America’s biggest drug war has nothing to do with Mexican cartels or illicit drugs sold on inner-city ghetto street corners. Instead some of America’s biggest companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Johnson & Johnson are directly decimating cities across America causing the opioid crisis. The tool making this decades-long destruction possible? The Rule of Law.
Indeed, companies hooking tens of millions of people on opioids in the last 20 years literally re-wrote our nation’s laws. They made it easier to turn American communities into drug addict dens. At the same time, these same companies successfully went after regulators standing in their way.
The opioid epidemic and its perpetrators together reveal weaknesses in the Rule of Law . Yes, Rule of Law served us for centuries. Since early human history, entire civilizations flourished under it. Today, nearly every democratic country operates on it.
And yet, it’s clear. Within each of these countries, people, businesses and even governments successfully pervert the Rule of Law. They twist it to meet their needs. In return, towns, communities, families and individuals suffer.
Rule of Law weaponized
Vladimir Putin and many other dictators show how corruptible Rule of Law is. Once Putin got elected, he changed the laws thereby making himself a de facto dictator. Trump tried the same thing in 2021. His posse is trying to do so again in 2024.
Political leaders can use Rule of Law to conduct unjustified wars. Congress authorized one in 2003. The military invasion and occupation of Iraq was based on made-up intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. The government also claimed Iraq’s ruling regime had ties to terrorists. The 9/11 Commission disproved both accusations. Russia justifies its current war with Ukraine on similar dubious cases.
Domestically, the US opioid crisis stands out as the best example of how easily it is to leverage the Rule of Law. It also shows how devastating results can be.
National Public Radio recently reported that opioid overdoses killed over 107,000 Americans in 2021 alone. Scott Higham, a Washington Post journalist reported that the number people dying from opioid overdoses was “the equivalent of a 737 Boeing crashing and burning and killing everybody on board every single day.”
Imagine that. An airline crashing every day. For almost 20 years. How did this happen?
The Big Pharma cartel
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said pharmaceutical industry operatives own those results. They ran their companies drug-cartel style, said DEA officials. Manufacturers acted as kingpins. Wholesalers and distributors acted as middlemen. And pharmacies and doctors operated like street dealers.
The DEA tried stopping the flow of opioids into American cities. They successfully fined manufacturers like McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Mallinckrodt. Their on-the-street interdictions cost distributors plenty in profits, legal fees and fines.
But then the cartel cried “foul.”
They complained to Congress that the DEA treated them like a foreign drug cartel. Of course, DEA was treating them that way. That’s because they operated like one. Unlike drug cartels though, people running these companies had Congress in its pockets.
Joe Rannazzisi, a lawyer, pharmacist and DEA department manager, ran the division policing the drug industry. His aggressive tactics and passion for protecting Americans put him on the wrong side of big Pharma. As he puts it, big Pharma “…didn’t want to obey the law. So they changed the law.”
They leveraged their congressional friends who ousted Rannazzisi and his team. A more compliant and industry-friendly crew replaced Rannazzisi’s department. With his team gone, the cartel made bank as American communities burned.
Making bank on American backs
Several media outlets documented what happened, including the 60 minutes report “The Whistleblower” available on YouTube. As the opioid crisis raged, the board-room-run drug cartel flourished. Hundreds of millions of pills flowed from manufacturing centers to communities all over the country.
Meanwhile, the cartel cozied up to government even more. They hired law firms. They created an industry group. Rule of Law no longer protected people. Instead, it became the cartel’s tool.
Examples such as this happen all day every day. It’s why we say Rule of Law cannot do what it once did. At the very least it does it less effectively than it once had. It’s just too easy to corrupt. Which makes it obviously vulnerable to moneyed interests.
It’s worth the risk
Combined with our amoral currency, Rule of Law allows unscrupulous people to enrich themselves while hurting everyone else. Today’s society helps with that. Today’s society is large, complex and diverse. It’s constantly changing. A tsunami of new information confronts us all. That information often overwhelms regulators. Often regulators and political leaders are out of touch with such changes. So they don’t understand and can’t keep up with information flowing through society.
As a result, the scant chance you’ll get caught makes corrupting Rule of Law an easy choice.
It’s so easy, even if it kills over 200 people a day people will do it. All you need is money. Congressional leaders, as overwhelmed as regulators, will often support such intents.
That’s what happened with big Pharma. No congressional leaders, not even President Obama, opposed the rule changes which destroyed the DEA’s enforcement leverage. According to reports, the reason no one opposed changes is because hardly anyone read the legislation. Even though the actual bill was only a few pages.
