Saturday, June 04, 2011

Milton Friedman: Why Drugs Should Be Legalized



In the video above, economist Milton Friedman explains why the government's "War on Drugs" is immoral and costly, and how it contributes to 10,000 unnecessary homicides per year, helped create the market for "crack cocaine," protects the "Drug Cartel" and will destroy our free society.

21 Comments:

At 6/04/2011 6:55 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"Where do you draw the line?"

How about we draw it at the point where I'm required to subsidize their healthcare.

 
At 6/04/2011 7:07 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

I'm curious, will drug addiction be considered a disability? And if so, will addicts be able to get or keep jobs flying airplanes and driving school buses? Don't forget, the skipper of the Exxon Valdez was an alcoholic who retained his job after filing a disability complaint after Exxon had tried to fire him.

Will the large multinational drug companies be allowed to develop extremely addictive new drugs and to hand out free samples? If not, why not? Will they be allowed to export those drugs to other countries even if those countries declare them illegal? Being the supplier is a no-fault proposition, right?

 
At 6/04/2011 7:52 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

It use to be cool to act or be drunk or high on drugs.

Americans have evolved somewhat.

However, it's still basically a demand problem.

 
At 6/04/2011 8:17 PM, Blogger Miles Hoffman, CFA said...

Che, "is dead" on at least 2 points:
1) "draw the line"... "subsidize their healthcare"
2) "...considered a disability"

My brother got into drugs heavily before he turned 18 and as such, the government gave him social security + ss disability.

What did this accomplish? Provided him just enough money to continue to "live" (if you want to call it that) in a poverty-drug world.

Consequently, he's been in and out of both regular hospitals and mental hospitals.. ON YOUR DIME (Medicaid).

Obviously I'm not wild on drugs, BUT what I DO understand is that Milton is right. The War on Drugs (like the War on Poverty) CONTINUES TO CONSUME ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF MONEY BUT CONTINUES TO BE LOST!

Drugs are still readily available and provide enormous funds to the black market. Similarly, poverty remains around the 14-15% it was when Pres. Johnson grabbed the mantle from Kennedy despite the enormous funds it too consumes.

However well-intentioned anti-drug laws are, they have far too many unintended consequences while consuming enormous resources to fight. It would be better to legalize (and God forbid, tax).

"And why wouldn't big corps get in with ever-more powerful/addictive..."
Has this happened in Europe where there is some legalization (Switz. even hands out clean needles for free - or did years ago!)?

Your arguments are weak, esp. the "disability complaint" because it's the same "do-good" attitude of those in favor of drug laws at work in the "disability case". People trying to "inflict/instill" their beliefs on others that is the real problem.

If people want to do drugs AND NOT ENDANGER OTHERS, who besides themselves is being harmed? No one, so why should there be laws against it?

 
At 6/04/2011 8:21 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Should we quit the war on speed limits too?

The Japanese know how to win drug wars:

The Japanese in 1954...inaugurated a system of forced hospitalization for chronic drug users. Under this policy, drug users were rounded up in droves, forced to go through cold-turkey withdrawal and placed in work camps for periods ranging from a few months to several years.

This approach to drug users, still in force today, is seen by the Japanese as a humane policy focussed primarily on rehabilitation. By American standards, however, these rehabilitation programs would be seen as very tough.

The Japanese from the very beginning have opted for a cold-turkey drug withdrawal. Thus, every heroin addict identified in Japan is required to enter a hospital or treatment facility, where they go immediately through withdrawal.

Conviction through the criminal justice system is not necessary for commitment. Any addict identified, either through examination by physicians or through urine testing, is committed through an administrative process.

As a result courts are not burdened with heavy caseloads of drug users, drug users are not saddled with criminal records and punishment for drug users is swift and sure.

These policies dramatically and rapidly cut drug use. Within four years of the 1954 amendments, the number of people arrested for violating the Stimulant Control Law dropped from 55,654 to only 271in 1958.

