1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5111/the-egregiously-destructive-war-on-drugs/

The Egregiously Destructive War on Drugs

May 30, 2006 by

Compared to the adverse effects of their illegalization, writes Gennady Stolyarov, the harm of drugs themselves is small indeed. Drug-taking is extremely unhealthy for the persons engaging in it, but not for anybody who abstains from it. The “War on Drugs,” by contrast, harms everybody subject to a government that undertakes it. There are moral problems with drug-taking, but the ethical problems with the War on Drugs far exceed them. FULL ARTICLE


Daniel M. Ryan May 30, 2006 at 9:24 am

An interesting take on the issue. I didn’t realize how the prosecution of the War on Drugs exacerbates welfarism as a way of life. The point made is certainly something for the end-to-all-welfare conservatve to factor in.

david May 30, 2006 at 10:05 am

The substance of the argument against the war on drugs is sound, but methinks the writer comes on a little too strong in his own moral rejection of drugs on such a blanket and undiscriminating basis.

A conspicuous element is that he ignores the many otherwise respectable people who support the medical marijuana fraternity.

And he gives very short shrift shrift to the personal choices inherent in time preference and evaluaton of cost and benefit at the individual choice level. People making decisions about anything in their lives face time-preference tradeoffs: foregoing benefits in the present for the sake of larger payoffs in the future.

A central feature of Austrian thinking is that no person can legitimately evaluate that tradeoff on behalf of another. WHile stopping short of enforcing his evaluation of that choice on others, he does so amid some astoundingly hard, sweeping judgmentalism.

It is fair comment to say that recreational drug users tend to value the present more than the future, and they may overrate percieved benefits while underrating health or productivity risks, RELATIVE TO OUR ASSESSMENTS OF THOSE SAME PARAMETERS. So who are we to judge them? Precisely the same elements are inherent in the decision of whether to have a cold beer at the end of a working day and forego some money that could be spent on something else, or saved, in order to do so.

SOme people have deep problems with alcohol addiction, but that by no means describes every beer drinker. (and there is a fundamental absurdity in the legality of tobacco and alcohol, in the same body of law that makes other drugs illegal. – this leads to the inescapable onclusion that what constitutes an ‘illegal drug’ is an arbitary political decision with no scientific foundation – are all of these currently illegal drugs really so bad after all?).

I have no statistics, and my own experience in the area is rather lacking, but its a fair bet that all, or even most, (currently illegal) drug users are not the monsters, addicts or social leeches that he characterises with such dismissive venom – they are merely people with a different subjective weighting of risk/cost and benefit, and those at the tragically addicted end of the spectrum are merely those whose time preference is wholly skewed towards the immediate present.

The comments about the declining standards of art and the role drugs play in that decline are wholly out of place, particularly if one considers the long list, over centuries, of artists from past generations, whose work is regarded with awe in the present even among those with the finest taste, and yet who were drug users and some chronic addicts, themselves.

The personal polemicism is wholly out of place, as it detracts from and obscures the rationality of the central point the writer is making.

RHU May 30, 2006 at 10:06 am

“Drug-taking is extremely unhealthy for the persons engaging in it, but not for anybody who abstains from it.”

Hi Mr. Stolyarov,

I fully agree with the economic reasoning within your text, however the paragraph quoted above shows you may have forgotten a “small detail”: Drug does harm, not only those who take them, but also the whole family and community environment around the drug-taker.

Further to the obvious moral damage to all who live near the subject, consider the damage to the family’s finance, the valuable resources drained to get more drug, the crimes perpetrated under drug effect, the losses generated by destruction etc.

Your view would be justified, only in case the drug-takers were isolated from society, which is not the real situation.

How could you possibly deal with drug-takers to let them “ruin their lives on their own”?

P/S: the “light” way the subject is treated, from the human viewpoint, makes me think you may be lucky enough not to have a son, or friend, or relative, involved with drugs, BTW it’s not the subject of your economic analysis…

Curt Howland May 30, 2006 at 10:58 am

I also wish the writer had not felt the need to be so explicit about his own opinion the materials, because the substance of Mr. Stolyarov’s argument has nothing what so ever to do with the chemicals/plants themselves.

Making baby-powder illegal would require just such draconian enforcement, look at the extremes that the TSA puts people through for tweezers and fingernail clippers!

The destructive nature of prohibition has nothing to do with what is being prohibitted. Leaving out the “I hate drugs, but…” would, in my opinion, have made a stronger article.

