed effort at home and abroad. Develop a sane system for regulating narcotics, stop sending people to jail for mere possession, and eliminate the black market that kills so many people in our country and destabilizes so many governments outside it.

—Reform the Criminal Justice System: Improve the nation’s forensic labs by requiring that they be run independently from law enforcement and undergo regular surprise audits. Implement criminal sanctions for prosecutors who fabricate evidence of guilt or willfully withhold exculpatory evidence. Restrict sex-offender registries to rapists and child molesters. End no-knock raids. Implement better oversight of expert witnesses. Actively attempt to identify wrongly convicted people.

—Safeguard Against Catastrophic Events: We’re insufficiently prepared for a pandemic disease, certain natural disasters, presently unseen space objects careening toward Earth, and various kinds of terrorist attacks. It would be good to assess these threats and do a better job averting and/or preparing for them.

—Transform legal immigration: It ought to be an effort to recruit the smartest, most productive people we can to work and live here as fully equal, lifelong citizens, rather than a system that privileges being from certain countries, winning a lottery, or having family members already here.

Conor Friedersdorf, a Daily Beast columnist, also writes for The American Scene and The Atlantic Online's ideas blog.