Is Rule of Law good enough?
Nearly all the elected officials supporting the measure today refuse to talk about what happened, according to reports. A few recognize their mistake. They wish they had voted differently. Then US Attorney General Eric Holder, and the then DEA chief both strenuously argued against the legislation’s passing. Obviously, such arguments didn’t work.
Thankfully, Joe Rannazzisi didn’t give up. His bosses forced his retirement. Then he kept fighting. Today, Rannazzisi consults to a legal team suing the opioid industry. In addition, 41 state attorneys general together are investigating the industry. Hundreds of counties, cities and towns also are suing. The courts have fined these companies tens of billions of dollars.
Some might say this is how the system works. Justice gets served, eventually. But what about all the decimation and death? What about the ruined communities? Thousands of criminal suits stand pending. But the fact remains hundreds of thousands of people died. Meanwhile, the distribution system still distributes. All thanks to the Rule of Law.
Is Rule of Law good enough? At Copiosis, we don’t think so. Companies and people powerful enough to change laws determine how Rule of Law works and who it protects. As a result neither lawmakers, the Constitution, or regulators are in control. Instead moneyed interests paying off the cogs in the system – lawmakers, regulators and those who work for them – control the rules.
Where’s the accountability?
Over 40,000 Americans are in jail today on marijuana charges. Yet, every executive, board member, manager, or sales person associated with the opioid epidemic remains free.
True, the industry will likely pay tens of billions of dollars to ravaged communities. But that money will not go nearly as far as needed. Meanwhile, these companies’ success created a new competitor. A competitor more than willing to pick up where the companies left off.
South American drug cartels now flood US cities with fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than traditional opioids. It’s easier to make. And the cartels can make it in forms resembling legal prescription pills. So they’re very easy to smuggle.
Meanwhile, DEA rank and file are furious. They’re furious because they’re exhausted. They are exhausted because they’re trying to stop these fentanyl-laced prescription knock-offs. But they’re failing, largely because of what Big Pharma did to the law.
Do we need Rule of Law?
A civil society doesn’t need Rule of Law. The majority of people want to live in harmony. We’ll close this post by contrasting Rule of Law and what could replace it.
The majority of people act in their best interest. They’ll also act in the best interest of others. They cooperate with others too. In other words, most people are civil. Many are even neighborly, kindly, compassionate and generous. When people get desperate, depressed, scared, angered or helpless though, we need Rule of Law.
Or do we? Emotions like these make people hurt others. Then those hurt people want revenge…or justice, thereby perpetuating the cycle.
Rule of Law doesn’t always prevent or break the cycle. Criminals will likely behave criminally despite Rule of Law’s consequences. In other words, the Rule of Law is usually reactive. It gets employed after the criminal act.
Sure, in many cases, the threat of Rule of Law’s consequences prevents a lot of bad behavior. But proactive “carrots” can replace the “stick” that is Rule of Law. Could such “carrots” do better?
For example, we could offer all the necessities everyone needs at no cost to them. That alone would eliminate a lot of desperation, fear, anger and helplessness. A better system could reward people for everything they do that creates value. Not just what the market says merits pay. Under such a system, everyone would receive income whether they work “jobs” or not.
That’s because there’s no one who contributes nothing. Under such a scheme, why would people commit crimes?
Let’s build the future
Taken together these proactive approaches could create a different world. One where every individual enjoys all their necessities without needing income to pay for them. They also enjoy sufficient income to consume common luxuries. If people who pursue their passions get even more income, then we create a civilization of passionate people leading happy lives. Lives that create value for others beyond what bottom lines value.
In the world of humans, incentives are everything.
In such a society people could cultivate more relaxed attitudes towards life. They needn’t work jobs they don’t like. Society could prosper with a fraction of today’s suffering. Designed well enough, out of control, profit driven drug dealing of all kinds could end.
Copiosis offers all this and more. It can even make greed great again. 😂
Will Copiosis totally eliminate fentanyl and opioid use? Not in the short term. But it can reduce circumstances leading to such use.
With Copiosis’ NBR framework, people decide what happens and how. Moneyed interests don’t. Will people reward producers for creating drug-ravaged communities? We don’t think so. The same goes for everything else people care about.
The right incentives can create a saner civilization. Combined with a better income system, incentives can revolutionize human life. We’re for human revolution at Copiosis. So we don’t shy from The New World Order. Instead we’re creating it.
Let’s let go of Rule of Law. We need it no longer. Let’s create the future. That’s Copiosis.