Brian Moore May 30, 2006 at 11:07 am

“The destructive nature of prohibition has nothing to do with what is being prohibitted. Leaving out the “I hate drugs, but…” would, in my opinion, have made a stronger article.”

For a long time, pro-legalization advocates have been accused of simply being a front for pot-heads. To someone who is already pro-legalization, it seems unnecessary, but to someone not already convinced, it helps divert the discussion from the silly “but you just want drugs legal so you can use them” line of reasoning.

For better or worse, some anti-legalization people need to be convinced of that.

M E Hoffer May 30, 2006 at 11:15 am


To your point: Yes. While I tend to agree with the above sentiments–”his personal views are not necessary”, I believe you explicate, well, the author’s reason for the inclusion of such.

Ammonium May 30, 2006 at 11:23 am

Drugs are expensive because prohibitionists like RHU make them expensive. This means that some drug users must steal from their family and their “community environment” and they ruin their family finances. Basically, people like RHU are responsible for destruction of the family AND society.

I had an uncle who was addicted to drugs. He had many emotional problems growing up and probably used them to medicate himself. Despite having health insurance and plenty of money from his guilt-ridden parents, he couldn’t exactly just go off looking for help since that might mean losing the drugs. Despite all the money, it wasn’t enough to pay for the highly inflated drug prices. Therefore he stole from his family. In the end, it wasn’t the drugs that killed him, it was the risk he took living homeless on the street so that he could send all of my grandparents’ money to drug dealers and terrorists in foreign countries.

Roger M May 30, 2006 at 11:50 am

I agree that the war on drugs has been destructive. Just look at the mess it has made of countries to our south, especially Mexico.

I don’t agree that drug use affects only the user. Most users have family that suffer from their abuse, especially the children. Then there are the crimes they commit to pay for their drug use, and the accidents they cause when using. For example, alcohol is responsible for about 30% of all deaths from car accidents, and it’s legal!

I have a proposition: Legalize drugs, but require a license for their use. If the user harms another person, he loses his license. Use with a license would carry a stiff jail term.

Tim May 30, 2006 at 11:59 am

Stolyarov two, You need to go to Singapore. They have dispensed with the ad nauseum cud chewing that you have just shoveled and actually addressed the problem. Drugs are illegal in Singapore and if convicted of selling or using you are taken out and shot~~~the next day. It works, no one uses. Amazing. If they shot users in America it would be like New York’s broken windows policy: huge swaths of criminality would disappear.

Aaron Singleton May 30, 2006 at 12:03 pm


The arguments you make about drug use having adverse affects on families and communities is correct but problematic. The conclusion usually drawn from such observations is that it is then just to use force to prevent drug use in order to prevent its consequences. The problem in this line of reasoning is that the wider premise is overlooked and only drugs are focused on.

The real premise here is that all actions have consequences and many times their impact can be observed or felt by other actors. The question is then, when is a person justified in using force to prevent or compensate for these consequences. You point out that what are now classified as illegal drugs often are the cause of “moral damage,” drain of resources and financial ruin, but alcohol can have these exact same effects. How many people think we should re-instate prohibition?

Pornography or adultery may ruin a marriage, break up a family, and/or be the cause of wasted resources and poor finances. This is (to varying degrees) the case with a wide variety of common behavior such as laziness, bad temper, gluttony, habitual lying, etc. So where do we draw the line? where can we be justified in using force to prevent unpleasant consequences? Private property is the answer. Anything else is arbitrary and unjust.

The reference you make to the “the crimes perpetrated under drug effect” is unfounded. There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that drugs cause crimes that are not associated with drug prohibition itself. Drug use is not a violation of property rights and therefore is not a crime.

Reactionary May 30, 2006 at 12:10 pm


I can come up with an equally compelling argument for a zero-tolerance policy against alcohol, cigarettes and starchy, sugary foods. The economic and non-economic costs of all three substances are at least as high, and probably higher. Where does one stop?

The truly destructive hard drugs are used only by a very small portion of the populace. Otherwise, people have used mild intoxicants to deal with the harshness of life for millenia. If drugs were de-criminalized (my preferred term), I believe the use of refined and highly toxic drugs would decline a good deal, just like the consumption of distilled spirits declined after the end of Prohibition.

Aaron Singleton May 30, 2006 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for your lucid analysis TIM. Now we can solve all the world’s problems. I mean why stop at drug users/dealers? We could shoot anyone who does anything we don’t like and then we’d have a perfect world. Let’s all jump on Fuhrer Tim’s train. Next stop: complete, totalitarian bliss.

