Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Economist Says: Legalize It

The Economist (1989): Drug prohibition cruelly compounds the problems it was meant to solve. So end it. Legalise, control, discourage: those are the weapons for U.S. Drug Czar Bill Bennett's war.

The Economist (2009): Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.


30 Comments:

At 3/05/2009 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them do anything they want. Darwin will sort them out.

 
At 3/05/2009 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them do anything they want. Darwin will sort them out.

Let's hope that they don't get "sorted out" while piloting a 747 full of innocent people.

 
At 3/05/2009 7:38 PM, Anonymous jrich said...

Let them do anything they want. Darwin will sort them out.

Anon 7.30, normally I would agree with this sentiment (if people want to smoke, fine; if people want to eat all kinds of fatty foods, fine; if people want to be lazy and sit on their asses at home, fine, but they deserve to starve), however in this case, I would disagree.

Drunk driving statistics bear out that all too often it is the innocents who are sorted out. The question remains...what to do?

 
At 3/05/2009 8:01 PM, Anonymous Justin said...

Maybe we should prohibit the sale of alcohol...oh wait we already tried that. I guess it didn't work for some reason. Lets face it, humans enjoy altering their consciousness. JRich, those kind of problems, which are unfortunate, would go under the 'control' catagory.

 
At 3/05/2009 8:27 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Effective humanitarian rehabilitation programs are needed to help drug abusers. For example, when firms offered employees who smoked cash incentives to stop smoking, it had an effect on reducing smoking.

Effective rehabilitation programs will reduce global drug trafficking, health risks, poor value judgments, lost productivity, negative externalities, etc.

Of course, some people believe taking illegal drugs, drinking, smoking, etc. is not a problem, and may remain in denial, until they OD. Moderation may be OK, but not everyone can control their habits.

 
At 3/05/2009 9:29 PM, Blogger jr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3/05/2009 9:31 PM, Blogger jr said...

Justin, in the interest of being consistent, would you be willing to let poverty run its course and weed out those who are a drag on our economy? I'm just curious.

I find it fascinating that many proponents of natural selection seem to be against it when it come to letting it run its course among homo sapiens.

 
At 3/05/2009 9:36 PM, Blogger QT said...

jrich,

What evidence is there to support your claim that illicit drugs cause driving impairment? To my knowledge, the scientific evidence is less than clear cut on this question.

One must be very careful to establish the facts particularly with such a highly politicized issue. Would appreciate any information you can provide on this question. Thank you.

 
At 3/05/2009 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you people ever smoked a joint in your life?
Firstly, legalizing weed doesn't mean it's perfectly ok to smoke before your job.
Secondly, I would much rather have my pilot be high than drunk. They might forget where they're going, but they aren't going to lose any motor coordination.
And lastly, you can't OD on weed. Ever. I've seen people smoke more than anyone should. You just get real sleepy and crave Doritos. Oh what a horrifying drug!

In principle I believe that drugs should be legalized, but I recognize the negative effects it may have on our society. Marijuana, though, is a slam dunk for the federal government to legalize and regulate.

 
At 3/05/2009 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm just curious." jr

Liar.

You shouldn't have chosen poverty as your bogus strawman. Most people in poverty in the U.S. are there temporarily. They work their way out of poverty. America, what a country.

 
At 3/05/2009 11:00 PM, Anonymous jrich said...

QT, I wouldn't classify it as a problem of "illicit drugs" but drugs in general, prescription, OTC and illicit drugs. Obviously the effects of drugs are going to vary from drug to drug.

A drug like methamphetamine can cause psychological effects that would make driving dangerous, such as extreme euphoria or the "Superman Syndrome" sometimes associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

On the other hand, a drug like marijuana, can impair motor function/coordination to varying degrees (and considering the low toxicity of marijuana-i.e. you can't OD on pot-actual levels of impairment can be widely varied).

In addition, these same effects can be felt with prescription drugs to varying degrees, which is why DUI includes more than just alcohol intoxication. It includes alcohol, as well as legal and illicit drugs.

The article you linked is interesting in that it would seem to support the idea of waiting to legalize so many drugs until a greater understanding of exactly what effects they have and a means to measure levels of them effectively.

Drugs like Ambien or Benedryl can easily impair one's ability to drive (and can lead to a DUI), depending on the person and the dosage. These drugs are clinically tested so that their effects are well-known. Most, if all, illicit drugs are hardly understood so well. Also, there is already a difficulty in detecting impairments due to legal drugs (both prescription and OTC), why add to the difficulty by legalizing currently illicit drugs whose physiological effects are less known.