Japan began experiencing serious problems with heroin. By 1961 it is estimated that there were over 40,000 heroin addicts in Japan...tougher penalties against importation and selling, and by imposing a mandatory rehabilitation regime for addicts.

The results of Japan's tough heroin program mirrored those of its successful fight against stimulants. The number of arrests for heroin sale and possession fell from a high in 1962 of 2,139 to only 33 in 1966 and have never risen above 100 since.

Article above from September 24, 1990 Fighting Drugs in Four Countries: Lessons for America?

 
At 6/04/2011 8:48 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Drug Legalization: Myths vs. Reality
January 25, 1990

Myth: Current policies are failing to reduce drug use.

Fact: Drug use fell by 37 percent between 1985 and 1988, the last year for which accurate figures are available, from 23 million regular drug users to 14 million.

Myth: Drugs always have been a part of American society and always will be; attempts to prohibit drug use thus are doomed to fail.

Fact: Drugs have not always been part of American society. Most Americans today can remember a time when drugs were not in the workplace or discussed casually on television, and when schools were free of drugs.

Myth: Current policies and proposals under discussion infringe on civil liberties.

Fact: Concerns about civil liberties do and should influence policy toward drug use. But the government has a legitimate role in curbing the use and supply of poisonous substances. The notion that curbing drug use implies America is striding toward a police state is nonsense.

Myth: Drug use is a "victimless crime." Americans have a right to do what they want with their own bodies.

Fact: Drug use is not victimless. Not only do individuals commit crimes under drug influence, but drug users are involved in 10 percent to 15 percent of highway fatalities, are two to three times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents (injuring others as well as themselves), and give birth to 100,000 cocaine addicted infants each year.

Myth: Current policies are too costly, money would be better spent on education, rehabilitation and economic development.

Fact: The U.S. spends less than 3 cents of every federal, state, and local government dollar on criminal justice of all kinds - of which only a tiny fraction goes for drug law enforcement. Even with recent funding increases for drug enforcement, the federal government spends five times as much on agricultural subsidies, four times as much on highway and mass transit subsidies, and three times as much on foreign aid.

 
At 6/05/2011 7:30 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I'm curious, will drug addiction be considered a disability?

We live in an Orwellian society where language is changed all the time. Addiction is not a disability because it is self inflicted but is claimed to be a disability by those in government who benefit from treating it as such.

And if so, will addicts be able to get or keep jobs flying airplanes and driving school buses?

Only if government tramples on the property rights of the owners of the airlines and school bus companies, who should be able to make being drug free a condition of employment.

Don't forget, the skipper of the Exxon Valdez was an alcoholic who retained his job after filing a disability complaint after Exxon had tried to fire him.

So?

Will the large multinational drug companies be allowed to develop extremely addictive new drugs and to hand out free samples?

Yes. And if they do consumers will turn on them and not buy all of those drugs that they make their profit from, which is where most of their margins are. The market is a far better regulator than you think that it is.

If not, why not? Will they be allowed to export those drugs to other countries even if those countries declare them illegal?

It depends on the countries.

Being the supplier is a no-fault proposition, right?

Correct. As it should be if there is no fraud committed and the risks are disclosed.
___________

It seems to me that you don't have an argument against liberty directly so you are trying to come up with reasons to support an immoral position of intervention by government, even when that intervention creates far more harm than the harm you claim to want to see reduced.

 
At 6/05/2011 7:46 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

My brother got into drugs heavily before he turned 18 and as such, the government gave him social security + ss disability.

The fact that the government wastes money giving people cash to buy expensive illegal drugs does not mean that it should make those drugs illegal to begin with. You understand that. Most people do not.

Drugs are still readily available and provide enormous funds to the black market. Similarly, poverty remains around the 14-15% it was when Pres. Johnson grabbed the mantle from Kennedy despite the enormous funds it too consumes.