I mean if he says it “works” then it must work. No one could possibly be using or selling drugs in Singapore without Tim knowing about it. So if he says no one uses, well then no one uses.

Chemist May 30, 2006 at 12:39 pm

“Further to the obvious moral damage to all who live near the subject, consider the damage to the family’s finance, the valuable resources drained to get more drug, the crimes perpetrated under drug effect, the losses generated by destruction etc.”

– exactly! This damage is the result of the state illegalizing something it has no business in. If you could pick up the phone and get drugs delivered for cheap, or walk down to the corner store a pick up some [insert choice of drug here], there would be little incentive for all the undesirable aspect of the drug trade.

Why not call for alcohol to be illegal? The ‘lesser’ collateral damage associated with alcohol is directly a result of alcohol being legal.

Curt Howland May 30, 2006 at 1:34 pm

“For a long time, pro-legalization advocates have been accused of simply being a front for pot-heads.”

I would very much like to get beyond the successful use of “attacking the messenger” by the prohibitionists. They need to be called on that tactic every time it is used, very loudly.

Giving in by wasting time explaining it away in each and every article is simply letting the prohibitionists control the debate.

Instead of, “I’m against drugs too, but…” try, “So you are attacking the messenger? Either dispute the facts presented or admit you have lost!”

Paul Marks May 30, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I agree that attacks on the person (rather than the argument) are a standard tactic of the prohibitionists – and they need to be attacked on this.

And on the broader philosphical point that if you are not in favour of banning something you think it is a good thing. The “if it is not banned it must be approved of” nonsense of the modern world.

The legal point also needs to be made.

Prohibition (of booze) was justified (legally – it still made no sense) by the 18th Amendment (repealed in 1933).

Under what Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the prohibtion of drugs justified?

“But the government appointed judges do not care about the Constitution”.

Perhaps they do not – but they need to be called on that also.

RHU May 30, 2006 at 2:08 pm

“Drugs are expensive because prohibitionists like RHU make them expensive.”
“Basically, people like RHU are responsible for destruction of the family AND society”.

Hey Mr. Singleton,
Do you call that “an intelligent and civil comment”?
That sounds more like a heavy bombing, a personal attack, instead of an explanation on your economic analysis of the subject.
What kind of authority do you have, to make such an irresponsible statement?
Please adjust your level to the prevailing high standard in this blog, then your comments will be welcome again.


billwald May 30, 2006 at 2:13 pm

Follow the money. This war provides may good union jobs. It replaces speed traps as a source of revenue for small communities. It helps to keep the population afraid of other members of the community. It accelerates the flow of assets from the working class to our unknown masters.

Consider meth, something that kids can brew in their kitchens. Our owners can’t let us have unsupervised happiness. It was cutting into heroin and coke profits thus the campaign to restrict meth precursers. What has happened? Commercial meth is being imported from Mexico and consumption (profits) has climbed.

David Spellman May 30, 2006 at 2:16 pm

A Collateral Problem With The War on Drugs

Whether you believe “illicit” drugs are good or bad, or government efforts to limit their use are good or bad, there is a concern we might have with giving the government power to wage the drug war. Any power invested in the government is liable to be abused by the all-too-human beings charged with wielding that power. If you will humor me, I would like to cite an illustrative story from the Bible, mainly to show that this abuse of power is documented from long ago. The story is about Jezebel in the Book of Kings, chapter 21, verses 5-15:

5 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?

6 And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.

7 And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:

10 And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness aagainst him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.

11 And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.

12 They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.

13 And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.

15 And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take apossession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money: for Naboth is not alive, but dead.

So what’s the point?

The upshot of this story is that a government official wanted something that he couldn’t legally compel a citizen to give him, but his wife found a way to get it by framing the man for a capital crime and seizing the property. This abuse is a prototype for how the unconstitutional search and seizure laws used in the war on drugs can be abused.

To wit, we have all read stories about seemingly upstanding citizens who have been exposed as perveyors of illegal drugs. Their property is seized and they are presumed guilty unless they can prove otherwise. Some are “accidentally” killed during the government raid, thus making their legal defence awkward if not possible.

Of course, we know that all these people are guilty because government officials would never falsely accuse someone of a crime for personal or financial gain. But surely we can admit that the potential for abuse exists once the apparatus is in place. It concerns me that if this potential power exists, it might someday attract the wrong kind of people into government service.

