Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This Sums It Up Nice and Neat

Reason's Jacob Sullum with a very excellent quote on the drug war (as part of a response to news of a 24-hour curfew in West Helena Arkansas, which itself is a response to recently increased drug violence):

Yet the violence is mostly related to the illegal drug trade. So the government creates a black market that disproportionately hurts poor people, enforces its drug laws in a way that disproportionately hurts poor people, and responds to the resulting violence and disorder with police tactics that disproportionately hurt poor people. When civil libertarians object, they are dismissed as privileged pointy-heads who do not understand the problems of poor people.

3 Comments:

Anonymous rose said...

I'm a drug agnostic, I don't know what is best.

But what do you feel drug dealers would do if drugs were legalized? Go get their Phd. in pharmacy because they've got some background? Nah. They'd find another illegitimate way to make money.

The black market the government "creates" (interesting use of words) merely gives would be burglars another avenue to get some cash. The policy doesn't hurt poor people, it just gives them another route to hurt themselves.

At least thats how I see it.

3:15 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Mc Mc has made the same point in some of our debates on drugs over the years.

And I've probably never articulated this very well before, but here's the mistake with your line of reasoning and that is that it assumes there is a steady and consistent percentage of the population that is part of the criminal underclass. This assumption ignores basic economic logic, that individuals respond to the incentives and opportunities available to them.

Not all drug dealers are would be burglars- the skills aren't the same and the risk factors are much greater. After all, burglary can be much more lucrative than drug dealing, but again, the stakes are higher.

So where do the drug dealers go? Probably wherever "retired" drug dealers go now. Maybe some go on to bigger and better criminal enterprises, but most will move on with their lives. Just think about the world now. Plenty of 20-year olds sell drugs. Not so much the 40 and over crowd.

Keep in mind something else- the use of violence by drug dealers is a natural result of criminalization. With no government to enforce contracts and settle disputes, violence can be the only means of resolving these sorts of issues.

Drug policy does hurt poor people because poor people are more likely to sell drugs (which actually tells you that for most people in the business, it's not very profitable). It's no secret that drugs tend to be sold out of big cities and that when they do come to the suburbs, they flow through major cities. It can't be denied that poor inner cities are more wreaked by drug-related gang violence than wealthy neighborhoods. And that's where the policy hurts poor people, helping to create more dangerous neighborhoods and more criminal violence in those neighborhoods.

4:16 PM  
Blogger McMc said...

There are drug dealers that matter and those that don't. There are "pawns" if you will, who just sell to friends and what not. Obviously they move on and do whatever. But the ones in control, the ones distributing and the ones with no hope whatsoever are the ones to worry about. The small time people, "the suburban college kid" aren't to be worried about in the first place. But there are people who enterprise drug dealing and make a killing. Burglary can't be that lucrative unless you're Thomas Crowne and it's a hell of a lot riskier. The people who enterprise, the ones who make a living off of drug dealing (and not just side profits) will not go away. They will find something else to dabble in and as I've said a lot of times, there will likely continue to be a black market for drugs. Legalized drugs as you dream it will never happen. If legalization does happen, you can bet that the drugs will not be as potent and probably pretty expensive. Your utopia of legalized drugs being used purely in private places and unharmful ways is a dream, nothing more.

3:11 AM  

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