A few weeks ago I went to pay my respects at a funeral. Afterwards I wound up at lunch with a number of interesting characters including the head of one of the crime families in Southern Ontario. He made a very interesting observation. Organized crime steps in to fill a need when governments try to limit activities that people want to take part in. If people want to drink and the government passes laws to prohibit the sale of alcohol some enterprising mobster will step in to give the public the alcohol that it desires. If black men want to have sex with white women or white men want to have sex with Indian, black, or Asian women some enterprising mobster will open up a club where the transactions can take place. If gays are hassled by the police when they try to run bars where they can meet some enterprising mobster will open up a bar that will give its patrons what they want even when that mobster does not approve of the activities.

The irony is that in many of the things that we as a society frown upon it is the police that try to limit individual freedom while the mobsters are trying to defend it. Yes, they initiate violence and commit property crimes, so they should be condemned for that, but they are also the defenders of individual choice and liberty in ways that our own governments are not. The best way for governments to regain the moral high ground is to stop violating the natural rights of citizen and worry about protecting those rights from aggression and fraud.

 
At 6/05/2011 7:54 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Should we quit the war on speed limits too?

Yes, we should eliminate arbitrary limits designed to rob drivers so that cash starved states and municipalities can spend more.

The Japanese know how to win drug wars...

Japanese society is a lot more homogeneous and complaint than American society. It has a tradition of cowering to power and acceptance of limits to freedom that the US does not have. I do not think that many Americans would be as willing to give up their liberties as you seem to imagine. While the right would applaud the type of statist intervention that was taken by Japan the American left
would protest and resist.

 
At 6/05/2011 8:19 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Drug Legalization: Myths vs. Reality
January 25, 1990


The two decades that followed since the article was written have shown just how the authors underestimated the harm and costs of America's War on Drugs. Jail populations have exploded as have police budgets and the killing of innocent people in drug wars as well as the enforcement of drug laws. Police forces have become reckless and unaccountable thugs that have killed innocent people in error. Gangs have flourished and become quite violent as they fight to get their share of high margins that are protected by government legislation that keeps honest competitors away from the business. The cost of private security, which was not covered in the article, has exploded. Inner cities have been hollowed out and virtually abandoned. A house in Detroit can be had for much less than the cost of a new vehicle. Many areas in many cities are unsafe at night. And the addiction rates are pretty much where they have always been once you adjust for age and economic status.

 
At 6/05/2011 9:12 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

VangelV, it's really a crime problem, which drugs happen to be a component.

 
At 6/05/2011 9:19 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

VangelV, it's really a crime problem, which drugs happen to be a component.

It is only a crime because the government makes drugs illegal. Change the laws and most of the crime goes away.

 
At 6/05/2011 9:29 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

VangelV, do you really believe laws stop criminals?

If you want to stop criminals, you capture or kill them.

Making a crime legal doesn't really solve the problem.

 
At 6/05/2011 10:18 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

VangelV, do you really believe laws stop criminals?

I believe that many laws create criminals out of ordinary individuals who have not violated the right of any other individual.

If you want to stop criminals, you capture or kill them.

But why create criminals in the fist place? We can make it a crime to worship Yahweh, to drink alcohol, gamble, perform sexual acts for money, have sex with a member of another race, or to engage in homosexual activities. To stop those 'criminals' we could capture and kill them. But that would not make society better or make those acts a real crime.

Making a crime legal doesn't really solve the problem.

But making something that is not a crime a criminal act creates problems. Yours is the philosophy of authoritarianism so I do not expect you to see how ridiculous arbitrary and bad laws really are for society. But they still are.

 
At 6/05/2011 12:41 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6/05/2011 1:37 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"It seems to me that you don't have an argument against liberty directly so you are trying to come up with reasons to support an immoral position of intervention by government ..."

Actually, I'm arguing for the liberty of the non-user who is repeatedly victimized by those who make the "free choice" to indulge in drug usage.

Since your libertarian fantasy world, where we all choose to ignore the self-inflicted misery of others and simply abandon them to the streets does not exist and has never existed, I would like to know the real world consequences of your advocacy. Will I be required to pay for their health care? Will they be allowed to get or maintain jobs that may put my safety and with it my liberty at risk, as the Exxon example suggests? If your promised decrease in criminal activity does not materialize, what then?