I am very wary of anyone who tells me that if I will just give them power they will solve all my problems. Even if it were true that they could solve my problems, it may turn out that their only intention is to enslave me rather than help me. For better or worse, I don’t want to foster a government-sponsored war on drugs–I would rather be free to fix whatever problem exists on my own.

And, yes, I have seen the dark side of drug-addiction, crime, and violence first hand. I am completely disillusioned by my own experiences with the ineffectiveness of government in that arena.

Joe Cesarone May 30, 2006 at 2:17 pm

I have to disagree with the line “The War on Drugs is generous to drug addicts and punitive to all others”. In fact, the WoD is punitive to everybody except the criminals who deal in it and the vast bureaucracy involved in maintaining and enforcing it, i.e. governments at all levels, private prison operators, etc. If drugs were legal, users would know what they are getting and have a lot of money left over for necessities due to the greatly reduced costs.

The author is making a point about receiving free food and shelter in prison, but I highly doubt that imprisoned drug offenders share a universal sentiment that they are better off incarcerated.

Eric May 30, 2006 at 2:19 pm

I think we should make alcohol illegal again. In fact, we should return to the early 1930′s when alcohol was illegal, marijuana was legal, and gold was illegal. I don’t know of anyone who has a big red nose or liver disease from smoking marijuana; nor do pot smokers tend to end up behind the wheel thinking they are fit to drive. We should probably shoot all bartenders for selling the evil brew.

Naturally, I’m being sarcastic. My point is that when we have “political” law, we are using force for immoral reasons and that is the only moral issue that makes any difference for me: using force on others. True criminal law does not change e.g. murder is illegal throughout time because it involves force against others.

Any law that can change over time just because some politicians have something to gain permits other politicians to make laws criminalizing any behavior. In America, we are supposed to be the land of the free. Some countries also shoot gay people and others shoot people because of the skin color or religious beliefs. The writer who approves of shooting drug users could find that some behavior of his might one day be a shooting offense.

That said, I might be in favor of shooting politicians that violate the constitution, and federal laws against drug use clearly are unconstitutional; except we no longer care about that dead letter document.

Brad Dexter May 30, 2006 at 2:21 pm

It seems to me that the world can be a rotten place, and drug abuse is a part of the rottenness. But quixotic, flacid “Wars on X” has not done much to change anything. Unfortunately, Tim’s right in one sense; it would take socialism in its most bracing forms to really change anything, which is a cure worse than the disease. Which of may not be the worst scenario in that soft socialism is an unacceptable hybrid, it has maximal intervention with minimal results. The detriments to society are not conquered AND the maximum amount is taken out of my pocket by Mother Government. Which, as we know, it the bureaucrat’s dream. Get the maximum commitment through bogey stories and never really solve anything because the gravy train would end.

And lastly, it was disheartening to see how easily commentators switched between user and abuser in presumably meaning the same person. Abusers are a small percentage of users.

Aaron Singleton May 30, 2006 at 2:56 pm


The quote you attributed to me was actually made by Ammonium. Maybe you should try reading a little more carefully before responding in such emotional fashion. The response I made to you was quite reasonable.

paul May 30, 2006 at 3:20 pm

Another tack:
The War on Drugs amounts to a veiled practice of ‘ethnic cleansing’ or Eugenics.
Instead of promoting behaviors leading to the raising of responsible adults in society, the gov uses the war on drugs to clean it up afterwards.
In essence, they ‘line the streets with candy and whoever picks up the candy gets shot or goes to jail’. The overwhelming majority of people in jail or murdered are related to drugs, with blacks followed by hispanics as the dominant groups.
It is nothing more than a way to ‘clean the streets’ of undesirables.

RHU May 30, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Hi Mr. Singleton,

Sorry for the misunderstanding.
My words were actually addressed to Mr. Ammonium, whose comments acted on myself as a becher full of ditto.
Your comments were civilized indeed, no matter if I agree or not with them.
Sincere apologies for the mix-up.

BTW, I believe that someone who chooses an alias like “Ammonium” must be a bitter guy… Cheer up, Mr. NH3, let’s have a Diet Coke together and work it out, OK?


Yancey Ward May 30, 2006 at 3:44 pm

The very obvious fact that the “War on Drugs” has completely failed to curtail or reverse drug abuse trends, along with the very obvious deleterious effects it has engendered in society, I think is the most compelling argument in support of the contention that the goal really isn’t to solve the drug abuse problem, but is rather the enhancement of state power and privilege. I mean, just look at the abuse of forfeiture “laws”!

