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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6346/the-vietnam-solution-for-drug-victory/

The Vietnam Solution for Drug Victory

March 7, 2007 by

Look at the problems in drug-producing areas of the world such as Mexico, South America, the Middle East and Afghanistan. What would these nations be like absent our drug war? We know very well that the drug war and illegal drug money is helping to undermine local institutions, spread dangerous ideologies, and fuel anti-Americanism. The same applies to the inner city ghettos. Most importantly, Americans are dying from illegal drugs at rising and alarming rates. These deaths are also the result of the drug war because government prohibition makes drugs more potent, more impure, more dangerous, more addictive, and more deadly. FULL ARTICLE

{ 96 comments }

John Coleman March 7, 2007 at 8:54 am

Mark Thornton’s “Vietnam Solution” is pure fantasy and recaps the talking points of NORML and the other pro-druggie special interests. This is a gem: “All the rest of the problems with “drugs” are directly the result of the war on drugs — government prohibition. Drug-related crimes, drug gangs, overcrowded prisons, a poisoned judicial system, and political corruption are all the result of drug prohibition, not drugs themselves.” Let’s assume for a second that Thornton is correct. Then what? Are we to expect Thornton’s time machine can take us back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt when drugs were legal and there were no drug criminals because there were no drug crimes? That seems to be the illogical conclusion one is expected to draw from Thornton’s premise. Keep in mind what Mises said: “It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocanism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vice.” (Liberalism, 1927) Yes, Mises went on to say that government intervention might be worse than the problem of drugs but it was too late when he observed this. The Harrison Narcotic Act was already in force for more than a dozen years when he made his anti-drug statement. The problem with Thornton and von Mises is that they are (were) quick to condemn the government (always) but they also are weak on proposing any viable option. Their vision of a viable option is to return to a status quo ante — what I call the time machine option, which, as we know, is a fantasy option.

Ike Hall March 7, 2007 at 9:00 am

Thank you, Dr. Thornton. Although most paleolibertarians frown on drug abuse, we know the deadly effects of prohibition vastly outweigh the costs imposed by drug abuse. I think the tide is starting to turn, but it will be a long process. After all, there’s still too much political gain in being a staunch Drug Warrior. Perhaps we need to memorialize the victims of the Drug War, at least online.

Axel Riemer March 7, 2007 at 9:14 am

The best argument in favor of Mark Thornton’s argument against drug prohibition is the tried and failed alcohol prohibition.

“All the rest of the problems with “drugs” are directly the result of the war on drugs — government prohibition. Drug-related crimes, drug gangs, overcrowded prisons, a poisoned judicial system, and political corruption are all the result of drug prohibition, not drugs themselves.”

I would argue that all of the problems with alcohol prohibition, precisely the ones Dr. Thornton has laid out, were problems arising from prohibition, and not inherent in alcohol itself. This is easy to demonstrate since those difficulties are no longer present today. Where is the Al Capone of alcohol now? Non-existant.

This doesn’t mean there are no problems with alcohol! There’s that word, alcoholic, for one. And there are many cases where alcohol is a factor – domestic abuse, car wrecks, vandalism. However, it is not a crime to drink. Crime is still crime, whether or not alcohol is involved (except for those grey areas of victimless crime, like DUI’s, but thats another article); the involvement of alcohol does not change the facts of a case, only the perspective. Whether we should or should not prosecute more or less strongly in cases where alcohol/drugs is involved is a whole ‘nother issue.

So it should be for any drug. Consumption should not be illegal. Smoking and drinking are vices, just like smoking crack or eating shrooms (vice: depending on your personal views. I happen to like doughnuts). Drugs are only a problem when they interfere with other person’s property, under which they should be prosecuted under the common law of private property. Don’t arrest me for getting high, arrest me for burning down a building.

Nick Bradley March 7, 2007 at 9:14 am

Dr. Thornton should have avoided making Vietnam analogies altogether. Makign the analogy leaves him open to the reply that (1) 3 million Cambodians were slaughtered, (2) 150,000 Vietnamese citizens were executed in re-education camps, and 1 millions refugees fled to the US and Australia.

Other than that, his points are entirely valid.