And just how is the governments policy "immoral"? Men create societies and form government to impose order so that they may have the greatest exercise of their liberty. What, did you miss this lesson in grammar school? Drug laws exist to maintain order under which liberty may have it's greatest expression. We are never free of the actions of others, and so we must be held responsible for our conduct.


“As to the right of men to act anywhere according to their pleasure, without any moral tie, no such right exists. Men are never in a state of total independence of each other.” -- Edmund Burke


"... even when that intervention creates far more harm than the harm you claim to want to see reduced."

You see, this is what happens to your mind when you've shoved your head up Noam Chomsky's ass. You do not know what harms may result from the decriminalization of all drugs, so instead you ask us to compare the current situation to the fantasy world you promise will result. Reality vs. your fantasy. Marx would be so proud.

 
At 6/05/2011 4:52 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Actually, I'm arguing for the liberty of the non-user who is repeatedly victimized by those who make the "free choice" to indulge in drug usage.

Do obese people who are addicted to food victimize others? They do not because buying food is legal and competition keeps prices low.

Drug addicts commit crimes because drug prices are kept high by laws that prohibit their sale. If competition force prices lower addicts can get a fix for the price of a happy meal and would not have to engage in criminal activity any more than the obese person does.

Since your libertarian fantasy world - which does not exist, and has never existed - where we all choose to ignore the self-inflicted misery of others and simply abandon them to the streets, I would like to know the real world consequences of your advocacy.

Look at Prohibition. When alcohol was illegal it was plentiful but expensive and under the control of the mob, which used violence to protect its turf and its profits. People died in mob wars and conflicts between the police and the gangsters. Corruption was very common in police forces because most cops saw nothing wrong with letting people drink if they wished to. When Prohibition ended crime rates fell.

And for most of the history of the US access to drugs was not a problem. If you wanted them you simply went to the drug store. Would you become an addict if heroin or cocaine were legal today? And what is the difference to an addict whether they used prescription medication (as many in the middle and upper classes do today) or heroin/cocaine from a pharmacist?

Will I be required to pay for their health care?

You pay for their care today. You also pay for room and board for many users who wind up in jail. But no, in a free society you would not be forced to pay for the health are of others.

Will they be allowed to get or maintain jobs that may put my safety and with it my liberty at risk, as the Exxon example suggests?

The Exxon example involved alcohol. Do you propose to outlaw its use as before?

In a free society people and companies would be liable for their actions so employers will not put up with impaired employees who could ruin their business.

 
At 6/05/2011 4:53 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

If your promised decrease in criminal activity does not materialize, what then?

If people are no longer arrested for using or selling illegal drugs half your jails will be emptied. The incidence of violent crime would decline as the price of drugs fell.

And just how is the governments policy "immoraL"?

It is immoral to jail people who engage in voluntary activities and do not initiate force against others or the property of others.

Men create societies and form government to impose order, accepting the restriction of some freedoms so that they may have the greatest exercise of their liberty.

That is not what Jefferson and the founders thought.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...

Rmember that? Men have natural rights and institute governments to protect those rights. Yours is the philosophy of authoritarianism in which governments are allowed to violate the rights of men. Some consider that very immoral.

You do not know what harms may result from the decriminalization of all drugs, so instead you ask us to compare the current situation to the fantasy world you promise will result. Reality vs. your fantasy.

I see real people getting killed because of your drug wars. Europe uses drugs but has few of the problems of the US because the drugs are legal or have been decriminalized in many EU countries.

Addicts who get cheap drugs do not shoot people to pay for their habits because drugs can be obtained cheaply even if working at a low paying job. And without the high margins wars to protect high margins do not take place.

Marx would be so proud.

Actually, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Marx are on your side of this debate. I am on the side of Jefferson, Spooner, and other men like them.

What, did you miss this lesson in grammar school?

My school worshiped authoritarianism as you do and taught the lesson that you seem to have learned. You might want to look for better teachers.