Artisan May 30, 2006 at 3:55 pm

HE Hoffer
I’m with you and with Brian Moore on that: while all arguments about prohibition in this libertarian forum may be exact to some extent, many of them are directed against/toward government and its principles. The idea to address directly arguments for the understanding of the uneducated people in general is not less important… if you want to move something.

Now, as the author puts it: drugs make you less productive as an individual in general, on the long run (of course that’s until some insurance company bets on the contrary…). Even if in our libertarian society, drugs were all legal thus, addicted people would need to fulfil their needs despite diminishing productivity (and most probably diminishing decency too), … without welfare… That means that probably the criminality, even if reduced, would still be a distinctive and related problem. Here’s more libertarian explanation needed: how do you secure law and order in the drug scene with a private police? How do you deal with drug related criminality? ( Roger M’s idea is good … because it’s based on presumption of innocence)

Roger M May 30, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Artisan, Thanks for the vote. Here’s the problem with my plan: As usual, we’d get the legalization of drugs without the enforcement. We require licenses to drive cars, but no one enforces the laws. We have penalties for drunk driving, but no one enforces them.

Those who think usage would decline with legalization need to look overseas. Switzerland tried that with heroine or cocaine in the 1980′s and usage skyrocketed. In the late 90′s the Swiss made usage a criminal activity again. In Morocco, usage is illegal but not enforced and usage is frightenly high, by some estimates 50% of the population.

Angelo May 30, 2006 at 4:15 pm

Talk about missing the point, Dave.

The author’s got it exactly right. The war on drugs is stupid, unjust, and criminal.

Paul Edwards May 30, 2006 at 4:33 pm


“…how do you secure law and order in the drug scene with a private police? How do you deal with drug related criminality? ( Roger M’s idea is good … because it’s based on presumption of innocence)”

First, if you would, can you clarify to me how drug use modifies the playing field in the question of the private provision of law and order? To my way of thinking, the crime isn’t modified by the fact that a person has a drug problem. If the crime is negligence, it’s negligence, and theft is theft.

On the question of licensing for drug use, I suppose an insurance company could stipulate that one abstains from drinking and taking other drugs, and even talking on cell phones for that matter, while they drive for instance. But this would have to remain in the realm of private voluntary contractual agreements rather than state coercion. No one should be able to simply legislate people’s drug use. The institution of drug use agreements might be iffy though because drug testing might prove unpopular in general. And if that were the case, enforcement would be a problem, and so the whole idea might dissolve in a free market.

Eric May 30, 2006 at 6:00 pm

I am for complete drug legalization, no licenses nada nothing. There was no drug problem before drugs were made illegal. Besides, who gets to say what makes a productive citizen. What’s the difference between a drug user who is “unproductive” and a baseball player, or a playboy who inherited large sums. If that was the measure of why drugs are illegal, then how about T.V. which is quite addictive, rots the mind with all sorts of propoganda and is not at all what one might call a productive activity. And for that matter, I would include the T.V. pushers in the entertainment business. As Rothbard has said, there is no good reason in a free society to dictate what behaviors are good for “society”. Leisure is just as good an activity as producing goods.

The problem is in the welfare state which rewards some at the expense of others. But for me, I could care less what the reason my property was stolen, whether to “help” drug users or those addicted to government power. Theft is theft, and again, it’s the use of force that is the litmus test. Anything not involving force should not be outlawed.

Sione May 30, 2006 at 6:23 pm


In Singapore drug users and dealers are not shot “the next day”. That is completely false. Either you are deliberately dishonest or you are making up silly tales. Well mate, you’re busted!

Singapore has a court system which has its own complexities and rules and precedence, same as yours. The Singapore system is based on the British one. In Singapore a drug prosecution may take months or even years to bring to trial, especially in the case of capital prosecution. A guilty finding results in the death penalty only for certain classes of charge (which the prosecutor has to specifically lay, he may choose an alternative charge which does not have death as a sanction- perhaps the rotan instead). After being found guilty of a capital charge the convict has opportunity to appeal (usually results in another month or two of litigation) but appeals generally do not succeed. The death penalty takes place within weeks of the verdict.

Death in Singapore is by judicial hanging. It is done at dawn. The prisoner is dead within 60 seconds of leaving his cell. The body is given to the family should they request it.

The entire process is monstrous and obscene.

BTW has anyone considered the effect that judicial murders and the like have on the victim’s friends and family? An example; recently a young Vietnamese man was hung for a “drug crime” in Singapore. His mother got to visit him shortly before he was killed. She next saw him, a few hours later, in his coffin. Just think about that next time you try to justify the War on Drugs in the name of the friends and family of the drug user.