Legalization will have costs associated with it (some outlined in the article you linked like wasted police hours, others are associated with the drug itself including its regulation and also treatment). Until those costs are weighed, legalization should be tabled.

 
At 3/05/2009 11:01 PM, Blogger bix1951 said...

follow the money

 
At 3/05/2009 11:38 PM, Blogger jr said...

Anon 10.55-

Poverty is perfectly legitimate. You're right that most people in poverty may be there temporarily, and if they work their way out, then so far as natural selection is concerned they will be spared. However, some are in a lifestyle of poverty and, without charitable or governmental intervention (enabling?), they would not survive, hence natural selection is inhibited by the unnatural effects of charity and/or government intervention.

 
At 3/06/2009 7:10 AM, Blogger Paul Hue said...

I think that many of the drug prohibitionists confuse what they desire (people abstaining from recreational drugs) with:

1. What is POSSIBLE.
2. What is CONSTITUTIONAL.
3. What is ETHICAL.

Their attempt to obtain what they desire via drug bans is impossible, unconstitutional, and unethical. Furthermore, it results in consumers ingesting drugs that are non-standardized and adulterated, leading to people getting much higher than they otherwise would.

Then factor in the much higher prices caused by the ban, and you have these much higher-than-otherwise people running criminal drug operations and committing crimes to get money to purchase drugs. Now you have a drug prohibition perfectly producing all the consequences that it aims to prevent: overly high people harming persons and property in society.

 
At 3/06/2009 8:18 AM, Blogger NoWhining said...

"You just get real sleepy and crave Doritos. Oh what a horrifying drug!"

I love it! I can see all sort of cross-marketing opportunities with Hostess, Lays, and Sarah Lee. They can even bundle promotional packages for April 20th, the stoners Cinco De Mayo!

 
At 3/06/2009 8:30 AM, Anonymous Justin said...

Honestly, I think I would let poverty run its course. The world is a cruel place to those who are unfit to survive. Is it fair to force those that prosper to support those that cannot? Of course, if they choose to help others than that is a different story. That is because if I volunatarily help someone than it implies that I am getting some satisfaction out of doing so. I happen to be very consistent I do not opprove of 'theft' under any circumstance no matter how lofty or humanitarian the goals 'claim' to be. Anyways, this post was originally about legalization of drugs. At this point it should be painfully obvious that I am in full support.

 
At 3/06/2009 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day, the U.K. and other countries engaged in the opium trade. This was a case of a wealthy country selling drugs into a poorer country and the trade has been widely condemned by historians. Imagine what the same people, arguing for legalization of drugs here, would say if drugs produced by U.S. companies were being smuggled into third world countries with a wink and a nod from the U.S. government, resulting in the social and economic breakdown of whole segments of these societies and inflicting huge costs that these countries do not have the resources to shoulder. Think it can't happen? U.S. tobacco companies dominate the international market. I'm confident U.S. drug companies can deal with third world producers.

How about a little experiment. Let's allow American firms to legally produce addictive "recreational" drugs and encourage them to sell them, by any means, into third world countries. Let's push back. Let's see if we can get the youth of Mexico, Columbia, Honduras, etc. addicted to something produced by U.S. corporations. After all, they're harmless, right? And if the third world countries complain we'll just suggest that they legalize them. Turn about is fair play, right?

 
At 3/06/2009 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the article: Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated.

Oh, now it makes sense, public-health problems are soooo much cheaper to deal with. Do you think that drug users are more likely to be amoung the 45 million uninsured? Or, will all this be dealt with under Obama's grand national health care plan, which, as everyone knows, is going to be "free".

 
At 3/06/2009 11:42 AM, Blogger like such as said...

"hence natural selection is inhibited by the unnatural effects of charity."

I know it's sort of tangential, but i don't think charity is outside the boundaries of natural selection. Unlike coerced governmental aid, charity is freely given. While there may be no monetary benefit to the charity giver, the satisfaction of helping others is a highly valued commodity.

Thus, charity is a trade; like any other trade both parties are better off for it.

People mired in poverty may need the aid of charity to improve their situation, but their receiving it doesn't mean they haven't acted as a part of natural selection.

Obviously governmental intervention is a totally different case.

 
At 3/06/2009 11:45 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

"Let's hope that they don't get "sorted out" while piloting a 747 full of innocent people."

Most logically unsound argument EVAR.

A sleep deprived pilot is just as dangerous as a drunk pilot.

(see here that being sleepy has similar effects of drunkenesshttp://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/09/20/sleep.deprivation/)

Are we to ban people from being sleepy? NO

Could we ban pilots from being sleepy when flying? YES

END OF STORY

 
At 3/06/2009 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John P. Walters offers a treatment program to the legalization addiction:

Since 2001 the number of young people using illegal drugs has dropped by 900,000 to about 2.7 million.