Nick Bradley March 7, 2007 at 9:28 am

John Coleman,

I don’t think that you truly read Dr. Thornton’s article.

He does not make the case that it is necessary to “go back in time”. On the contrary, he correctly points out that “drug-related crimes, drug gangs, overcrowded prisons, a poisoned judicial system, and political corruption” are a direct result of prohibition. If drugs were legal, the price would be so low that (1) they wouldn’t be sold on the street, (2) large firms would sell quality product, and (3) it may not even be worth the cost to improt it into the country.

Thornton also correctly points out, as so many anti-prohibition acitvists fail to do, is the damage done to producing countries. Look at Columbia: It’s a basket case!

If I was “El Presidente” down in Columbia, I would immediately legalize all drugs. My economy would reap monopoly profits until other states legalized drug consumption, then Columbia would switch to alternate production (Coffee, bananas, etc.). The various insurgent groups in Columbia, such as FARC and ETA, would also wither away without the support of the drug trade. Of course, I would probably find myself assassinated by the cartels, but you see my point.

Although drug-related crime is directly the result of prohibition, the social effects of drug use are not; this is the problem most antiprohibition activists fail to recognize. What Dr. Thornton correctly points out is that the welfare state creates a moral hazard that makes drug use OK.

In a true free market, drug use would be easily available, but socially unacceptable.

Confessions of a Right-Wing Libertarian

http://crwl.blogspot.com

olmedo March 7, 2007 at 9:35 am

i come from a country that has wrecked by the war on drugs. not in a physical health kind of sense but in the destruction of the moral fabric of the entire society.

what is phony is that in panama even though we are a the center of the drug trade and , as a transit country, and drugs are very inexpensive compare to the US you see very few users and, specially, no peddlers around just the opposite as when i was a student in the US and i was constantly approached by peddlers and drugs were easy to spot at parties.

the difference is that the war on drugs has made the US market a “push” market” were the profits incentives to create new addicts are very high given the relative scarcity.

unintended consequences.

Not Important March 7, 2007 at 9:46 am

One important reason that the War on some Drugs is unlikely to be repealed is that it is a huge jobs program for large sectors of the economy at all levels, cops, prisons, politicians, “educators”, social workers and various do-gooders all ride the drug war gravy train from the Federal to local level.

Matt March 7, 2007 at 9:55 am

“Of course we must do more to help those who abuse or who might potentially abuse drugs. As individuals we must be prepared to help our friends, family, and coworkers. As a nation we must also be prepared with “tough love.” ”

MUST MUST MUST this is what got us into trouble in the first place… A “MUST” is made into a law by the folks in Washington and then enforced at the point of a gun. What we MUST do is to eliminate the FDA as a start and then we MUST pass laws to eliminate laws that stomp on Individual Rights.. That’s a pipe dream of course.The evil Ethics of Self Sacrifice is alive and well.

Jim Ostrowski March 7, 2007 at 10:37 am

“Are we to expect Thornton’s time machine can take us back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt when drugs were legal and there were no drug criminals because there were no drug crimes?”

Sounds good to me.

I once read ten years’ worth of the pre-drug war NYT index looking for articles about drug problems and found one, about firemen who used cocaine when they got smoke in their eyes. One article in ten years.

Sudha Shenoy March 7, 2007 at 10:41 am

1. That’s Col_o_mbia, please; _not_ the District of Col_u_mbia!!

2. Afghanistan is the main source of raw opium: poppies are the largest _cash_ crop. But no problem of drug addiction. Perhaps a handful of people, if that. So too South Asia generally: opium etc have been available for centuries, but only a few are addicted.

Stranger March 7, 2007 at 12:38 pm

End the war on drugs, demand that drugs surrender unconditionally!

Reactionary March 7, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Bravo, Jim Ostrowski.

It would be my thesis that a repeal of drug laws would (1) lower the toxicity of drugs on the market and (2) bankrupt criminals who are in the drug trade solely because they are unable to compete with legitimate businesses.

As to point number one, since Prohibition was repealed the market share for distilled liquors has declined and declined. When supply was controlled by the black market, the incentive was for a concentrated, high margin product. Generally speaking, the market prefers beer and wine to rotgut. Same with crack cocaine.