Sione May 30, 2006 at 6:33 pm

Forget the licences, that’s just silly. If people want drugs they’ll get them and use them. Imposing a licence requirment assumes that individuals should ask permission of the state to ingest property they purchase. That is, they need permission to put their own property (drugs and other substances) into their own property (their bodies).

Anyway, the licencing regime will simply result in non-licenced “illegal” drug trading and consumption. Licences will lead to taxes and fees and then all sorts of other corruptions and away we go again…

Leave other people alone. That includes those fool druggie pot heads.


eric lansing May 30, 2006 at 6:58 pm

“I personally find all currently illegal drugs loathsome; they stunt the mind, inhibit the body, and curtail productivity.”

they didn’t hurt your record collection though. you don’t have to all be a bunch of New Dealers…

and pot doesn’t stunt your mind… only your reflexes.

eric lansing May 30, 2006 at 6:58 pm

“I personally find all currently illegal drugs loathsome; they stunt the mind, inhibit the body, and curtail productivity.”

they didn’t hurt your record collection though. you don’t have to all be a bunch of New Dealers…

and pot doesn’t stunt your mind… only your reflexes.

eric lansing May 30, 2006 at 7:04 pm

what’s up with:

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I’ve enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience


Juan G May 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm

From my naive libertarian point of view I believe the article is a bit flawed…

1) It claims that drug use/users are ‘inmoral’. If that’s so, then,
what’s the propper adjective for the governments and armies that
massacred some 200 millions people during the 20th century ? ‘Misguided idealists’ perhaps ?

2) I’m sure that the govt. directly benefits from the artificially high
prices for drugs – for instance, taxing firms engaged in so called ‘money laundry’.
In a word, the govt. is the main partner in the drug bussiness. Did the author mention that ?

3) I guess drug gangsters are no angels, yet to say that
, while government bureaucracy may be frustrating, a bureaucrat will not shoot a citizen who displeases him on the spot.
is way too flattering for the state…and wrong. See point 1.

Eric V. Encina May 30, 2006 at 9:01 pm

Yes, I agree the thoughts of this writer. The governments in the world in fact is indeed wasting huge taxpayers’ money to a campaign against drug trafficking that never likely ends, for this unproductive effort. Yes, here in the Philippines, according to the statistics there are almost 5 million Filipinos already hooked to illegal drug uses and addictions from marijuana to shabu to other non-prescribed drugs. And accordingly the total profits annually here in the Philippines are around P100 Billion or around US$2 Billion. In USA, I have read that drug addicts there are around 10 million Amercans with the totalprofits of around US$500 Billion. Terrible indeed, the drug traffickers are earning so enormously, hair-raising for the destruction of human life, of young peoples, or our society.
I am also afraid to say that no matter how we do in educational campaign and awareness as long as there are FINANCIERS, and manufactures of drugs, and MAFIAMEN involved within the institutions, as oftentimes reported, and the laxity of the global government and international agencies like the United Nations’ Security Council where the rich nations are on the seats, we cannot totally eradicate this diabolic menace. It’s not enough to provide the budget and say words but we must have strong POLITICAL WILL with strong, uncompromised PUBLIC OUTCRY AND SUPPORT without rhetorical mumbo-jumbo political, military styles, WITHOUT PERSONAL INTEREST AND CHICANERIES OR ANY HIDDEN AGENDA. The major question is: HOW LONG MUST WE SUFFER UNDER THE CULTURE OF DEATH OF DRUG MENACE IN OUR SOCIETY? Must we wait that our children and will become bloodline of addicts before we will take concrete action? Where is our conscience? Are we insane or the system makes us insane?, I MUST TELL YOU THAT IT IS ALSO INDEED OBVIOUS THAT THE PRESENT defective FINANCIAL-ECONOMIC SYSTEM WHICH WE EMBRACE, PERPETUATES THE IMPERIALISM OF DRUG INDUSTRY. And sadly, the governments – their politicians and economists, businessmen and companies and even educational institutions are directly and indirectly or to some inadvertently responsible for this seemed to be everlasting problem on drug.

Eric V. Encina
Roxas City, Capiz, Philippines

Juan May 30, 2006 at 9:43 pm

I wonder what stuff is Mr. Encina taking ?

AKCA May 31, 2006 at 2:19 am


I just want to think the concept of Private Property a little bit more.

I believe the assumption is if it only effects your private property, the government then has no right to interfere.

