Monday, December 05, 2011

Milton Friedman: Why Drugs Should Be Legalized



On the 78th anniversary of the end of Prohibition, here's a classic Milton Friedman interview above where he explains why both alcohol and drugs should be legalized.

When asked if it's not true that the drug problem is an economic problem, Friedman responds:

"No, absolutely not, it’s primarily a moral problem. It’s a problem with the harm which government is doing. I have estimated statistically that the prohibition of drugs produces on the average 10,000 additional homicides per year. It’s a moral problem that the government’s going around killing 10,000 people. It’s a moral problem that the government is making into criminals people who may be doing something you and I don’t approve of, but are doing something that hurts nobody else.

Most of the arrests for drugs are for possession by casual users. Now here’s somebody who wants to smoke a joint. If he’s caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper?

I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that our government should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail, that’s the issue to me." 

Exhibit A:  As an example of how the War on Drugs ruins lives (not to mention economic potential and an NFL career), consider this story of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, who recently got sentenced to six years in prison for being addicted to codeine pills. (ht/Roman)

12 Comments:

At 12/05/2011 9:11 PM, Blogger Nicolas Martin said...

Prohibitionists no more care that their war destroys "addicts" than the Catholic Church cared that the Inquisition destroyed "witches." The fact that lives are destroyed is proof to the fanatics that prohibition is working.

 
At 12/05/2011 10:59 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"The fact that lives are destroyed is proof to the fanatics that prohibition is working"...

Well maybe but no doubt its expensive any way you cut it...

From a 2009 Reuters story for what its worth: Australian researchers found that infants whose mothers abused amphetamines or opiates such as heroin were 13 times more likely to become victims of neglect or abuse than other children their age. Their odds of being placed in foster care were similarly elevated, according to findings published in the journal Pediatrics...

 
At 12/06/2011 6:13 AM, Blogger rjs said...

this article hit the feed same time as yours:

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7390

so who is opposed to legalizing drugs?

and why? who profits from their being illegal?

 
At 12/06/2011 9:52 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"so who is opposed to legalizing drugs?

and why? who profits from their being illegal?"

drug dealers oppose legalization. the whole key to their outsized profits is illegality.

the DEA and other law enforcement agencies benefit. they get bigger budgets and money from asset seizures.

 
At 12/06/2011 9:55 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

juandos-

i would bet that the stats for children of alcoholics are just as bad and that the numbers dwarf all other forms of drug abuse.

fetal alcohol syndrome etc are big issues too.

should be go back to prohibition?

the portugese have seen real cost savings from drug decriminalization. legalize and tax it, and it would be a big money saver.

you also seem to be making a very large assumption that, if legal, drug abuse would rise.

it's already everywhere. drugs are so easy to get it's laughable.

are you likely to start shooting heroin just because it's legal?

 
At 12/06/2011 1:20 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"you also seem to be making a very large assumption that, if legal, drug abuse would rise"...

No its my own actual observation of what has happened in Holland over the last thirty years...

Interestingly enough its NOT the Dutch so much as the 'tourists' that are seriously abusing drugs in Holland...

Again this is my observations...

 
At 12/06/2011 5:45 PM, Blogger Marko said...

So the argument is that it should be legal because making it illegal causes problems. That's it? I think people are forgetting why these things were made illegal in the first place. It wasn't because of drug lords or massive bureaucracy. It was because the drugs were causing massive social problems. Look at opium in 19th century China - a large percentage of the population became addicted.

Much of this stuff is highly addictive and dangerous. You really want to make it legal? You want to be able to by crystal meth at the 7-11? Seriously? If you want to outlaw some of it, then you are not solving the problem. This just is not going to happen.

I support getting the federal government out of this and letting the states decide, but do you seriously think it is wise for states to legalize heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth? Certain making it illegal causes a marginal decrease in use. Now only people willing to violate the law will try it - if you legalize all this dangerous crap, more people will try it and get addicted and we will have a disaster. It is easy to say that the cure is worse than the disease, but we have not seen the disease lately.

 
At 12/06/2011 5:48 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Oh, and I think Milton was a genius, but he must have been smoking crack when he came up with this argument. "On a purely economic level" my arse - yes, if you only consider the harm of making it illegal, and dismiss the dangers of total legalization with a waive of the hand.

Sappy music doesn't help the "argument".

 
At 12/08/2011 1:14 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Richard Rider's Thoughts on Drug Legalization
Revised 12/1/2009 Email: RRider@san.rr.com Phone; (858) 530-1777

Some people feel that the solution to the drug problem is to become like Iran and other totalitarian countries -- crack down hard on drugs (and porn and deviant sex habits and on and on). Institute a death penalty for users and sellers, and repeal the Bill of Rights where drug violations might be involved.

Perhaps they are partially right -- kill a few hundred thousand people, institute a police state, and perhaps we can significantly reduce drug use in our society. But the country will not be the America that our Founding Fathers envisioned in 1776.

Furthermore, I doubt that we can put the genie back in the bottle -- drugs are here as we have far too many users out there already. Malaysia has the drug death penalty and still has over 300,000 addicts getting their product. After all, if we can't keep drugs out of our prisons, how do we ever plan to keep drugs out of the whole country?

But even if it would work, I would oppose such an approach. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who are willing to sacrifice freedom for security will end up with neither.