As to point number two, again, criminals control the drug trade because non-criminals are prohibited from it. Whenever legitimate businessmen enter the market, be it gambling, brothels, or credit, the criminals can’t compete and are driven out.

A case in point is the marijuana trade. For a variety of reasons, marijuana can now be procured from non-criminals. College campuses are a good example. When was the last time you saw college students shooting each other over marijuana distribution?

The drug war is an abomination. As noted, its purpose is solely to provide jobs for drug warriors.

Larry N. Martin March 7, 2007 at 1:16 pm

What, are you crazy? What will we do with all those LEO’s with too much time on their hands, if they’re not going after drugs??
;-)

John Coleman March 7, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Nick: Where are all these horrific examples that you give? The drug problem in the US is fairly under control, with most categories of drug use significantly below levels of a decade or more ago. Yes, prescription drug abuse has increased and this is worth paying some attention to, as is the methamphetamine issue that is beginning to show signs of coming under control. Just as some might say that there always will be drugs and drug abuse, some might also say that there will always be corruption and folks who take shortcuts while the rest of us try to live by the rules. Colombia may indeed be a basket case but it’s a better basket case today than it was just a decade ago. It’s also a better basket case today than before it became an important manufacturing site for cocaine. People forget that the international illicit drug industry in many ways is the ultimate von Mises dream in that it operates freely with little government intervention, is immensely profitable, and a great job multiplier. From a libertarian or paleolibertarian (nice word, great image) point of view, the illicit drug market is the ultimate example of free market enterprise. To legalize drugs would require greater government oversight as the private companies that might get into the business of making and selling what we now consider illegal drugs would incur huge tort liability for people suffering adverse effects. The only way this might be avoided is if the psychoactive drug industry were to seek regulatory protection from, guess who, the government, the archenemy of every von Mises acolyte. Government rules would be needed to indemnify the drug companies so that people would not be able to sue for damages if, for example, they were injured or killed by someone under the influence of a drug. Laws not unlike those that we now have for booze would have to be enacted and enforced vigorously. In the end, we probably would wind up exactly where we are, if not in worse shape. Thus far, I have not even touched upon the social costs of drug abuse. Presently, because they are so tightly controlled, those costs are below the social costs of alcohol and tobacco but were drugs ever freed from regulation, there’s little doubt that the social costs of doing so would exceed alcohol and/or tobacco. Goodness, knowing what we know about those two drugs and how difficult it is to control their use and abuse, why would any sensible person believe that letting another demon out of the box would be something worth doing? Von Mises was pretty much like the rest of us; he had some good ideas and some not-so-good ideas. I, frankly, think it’s just a little too difficult to be a moral absolutist in today’s world. In the age that he lived I would say that he had adequate justification to be skeptical of government. But to hold that same view today requires one to deny that there’s been any change, that we’ve evolved, that civilization, in general, has progressed from one era to the next. Just as von Mises formed his greatest ideas by synthesizing his thoughts with those who came before him, we, today, can do the same, that is, incorporate some of his wisdom into our modern way of thinking so that what comes out the other side works best for us today. Otherwise, we confine ourselves to having to always be daydreaming about the “time machine” in which we argue passionately to roll back the clock to some prior time when whatever it is we afraid of today wasn’t around. Then, according to the TM philosophy, we can start all over again and not make the same mistakes. I will agree that this is alluring and speaks to the didactic tyrant lurking inside each of us, ah the bane of the moral absolutist again, but consider the enormous amount of good time we lose to this emotional fraud, time that might be spent finding real solutions to real problems. I think von Mises would agree with me on this. Perhaps not. So what? (That’s the point!)

ste March 7, 2007 at 1:52 pm

do we have property rights? are drugs property?

the work of brilliant libertarian Thomas Szasz (e.g. Ceremonial Chemistry, Our Right to Drugs) must not be forgotten. Rothbard was kinder to Szasz in For a New Liberty than he had been when reviewing The Myth of Mental Illness (http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard14.html), but the libertarian silence on psychiatry remains baffling. still, good to see those at LvMI discussing drugs.

ste.