 
At 6/06/2011 11:54 AM, Blogger Ian Random said...

I've heard Uncle Milty's spiel on drugs. He fails to note that these are people good at making bad choices. I remember a documentary that showed something like as purity goes up, so does hospital admissions (I don't think unpaid hospital bills should be subject to confidentiality). I mean it is the rare addict that can say no, they will want as much as they can get. What is it in Holland that after they get high at the cafes, they drive home under the influence and get into accidents.

Of course, I'm all for experimentation and letting the states regulate the first ounce and plant that the feds would then respect.

 
At 6/06/2011 8:58 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I've heard Uncle Milty's spiel on drugs. He fails to note that these are people good at making bad choices.

Ah, the they are too stupid to know what is good for them argument surfaces. The problem is that it is not valid.

First, in a free society people make their own choices. Obese people make bad choices but we do not deny them access to food.

Second, there is no evidence to suggest that government bureaucrats can make better decisions for each individual. Are you suggesting that we limit obese people to a certain caloric intake? Or drinkers to a certain amount of alcohol? If you are who is supposed to pay for the systems that ensure compliance and why should they be asked to pay for them?

Third, legalizing drugs will lower the burden on people who don't take drugs and have no intention of ever becoming addicts. As prices fall so will crime rates. Even if an addict steals to pay for drugs if the price falls by 90% he will have to steal 90% less. But more likely, if one can get a fix for the price of a happy meal no criminal act will be necessary to acquire drugs.

I remember a documentary that showed something like as purity goes up, so does hospital admissions (I don't think unpaid hospital bills should be subject to confidentiality).

Purity goes up because it is easier to hide smaller batches from the cops. There is a nice symmetry at work; the stronger the anti-drug efforts the more potent the drugs.

I mean it is the rare addict that can say no, they will want as much as they can get.

So what? Addicts should be free to make choices. And if they are so desperate for drugs wouldn't they have to commit many more crimes in order to support their habits? Who do you suppose are the victims of those crimes?

What is it in Holland that after they get high at the cafes, they drive home under the influence and get into accidents.

If you look around you do not see gang wars fought to defend drug markets.

Of course, I'm all for experimentation and letting the states regulate the first ounce and plant that the feds would then respect.

The Feds should have no say in the matter.

I like the positions of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. Around 50% of all expenditures on the courts, policing, and prisons are related to drug use. The US has nearly two and a half million people in prison and three times that level under some form of probation or court supervision. The prisons are overcrowded and far too dangerous. HIV rates among people in prisons and their sexual partners is exploding. Inner city areas are war zones as gangs fight to protect their high margin markets from competition. The crowded prions keep very dangerous individuals out of jail because the jail cells contain more than one million non-violent individuals who used drugs.

It gets worse. The drug war is an excuse to trample on the constitutional rights of individuals. At this point courts have slid so much that I do not see any real protection for an American's Forth Amendment rights. Not only that but overzealous police thugs are regularly killing innocent individuals in what should be illegal raids. And this is all happening as the federal government and states are going bankrupt.

I imagine that some idiot politician will figure it out eventually by looking at the FDR presidency. Many rational observers have pointed out that the main reason why FDR kept getting reelected had to do with the repeal of Prohibition. That act allowed property taxes to be cut sharply as cities and states found a huge source of revenue from the sales of alcohol. As crime rates fell and the property tax riots ended FDR's popularity exploded, even though his economic policies were as bad as those of Hoover and could not get the country out of depression in his lifetime.

 
At 6/06/2011 9:35 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

As Thomas Sowell said, "There are no solutions, only trade offs."

Applying that logic to drugs, we have to compare the trade offs (costs and benefits) of drug prohibition vs. drug legalization.

Based on that comparison, I don't think it's even close; the costs of drug prohibition outweigh the benefits by several orders of magnitude, and the benefits of drug legalization outweigh the costs by several orders of magnitude.

And those orders of magnitude are so obvious and so enormously large, that I don't think the case for drug prohibition, or its advocates, can even be taken seriously. At all. Ever.

 

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