Extending this a bit further along the lines of nuclear capabilities/WMD, then it should be ok for countries to build, develop, purchase and sell WMD without any interference from anybody else. The key is I imagine to figure out the ‘potential to incur harm’ to other’s private property which drives the world nuclear order.

I am not claiming that it is correct or I endorse it, I just think that one of the important points to consider in “de-criminalising” drug use/Sale/purchase is the potential to harm others and other’s private property.

I also want to think through the argument presented before along the lines of …Drugs Users, may under the influence of the substance of choice commit an illegal act, and have to be treated like any other person comitting an illegal act.

Again this does not take cognizance of the ‘potential to incur harm’ angle. Is drug use contributing to increase in the user’s ‘potential to do harm’?

I do not have the relavent drunken man’s pole (read “statistics”) or any proposed measure to assess the “potential to do harm” but I imagine this if there was, it would still have to be regulated by a governing body, which will upset my libertarian brethern.

An interesting Afterthought

In the future perfect world envisioned by Robert A. Wilson in his book Schrodinger’s Cat(there are two types of crimes :1) Against a person (Murder, rape, etc) and 2) Against the existing societal/ governmental norms, which are victim less crimes so to speak.

The criminals in the first category went to a place called Hell (a place on earth with no rules/regulators, knock down drag out, winner takes all kind of a place) and the the criminals in the second category went to a space station to populate other worlds along the lines of their appreciated ideology.

So maybe two separate worlds is the answer?

averros May 31, 2006 at 3:35 am

If anyone here thinks *any* illegal drug is more dangerous than cigarettes, he is in sore need of education.

One good place to start is at Cato Institute report “Thinking of Drug Legalization” – it has that nice table of actuarial data in it comparing dangers of illicit and legal drugs per user.

Another good place for propaganda-free information on drugs is http://www.erowid.org.

And, yes, illegal drugs do have their good uses, if used responsibly, just like tobacco (which seems to slow Alzheimer’s and takes care of some sympthoms of schizophrenia), alcohol (all-around antiseptic). Heroin is a powerful analgetic, *less* addictive than modern synthetic opiates like Vicodin and such, and an effective anxiolythic (alleviates anxieties). Cocaine is an antidepressant, stimulant, and topical analgetic (Dr. Freud called it “a wonder drug”). MDMA (Ecstasy) is a very powerful antidepressant and was shown to be effective in establishing patient-therapist contact and threatment of some social phobias, and seems to help high-functioning autists to learn social skills. Marijuana is improving appetite in cancer patients, relieves high eye pressure, combats nausea, relieves pain, and reduces anxieties and nervousness.

The idiotic government regulations deprive a lot of people from the cheap and effecive medications in form of the illegal drugs and their analogs. Just talk to anyone with chronic pain for some first-hand accounts of how doctors avoid prescribing controlled substances.

Murdering and torturing (by withdrawal of otherwise available medicine) people just because someone somewhere’s having unapproved sort of fun — that’s the government for us.

david May 31, 2006 at 4:11 am

for what its worth, It has been observed by some that the original reason for the outlawing of marijuana in the 1930s was not ‘really’ informed by any concerns for its health effects, but was merely a populist and expedient decision taken to provide alternative form of employment for the huge bureaucracy built to enforce prohibition under the auspices of Harry Anslinger. It was easy to do because in those days marijuana was primaril;y used by hispanics and to a lesser extent blacks, so there was little objection from the ( white) mainstream, who swallowed the absurd propaganda campaign. That old campaign’s largley discredited factoids and erroneous claims still riddle the legalisation debate today, because the high emotive quotient in the debate mitigates in inverse proportion to its rationality – as we have seen in some of the posts above.

Artisan May 31, 2006 at 5:32 am

If libertarians admit that most of the State structure can be replaced by insurances that pool the risk of the damages a certain class of people may cause… and be accountable for, then the specificity of drug related crimes is interesting, just because it allows to depict, once again, the libertarian alternative to State.

Yet I agree with Paul Edwards, that’s nothing new or different than with other crimes. It just makes clear what relates to the question of judging cigarettes, pot, cocaine “dangerous” or not, and why insurance policies are to replace the State in many aspects. People will then decide which kind of contract they like the best… the very expensive ones that never test you, or the very cheap one that tests you every month… a great new kind of freedom!