Reactionary March 7, 2007 at 1:57 pm

>>From a libertarian or paleolibertarian (nice word, great image) point of view, the illicit drug market is the ultimate example of free market enterprise.<<

No it’s not, because peacable folk are prevented from entering it, and in effect the thugs are granted a government-enforced monopoly. Where this monopoly breaks down, as in the marijuana trade, you do not see distributors killing each other for territory.

When alcohol was outlawed, it was controlled by the Mob. When it was legalized, it came back under control of businessmen who pay their taxes and obey the laws.

Yancey Ward March 7, 2007 at 3:00 pm

This is one issue all libertarians should be able to agree on. What I ingest into my own body is my business, not the state’s. It is a matter of self-ownership.

All the good that would accrue to us by ending the War on Drug Users will more than compensate us for the possibility that some of us might become new overusers of such substances, and no one has actually demonstrated that drug use would even increase. As an earlier commenter pointed out, the true beneficiaries of the present policy are government agents and agencies. Cui bono, cui friggin bono.

Nick Bradley March 7, 2007 at 3:25 pm

John Coleman,

You have NEVER seen the effects of drug prohibition on the United States? Have you ever been to an inner city, or had an unfortunate run-in with a 3-toothed meth addict out in rural areas?

Drug crime, like burglary and theft, are often perpetrated for drug money. Or, the flashy lifestyle of drug dealers has shown poor kids that “working is for suckers”.

One must not underestimate the economic impact on human capital. If I’m a college student and get popped for having over an ounce of pot, I get a felony on my rap sheet and I am now very difficult to hire. Drug charges taint millions of americans as criminals and bar them from various occupations, costing the US billions of dollars a year.

http://crwl.blogspot.com

Kevin B March 7, 2007 at 3:30 pm

John Coleman,

A regulated drug market is not the same as complete prohibition, and I doubt it would be worse.

Regardless, you have no right to prevent me from hurting myself. How dare you or anyone else even suggest it! Shame

Eric March 7, 2007 at 4:00 pm

I agree totally. However, the only way I think this war will end is by jury nullification. Nothing else will do anything. Unfortunately, it is difficult to remain on a jury if you say anything.

Last week, I was kicked off of a jury for not wanting to convict a young man of possession of less than an ounce of pot.

Brent March 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm

How can you not notice the effects of the drug war? I can’t buy cold medicine anymore, young people get arrested for not using alcohol like our older co-workers & managers, swat teams breaking stuff and shooting innocent people, gangs breaking stuff and shooting innocent people (as well as “competitors”), schools are a black market, etc. etc. this list keeps going on and on. You have to avoid schools (middle schools, high schools, and colleges) completely, while also not working any job in the health, criminal justice, insurance, and retail sectors in order to fail to notice the drug war. You also have to avoid watching the national geographic channel, all newspapers, all local and national news whatsoever, and you have to not know anyone involved in it (such as a family member, friend, etc.). What is really silly is that my soon-to-be father-in-law worked the street beat in very unpleasant sections of a large city and currently is on the SWAT team there and even he and many of his colleagues volunteer their opinion (in private) about how stupid the drug war is.

Kevin B March 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Eric,

Where was this case?

Francisco Torres March 7, 2007 at 5:20 pm

John Coleman:
People forget that the international illicit drug industry in many ways is the ultimate von Mises dream in that it operates freely with little government intervention, is immensely profitable, and a great job multiplier.

Actually the “illicit” drug industry exists BECAUSE of government intervention through prohibition. As it is, such a market is not free by any stretch of the imagination – the prices indicate this.

Thus far, I have not even touched upon the social costs of drug abuse.

Maybe the reason you have not is because a “social cost” is really an economics fallacy. A society does not incurr in economic activity, only individuals do.

To legalize drugs would require greater government oversight as the private companies that might get into the business of making and selling what we now consider illegal drugs would incur huge tort liability for people suffering adverse effects.

The “businessmen-are-immoral-because-they-are-profit-seekers” fallacy. If such drugs were legal, entrepreneurs would quickly settle for the less dangerous, more profitable drugs – no business person wants a dead client. You are arguing from the current situation but, remember, once you legalize drugs, the conditions change. Drugs owe their current potency to prohibition, just as Mr. Thorton has indicated. The current levels of profitability are entirely artificial, courtesy of the FedGov. Profits that are derived, on the other hand, from total customer satisfaction, would be entirely different, as would be the incentives to provide a better product, not one more dangerous.

billwald March 7, 2007 at 6:17 pm

I put in 30 years with the Seattle Police Department and agree with Thornton.