We can prevent and successfully treat this disease, however. There are millions of Americans in recovery who are staying clean and sober each day. The rate of drug use among high-school seniors has been cut nearly in half since its peak years of 1978 and 1979, to 22.3% in 2008. Prevention and treatment have been producing steady results.

The criminal justice system has been transformed over the past 15 years. Adult and juvenile drug courts are now common in most states. Nationwide there are more than 2,000 drug courts pushing low-level offenders to get treatment when drug use brings them into the criminal justice system. Child welfare and family courts also push drug treatment -- many endangerment and neglect cases involve an adult with a substance abuse problem. The criminal justice system has become the most powerful force in the country supporting addiction treatment, exactly the opposite of the critics' depiction.

No nation that has tried to avoid controlling supply has been able to stand by its permissive approach. Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have all experimented with being more accepting of drugs, only to backtrack later when the resulting destruction was clear. The U.S. has also been more permissive in the past than it is today, only to pay a huge price for the mistake. The predictable costs in addiction and disease are unsustainable.

Today there is terrible violence in Mexico. Those who carry out attacks do so with the intention of making us stop resisting them. But what narco-terrorists want is power, not control of the drug trade. These terrorists are growing more violent because over the past three to four years the money that criminal organizations get from trafficking meth and cocaine has dropped sharply -- perhaps by 50% or more. To bankroll their activities, they are now kidnapping, extorting and grabbing power. The drug trade is a tool, not the cause of these violent criminal groups.

Link

Bottom line: The government is adapting and adjusting it's strategy with good result. While I'm agnostic on the legalization of "pot", I think legalizing harder drugs is insanity.

 
At 3/06/2009 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sleep deprived pilot is just as dangerous as a drunk pilot.

Heh, genius, maybe you haven't heard, but the FAA regulates and monitors the number of hours a pilot can fly for exactly this reason.

Monitoring the use of drugs is much more complex since THC and other compounds cans stay in your system, showing up on blood and urine tests days after their use.

Stupidest analogy, "EVAR".

 
At 3/06/2009 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jr,

You support intervention to get people out of poverty. Does that mean you would also support intervention to get people off drugs?

 
At 3/06/2009 2:54 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

"Heh, genius, maybe you haven't heard, but the FAA regulates and monitors the number of hours a pilot can fly for exactly this reason."

I hate to inform you that you can be sleep deprived for many more reasons than just flying. Can they test if you stayed up all night watching infomercials the night before? Didn't think so buddy.

 
At 3/06/2009 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can they test if you stayed up all night watching infomercials the night before? Didn't think so buddy.

These are pilots, not 20 year pot-smoking low lifes. Almost all of these guys learned to fly in the military, where undisciplined trolls are weeded out. Stop projecting, buddy.

 
At 3/06/2009 4:02 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Let's hope that they don't get "sorted out" while piloting a 747 full of innocent people"...

How about a 747 load of Obama voters instead?

"in the interest of being consistent, would you be willing to let poverty run its course and weed out those who are a drag on our economy?"...

Excellent idea!

Weeding out the Henrietta Hughes types and the Peggy Joseph types will make Al Gore happy by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere...

 
At 3/09/2009 11:40 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

"These are pilots, not 20 year pot-smoking low lifes. Almost all of these guys learned to fly in the military, where undisciplined trolls are weeded out. Stop projecting, buddy."

So thus you have absolutely no point. If drugs are legal, then that does not mean Pilots will be using drugs anymore than they use them now...

Legality does not mandate usage

 
At 3/09/2009 2:06 PM, Blogger like such as said...

extreme hobo wins

 
At 3/12/2009 12:57 PM, Blogger Nicholas said...

Extreme Hobo fails because he makes two implicit claims
1.) That drug abusers are rational.
2.) That all drugs are like marijuana

Most drug legalization centers on marijuana. Given that the current method of ingestion is dangerous and most users oppose refining it into a pill I'm more than willing to believe it is far more addictive than is currently claimed.

As is pointed out elsewhere the drug policy is working. Numbers of users have dropped (including alcohol).

Also, comparing current drug legalization efforts to prohibition is misguided in the extreme. Alcohol can be claimed to have saved civilization multiple times since it reduces the transfer of water born disease in beverages. We're _used_ to it. That being said it should be regulated (which it is).

 
At 6/22/2009 2:13 AM, Blogger SINE NOMINE said...

Consistent... good thing! Especially since they sided w/ a good policy. :)

 

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