As a parent of boys who grew up in today’s society, I had the same concerns that all thinking parents have for their children and the temptation of drugs. I know that my children have been approached by drug dealers in school. But I also know that no one sidled up to my kids and tried to get them to buy a pack of Marlboros, or a fifth of Jack Daniels. Why? Because there is no excess profit in dealing in legal drugs, even though they are illegal for minors to use.

The key to understanding the drug problem is to realize that the huge profits (a 12,000% markup in cocaine, for example) are the direct result of prohibition. Most of the problems we ascribe to the “drug problem" are really the problem of drug prohibition. A $1 a day drug habit becomes under prohibition a $100 a day habit, and crime will inevitably result on both the buyers' and sellers' part.

There are only three ways most drug addicts can afford to pay the high prices of illegal drugs:

1. You can sell your body. The major cause of prostitution -- male and female, teenage and adult -- is drug addiction.

2. You can steal from others. When I debated County Supervisor George Bailey on the Roger Hedgecock radio show (about the jail sales tax), Mr. Bailey insisted that the county’s studies found that 80% of all property crime (mugging, robbery, burglary and car theft) in San Diego is committed by drug addicts trying to get money for drugs. The lowest figure mentioned by law enforcement agencies is 40%, and 60% is normal for urban areas.

3. This third method is perhaps the most harmful of all -- become a member of a perverse version of a multilevel drug marketing system. Become a dealer, sell to your friends and expand the drug problem.

We should end this madness. Let's legalize drugs and eliminate such problems. We will still have the very real medical and social problem of drug abuse. Utopia is not an option. But look at the benefits of drug legalization:

1. Drastically reduce property crime (burglaries, auto thefts, muggings and commercial robberies). Estimates start at 40%.

2. Greatly reduce the corruption of our law enforcement people.

3. Relieve our overburdened court system.

4. Relieve the overcrowding in our jails. Our country now provides the highest per capita incarceration of any country in the world, passing the 2,000,000 prisoner level in early 2000. And California has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any state (plus by far the highest annual prisoner cost of any state).

 
At 12/08/2011 1:15 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

(continued)

5. End the routine drug shootings of dealers and bystanders over turf wars and drug deal rip-offs. You don't see 7-11 owners shooting it out with AM/PM shareholders over who gets to sell alcohol at an intersection.

6. Destroy the multilevel marketing scheme that fills our schools and playgrounds with children selling drugs.

7. Destroy the power of the hoodlum gangs and drug lords.

8. Reduce the desperate acts of prostitution to acquire overpriced drugs.

9. Greatly reduce the overdoses from ingesting unknown purities cut with unknown materials. An estimated 80% of the nation’s 3,500 annual illegal drug “overdose” deaths are caused by these two factors.

10. Reduce the spread of AIDS and other diseases from sharing scarce prohibited needles.

11. Return to a respect for the Bill of Rights with its support for the 2nd Amendment, due process and privacy in one’s personal life. Gun owners are starting to understand that perhaps the greatest danger to their right to keep and bear arms is the hysteria connected with the drug war.

12. End government's Big Brother monitoring of our e-mails, our cell phones, our travels and our financial transactions under the guise of seeking “drug money."

13. Reduce our international balance of payments problem.

14. End the onerous action of asset forfeiture -- the confiscation of property from suspected drug users and dealers (i.e. minorities with a lot of cash) without even charging them with a crime, let alone convicting them.

15. End our inadvertent funding of the communist and terrorist movements around the world, and especially in Latin America (our drug money is used to buy protection for the drug lords and farmers in South America).

16. End our meddling in other countries' affairs in our vain attempt to curtail drug imports to the U.S. Significant savings to future military budgets should result, not to mention avoiding casualties from such conflicts and the increasing risk of a nuclear, biological or chemical warfare reprisal against our cities.

17. Allow companies to design safer, less potent drugs. Note the drop in potency in the “legal” harmful drugs -- alcohol and tobacco. Illegal drugs, however, become even more potent since a more compact product is easier to smuggle and carries no greater penalty if caught.

18. Stop persecuting people for private actions that, while they may harm themselves, do not directly harm others.


Understand, with this freedom will come increased responsibility for one's actions. We Libertarians come down hard on drunk drivers and others who first harm others and then claim diminished capacity. No “Twinkie defense” would be allowed. One would face both criminal penalties and restitution responsibilities if one harmed others.
-30-

 
At 12/08/2011 10:32 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Prohibitionists no more care that their war destroys "addicts" than the Catholic Church cared that the Inquisition destroyed "witches." The fact that lives are destroyed is proof to the fanatics that prohibition is working.

Sure they do. But they realize that you can't 'help' addicts by making the thing that they are addicted to more expensive and throwing them in jail. And that it does not help the rest of society when criminals fight it out for the high margin business and addicts have to resort to stealing so that they can pay for their habits.

But ultimately the argument hinges on natural rights. My body is my own and as long as I don't violate the natural rights of others the choice of what to inject or ingest is mine and mine only.

 
At 12/08/2011 10:34 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

From a 2009 Reuters story for what its worth: Australian researchers found that infants whose mothers abused amphetamines or opiates such as heroin were 13 times more likely to become victims of neglect or abuse than other children their age. Their odds of being placed in foster care were similarly elevated, according to findings published in the journal Pediatrics...

No kidding. People who take illegal drugs make bad parents because the costs of taking those drugs are so high that they have less time to devote to their children. Since they are more likely to steal to feed their habits their kids are more likely to wind up in foster homes. If we stopped paying people just because they had kids and let the price of drugs fall we will have a better outcome.

 

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