Personally, I couldn’t care less if the druggies want to fry their brains as long as they leave the rest of us alone. Give them a place to go, give them all the dope they want, and let them die happy.

John Coleman March 7, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Friends: I would like to believe in your theology but can’t get over the hurdle of having to deal with logic. Would five to ten million be a reasonable estimate of “thugs” now running the drug trade? Were we to legalize drugs, does anyone really think those folks are just going to fade away or perhaps go to school and become economists? So, now, let’s continue. In this make-believe world we shall have good guys (peaceable people, as someone said) working and making a living selling drugs lawfully alongside previously bad people, aka “thugs,” as someone described them. Where in this brave new world does reason enter this picture? Francisco said no business person wants a dead client. That may be true if you’re selling Dunkin Doughnuts, Chevrolets, or Soap Powder, but, unfortunately, drug dealers don’t always think like folks selling doughnuts, cars, or soap powder. Believe me, Francisco, I would love to think, as you do, that it would be a pleasant, peaceful world where good and evil, or, at least, previously evil, drug dealers could co-exist. Unless the good guys are willing and able to match the quality of the goods being sold by the bad guys, the bad guys will win out, plain and simple free market economics. Before we try to solve the drug problem we need to understand the nature of drugs and their effects in humans. Many of the drugs we’re discussing, including marijuana, are addictive, meaning there comes a point in time when, if I take them, I may compusively seek them despite their harm. Dealers know this. Likewise, addicts will always seek the most potent drugs possible as their tolerance increases. This is where the game can get deadly. Last year, when the police in Philly raided a place where they were selling fentanyl-laced heroin, the papers said that they refused to give out the location because in the past whenever they did, hundreds of junkies would descend upon the area looking for, you guessed it, the high test stuff. So it’s not really the same as selling doughnuts, cars, or soap powder now, is it? I don’t presume to have the answers to this complex problem but one thing is certain: the folks who proclaim how magnificent it is to be in total control of one’s own body to the exclusion of caring about anyone else, are no closer to the answer.

Mark Anderson March 7, 2007 at 7:09 pm

While one doesn’t need to endorse drugs to favor de-criminalization, I think that Mr. Thornton is irresponsible when he says that smoking pot is safer than alcohol and tobacco. It is true that alcohol and pot incapacititate people in different ways, and somebody could very well be much more functional and less aggressive under the influence of pot, but that doesn’t mean pot is safer. Pot is definitely not safer than tobacco. The idea that one can’t overdose on pot is a lie. The effects that THC has on the heart can result in all sorts of problems, including heart attacks.
http://www.LibertyEconomics.com

Mark Anderson March 7, 2007 at 7:12 pm

Thornton writes: “The corruption and bribery that infects our entire law enforcement and legal system will be purged.”

I don’t disagree with the idea of de-criminalization, but I’m not clear on how that will purge “corruption” from the government. Also, I guess Thornton hasn’t read Murray Rothbard’s views on “corrupt” government.

Dan Mahoney March 7, 2007 at 8:10 pm

Ms. Shenoy writes:

“Afghanistan is the main source of raw opium: poppies are the largest _cash_ crop. But no problem of drug addiction. Perhaps a handful of people, if that. So too South Asia generally: opium etc have been available for centuries, but only a few are addicted. ”

Perhaps you’d care to enlighten us as to what
exactly happens to drug users in these
countries, to keep the rate of addiction down?
Surely these are not hippie paradises?

In case it’s not clear, I’m being sarcastic.
I’d not advise any users on the list to trek to
say, Pakistan, looking to toke up.

David St. Hubbins March 7, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I am in favor of drug decriminalization, but after reading this I almost reversed my position.

The euqivalent of turning the drug war into vietnam would be to let the gangs take the residents of ghettos as slaves for the next 25 years.

CLeonard March 7, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Mr. Coleman,

You speak of theology and logic on one hand, and clearly attempt to repudiate Thornton’s thesis on the other. It looks like you must be starting with unreliable premises.

Here’s a reliable premise: All secular governments are unlawful to the extent that they do anything other than execute justice against perpetrators of delicts.