In a libertarian society, call it a license, or a “Do you take drugs?” question on your insurance policy… Not speaking about the questions on job/school application, and working contract. If he breaches such contract, one would loose his job and loose his insurance though…

My concern with the competing insurance businesses is that obviously they will be large companies as to reduce the costs effectively, yet if they do not calculate well, or mismanage the liability money, who is going to pay for the victims? I know there’s an article on the forum mentioning limited liability for companies, but I haven’t had the time to read it yet…

Keith Preston May 31, 2006 at 7:47 am

I doubt that currently illegal drugs will ever be decriminalized as long as the present US regime stands. Too many vested interests have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Add to that the effect of decades of “drugs are the root of all evil” propaganda on public opinion. If the US regime were to collapse like the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact, individual regions or communities might pop up that decriminalized drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin. Think of some the present secessionist movements who oppose the drug war (like the Free State Project, Second Vermont Republic or the Green Panthers). There’s also the possibility that as US society continues to break down armed drug-trafficking groups will become the defacto government of specific localities, as is currently the case in some of the Latin American countries.

I doubt decriminalization would affect usage rates that much one way or the other. Marijuana use among Dutch youth has remained the same or even declined since decriminalization. I’ve been to Amsterdam and seen the “dope cafes” there. Most of their patrons are tourists from America and England. The native Dutch seem to think pot is just a big bore.

As for hard drugs, the main increase in use might be among those who currently abuse legal drugs like alcohol or tobacco but are deterred from other drugs because of the legal status or, more likely, price. Some alcoholics might also become junkies and some chain-smokers might also become potheads. It’s unlikely that teetotalers and non-smokers are going to rush out and become crack or heroin users just because the laws change. That might happen in some cases but it would probably be exceedingly rare.

olmedo May 31, 2006 at 9:44 am

greeat article.

but forgot to comment on all the destruction going on south of the border.

the 15,000 killed by the drug finance war in colombia; the corruption of politicians and the judiciary all over the place….etc.


Paul Edwards May 31, 2006 at 10:36 am

Hi Artisan,

I think beyond admitting this, libertarians tend to promote the view that much of the insurance aspects of the state that people want, could, would and should be provided on a voluntary basis by insurance companies in a free market. When you say of this it’s “a great new kind of freedom!”, I’m not sure to interpret that as meaning you don’t think it is all that much better than what we have under the state, or if you do. But let me argue why it would be better. It would be voluntary. It means that the consumer dictates how much or how little, if at all, he is monitored for drug use. The insurance companies would try to correlate drug use with accidents and if they could do it, they would attempt to put this risk in a different pool at a different cost. It would change the whole question from morality to insurance risks.

In respect to the question of mismanaged insurance firms, the answer is the same as always. Private firms are in the business of serving their customers for the ultimate goal of making a profit. A poorly managed company just cannot compete with well managed companies in a free market. The former will fail, while the latter will prosper. Also, remember that what you fear is what we have currently. The only time a poorly managed operation can continue operation is when it holds special coercive privilege of government monopoly. In that case, it is quite sensible to worry that the operation will be mismanaged and even that money will be embezzled and that the criminals behind the embezzling will get away with it Scott free. It’s classic.

billwald May 31, 2006 at 12:05 pm

“The governments in the world in fact is indeed wasting huge taxpayers’ money . . . .”

Libertarians forget that there are two sides of a balance sheet. Money is never wasted, it is transferred. Dope money on both sides of the “war” is being transferred exactly the way our Big Brothers want it transferred.

steve May 31, 2006 at 1:34 pm

Billwald is right. The drug war is cloaked in the classic phoney rhetoric that the government is here to protect you, when in reality, like in so many other cases, it is here to take your property and give it to someone else in exchange for support. Government is the ultimate criminal racket.

KMO June 1, 2006 at 12:24 pm
Artisan June 2, 2006 at 2:10 am

Paul Edwards,

Ah, no. No irony this time: me too I’m being quite thrilled by the idea that a libertarian concept seems to work well, in fact. More expensive policies gives you more “risk coverage” and that doesn’t bother me one bit as it is only fair… as long as the principle of liability is accepted by everyone.

In fact I’m eager to learn more about that libertarian insurance model. You may wonder what will happen to a person wrecking someone else’s property, with no property of his own to pay the damages back for instance… will he be “forced” to work (i.e. in a confined surrounding perhaps, because fleeing his responsibilities would be stealing?) and slowly pay back (problem: how can possibly his productivity be measured objectively in a confined surrounding ?) Is that some kind of acceptable coercion to the libertarians?

Peter June 2, 2006 at 2:33 am

We usually use the word “coercion” in a restricted sense, only for people initiating it. Since the damage has already been done by the other guy, making him pay for it is not coercion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: