Learning from the Free Market

When government regulation is completely removed from the picture, business thrives, and one industry has a particularly impressive success story. Its products are produced where costs are low and sold elsewhere with monumental margins. In fact these extraordinary profits help this industry overcome enormous hurdles of distribution; not even incredibly powerful organizations with endless supplies of arms, money and influence can prevent them from shipping on time to happy consumers all over the world. Without the interference of external regulations limiting product design, the resulting products are so effective that customer demand is virtually limitless.

The industry is, of course, the illegal drug market. Thanks to much of the world’s head-in-the-sand policies of prohibition, the resulting black market is free to act with brutal efficiency with no regard for human life. Nixon’s War on Drugs is a collosal failure in every respect, with the only mark of “success” being the criminalization of an enormous percentage of the population. Drug use is up in every age group and deadlier drugs are more commonplace. It’s easier for high schoolers to get marijuana than cigarettes or beer.

Just as the free market gives the illegal drug industry a huge advantage over all our efforts to reduce usage, a free market with reasonable regulation, or, indeed, no market (via direct governmental distribution), is the only solution to this epidemic. Many people throughout society have publicly recognized this to be true, and the evidence is overwhelmingly supportive, so what’s stopping us from wiping out this problem today?

You. And me. Reasonable people that recognize drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal act; people that pretend there’s nothing that can be done about these laws and continue to quietly support politicians who tow these failing policies out of fear or ignorance.

What’s clear is that it’s ineffective to support third party candidates at the presidential level, as true candidate discourse at this level is long dead. We need to concentrate our efforts on letting Democrats and Republicans know that we recognize the absurdity and will  support dramatic reform on this issue. We also need to better inform the public about the harm directly caused by prohibition and the wisdom displayed in the 21st Amendment.

I linked to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition yesterday. You absolutely must read long-time narcotics officer Jack Cole’s story of his participation in the War on Drugs from 1969 to 1984, and its effect on everyone involved. It’s long, so at some point I may try to present this more succinctly.

Why the harping on this issue?

The more I learn about prohibition, the more I see it as an endless hidden war waged on ourselves due to policies we pretend don’t exist. It drags down the entire economy by moving wealth into the hands of kingpins and squandering tax dollars on enforcement, confinement, ER visits, and endless recidivism (thanks to our permanent labeling of suffering and innocent people as criminals). It allows the existence of international criminal organizations to feed demand and cause harm on a global scale.

I don’t see any other issue with such obvious signs of failure and such a clear path towards success.

3 thoughts on “Learning from the Free Market

  1. says:

    Interesting take. Hard to argue with someone who’s been in the middle of it and come out with those opinions. Makes you wonder who’s really the driving force behind keeping the war “on.”

  2. says:

    If politicians were to suggest ending this war you’d see the ads “____ wants to put police officers out of jobs, while letting drug addicts roam your street!” The ill effects of alcohol prohibition hit home because nearly everybody drank. The majority have no problem letting other people suffer as long as they’re “criminal addicts trying to steal my stuff”.

    Part of the problem is that these policies are defined by . Then again, despite , it was the the last attempt to allow some tolerance (suggested by France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Iran).

  3. says:

    Very interesting post. I am a legalization advocate and long time LEAP supporter. Your point about the lack of regulation in the drug trade is well taken, but it overlooks a crucial element. The artificial price inflation that is caused by the drug laws. There are many trades that have little to no regulation, but the high chance of incarceration is what sets the drug trade apart.

    Most citizens do not vote with drug policy reform as priority. People must begin to see all the ways that the drug war affects them even if they do not use drugs. Police militarization, shifting resources from education and many other things are detrimental to society as a whole.

    Unfortunately, incidents like the one involving Berwyn Heights, MD mayor Cheye Calvo must happen more often for the average citizen to be moved.

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