Here’s another: “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile the man.” (Jesus Christ; Mark 7:14-15).

And another: Privatization of all government functions that do not pertain specifically to the protection of the natural and “unalienable Rights” to contract and own property will inevitably lead to the legalization of “drugs” on every “schedule” of the Controlled Substance Act, and will also lead to the privatization of all public education, medicine, commerce, everything that’s not a lawful secular police power.

And another: Thornton’s thesis is not about going back in time. It’s about eliminating governmental thuggery that has happened even today. It’s about restructuring society on premises that have been reliable in the past, so that the future is better than where we’ve been already.

Beware of the collectivist swamp. There are no reliable premises there. Talk’s cheap. Rational thinking is not.

========================

“Unjust laws are not laws.” — Augustine (De Libero Arbitrio, i, 5)

Basic Jurisdictional Principles

averros March 7, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Mr. Coleman – you seem to know nothing about drugs. Two of the three most deadly drugs are legal and widespread – while the non-toxic (nobody ever died because of smoking pot) alternative is illegal.

Check real figures – i.e. actuarial tables. The absolute worst in terms of accidtiviness and death rate per user are tobacco and alcohol. Heroin comes close third. The much-demonized cocaine is in the same ballpark as caffeine. MDMA (extasy) is safer than aspirine (and non-addictive, too). The history knows of no case when somebody died due to marijuana or LSD poisoning.

Alcohol is the only known drug which increases aggressiveness in single-dose users (crack and meth do that, but only after prolonged abuse).

Now would you please explain why the most dangerous and addictive drugs are legal while the safer and less dangerous substances are declared illegal?

Sudha Shenoy March 8, 2007 at 1:31 am

1. Re drug users in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India etc: _Social_ sanctions, esp. in India. I repeat: I’m talking about centuries here, not a few decades. _Some_ might take drugs: but they are ostracised; drug-taking is regarded with horror.

2. What if drugs were decriminalised? Exactly as with Prohibition in America: then too criminal gangs provided the supplies. But once alcohol was decriminalised, respectable suppliers could provide the goods. The situation which led to violence no longer existed.

Given the extensive demand which already exists in the US for drugs, many ‘criminals’ may well turn respectable. Once the drugs can be supplied openly, what would violence accomplish? Violence is more costly than peaceful sale of goods.

bwp March 8, 2007 at 6:55 am

I agree with Mr Coleman. Let’s be happy those people whom we call government own our bodies and decide for us what is good for those bodies to consume. Thank God for the state that protects us from ourselves. Thank God for the Colemans in this world.

When is the government going to ban alcohol again Mr Coleman? I see it’s hard to smoke anywhere now. Soon that disgusting habit will be stopped, don’t you think so Mr Coleman, then maybe soon the alcohol? God bless the state Mr Coleman.

Maybe then we could have a law that takes people’s children off them if they use alcohol or tobacco. What do you think of that idea Mr Coleman? Don’t you just love the state and all its wondrous power?

Francisco Torres March 8, 2007 at 10:48 am

John Coleman:
Would five to ten million be a reasonable estimate of “thugs” now running the drug trade? Were we to legalize drugs, does anyone really think those folks are just going to fade away or perhaps go to school and become economists?

It is irrelevant what they would do, that is a matter of their personal choices. Such argument did not stop Congress from repealing Prohibition. The rejection of Prohibition by libertarians stems from the ethical standard that all humans own their own bodies.

That may be true [that business men do not want a dead client] if you’re selling Dunkin Doughnuts, Chevrolets, or Soap Powder, but, unfortunately, drug dealers don’t always think like folks selling doughnuts, cars, or soap powder.

It is irrelevant, Mr. Coleman. The power is in the hand of the consumer and not the seller. Right now, people that want a fix can only rely on “thugs” for their supply because of prohibition and not because, in this Universe, only thugs are able to sell drugs. Once drugs are legal, many customers would most likely prefer to do their business with more courteous individuals. In a MARKET, it is the CUSTOMER that decides the fate of sellers, and not the other way around.

Believe me, Francisco, I would love to think, as you do, that it would be a pleasant, peaceful world where good and evil, or, at least, previously evil, drug dealers could co-exist.

I do not see from you an explanation as to how does Prohibition make drug dealers less dangerous, when in fact the high risks that stem from Prohibition selects (as an evolutionary process) the more dangerous types, as the more frienly drug dealers are either killed off or placed in prision.

Unless the good guys are willing and able to match the quality of the goods being sold by the bad guys, the bad guys will win out, plain and simple free market economics.

“Pure and simple” economics dealt with the bootleg hooch and moonshine that was the norm during the years of Prohibiton in this country, being replaced for the safer beers and wines manufactured by known marques and businesses. There was no doubt as to the potency of the spirits being sold during Prohibition, but few would call them of “high quality”. It is the same with the current drugs available – the more potent drugs exist because of Drug Prohibition, but this does not mean that they are of “high quality” – how do you measure that?

Many of the drugs we’re discussing, including marijuana, are addictive, meaning there comes a point in time when, if I take them, I may compusively seek them despite their harm.

Irrelevant. What you do with your body is your own business. Just because a drug is addictive does not justify its prohibition, since that places ordinary people as not being above unthinking pets or cattle.

Last year, when the police in Philly raided a place where they were selling fentanyl-laced heroin, the papers said that they refused to give out the location because in the past whenever they did, hundreds of junkies would descend upon the area looking for, you guessed it, the high test stuff.

Stop to think that maybe without prohibition, such places would not be raided and thus granted such free publicity.


So it’s not really the same as selling doughnuts, cars, or soap powder now, is it?

It is the same. The economics are exactly the same. Just because you do not like drugs does not mean they are a special good, different from other goods that exist in this Universe.

Skye Stewart March 8, 2007 at 10:49 am

To suppose government can and should, in effect wage a war on drugs, is to suppose not only that this compulsory territorial monopolist of ultimate decision making is a legitimate social institution, but that it”s policies and programs are cost effective. Furthermore, it tacitly assumes that the cost-effectiveness of these policies can be accurately determined. Those things, however, that we do not or cannot see on the surface often are the greatest costs to us all.

States are shibboleths, and their policies phantoms of doomed ideologies. We have to deal with people; our neighbors, and their rights to their bodies as well as their property.

The supposition that you should favor, and or are justified in asserting, that the state apparatus is ethically responsible to forcibly engage those individuals whom make use of narcotics (or anything for that matter – but especially ‘victimless crimes’) I think is as far out of line as supposing the government of cambodia has proper juristiction over women’s voting privileges in the united states.

I think the solution is to decentralize all political power – continually.

If you want someone to stop using drugs, or anything else, you should do what you think needs to be done to that end. Persuasion is a tactic I would recommend. If, however, you encroach upon and violate their rights, you’ll have pay the consequences. Rather than rely on the diffused, unjustified, perhaps democratically-innacted coercion of the state to cover your deeds and shift the costs to no one in particular, encouraging of course the continued externalization of this injustice.

I think the ideas that give birth to the leviathon’s overarching programs in the first place are far more dangerous and disasterous to a ‘society’ than the drug use of certain select member’s of that society.

You won’t find me, however, calling for police to bust down your door, to throw you in jail, put your kids in an orphanage, and force taxpayers to pay for your internment, all in the same of waging a war on the material you read, and the thoughts you think because they induce you to have negative consequences on the body politic.

John Coleman March 8, 2007 at 10:59 am

I assume that if you disagree with me that you do so in good faith and that we would each come to the aid of the other to protect the right of free discourse. In that spirit I will attempt to address a few cogent comments and not in any particular order of significance. Averros said, “Two of the three most deadly drugs are legal and widespread – while the non-toxic (nobody ever died because of smoking pot) alternative is illegal.” This is true with respect to alcohol and tobacco.

Even though the government has tried to ban alcohol, and did so for a while, the people demanded otherwise and the government listened to the people on both accounts. As for tobacco, perhaps because of its historical connections and the political influence of elected officials from states where tobacco is produced, the government has been far less successful in curbing its use. This may change in the future and hopefully for the better as the FDA recently was given additional authority to regulate tobacco sales and products. But, as I think I said in one of my earlier submissions, the knowledge of how costly alcohol and tobacco are to the economy and have been over the years, why in the world would a sensible person advocate broadening this group of harmful substances?

Averros also states that no one has ever died from pot. Whether you consult the CDC or the DAWN Mortality records, you’ll find a similar factual response to this canard. In drug-related emergencies and deaths, pot often is found along with other substances, including alcohol. There is consensus among epidemiologists that postmortem tests may not look for pot when the presence of these other drugs is more apparent and detected and so, if anything, it may be underreported in deaths and injuries. Nevertheless, aside from these observations, the fact remains that “death,” per se, should not be the only yardstick against which we measure whether something is good or bad for us. People, particularly long-distance runners, have been known to die from water overdoses.

The issue here, quite simply, is whether pot alters one’s perceptions in a way that may cause that person to harm or injure me (or, for my fellow von Mises congregants, harm my property). If the answer to this is “yes,” then it seems reasonable and wise to try to limit that harm and injury by placing controls on the availability of the drug(s) in question. The fact that alcohol can be as deadly as pot under some circumstances — and is legal — should have no bearing whatsoever on advancing the cause of making pot legal. If anything, making such a comparison, it seems to me, would be close to suggesting that alcohol, too, should be prohibited to the same degree as pot. That more or less brings me to the next issue. “Austrians” eschew subjectivism, ethics, and moral crusading, yet they often use these same devices to make their points about the sanctity of property rights. This is OK, mind you, a little hypocrisy now and then among friends adds spice to the mix and makes life interesting.

Nevertheless, there really is a difference between science, the search for truth, and politics, the defense of values. Both these enterprises greatly perplex economists of all stripes, not just Austrians and Austrian-wannabees posing as paleolibertarians (gosh, I love that word!). Despite the scientific uncertainties about global warming and the contribution of greenhouse gases, for example, our values may dictate our political response. Intervention, for example, would not be based on science but on our system of values, which is not to say that science is ignored entirely but it is not the quid pro quo that some would have it be in this situation. It’s somewhat analogous to say that a purely scientific examination of pot and alcohol would lead one to conclude that, in truth, they both must be banned, but considering the above example, people do not always rule on the basis of pure science or the “truth,” but on the basis of their preferences and what we might call values. While the truth is immutable, values are not, as I will illustrate below.

When the Pope excommunicated Galileo for saying that the Earth revolved around the Sun, he did so to uphold certain values that were important to guard the faith at the time. Later, when it appeared that Galileo was right, the Pope was able to change his mind and accommodate the scientific fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun. In this instance, although it may have taken 359 years, science (truth) won out over values. Science, too, gets it wrong now and then, as in the case of the 1972 monograph from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that said cocaine was non-addictive. Sometimes in a democracy, decisions are made and unmade by preference. Most of the same people who in 1919 voted to prohibit the manufacture and transportation of beverage alcohol, some short fourteen years later voted to repeal Prohibition. Were they brilliant in 1919 and stupid in 1933, or vice versa? Your choice.

OK, I’ve taken too much time and I apologize for that. But one last thing is important and that is the misperception that the countries that produce drugs don’t seem to consume them. This shibboleth goes back to the days of the 1925 League of Nations opium convention when it was said that opium was produced in poor nations but consumed only in rich ones. But that said, if it was true in 1925, which is doubtful, I don’t think it’s true any longer. Here’s why. The 2006 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicates, for example, that Iran continues to have a severe opiate problem. In 2005, for example, 60 percent of the opium leaving Afghanistan (the world’s largest producer) went to Iran. This was an increase over an estimated 40 percent in 2004.

The UN report also states that Iran has >1.2 million drug abusers, about one million of whom are opiate users. This amounts to 2.8 percent of the entire population, aged 15-64 years. For comparison, the same report states that the US has <1.2 million heroin users, ironically a number similar to that of Iran. The big difference, of course, is the population density. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2005, there were 193 million people in the US, aged 15-64, and if we just use a rough comparison estimate, a comparable U.S. percentage of heroin addicts would weigh in at about 0.6 percent. Regardless of how one computes these numbers, it is quite clear that Iran today has a severe drug problem. Iran, as far back as the 15th century B.C., when the Babylonians brought the poppy to Persia and Egypt, has been a major producer and consumer of this drug and its potent derivative, heroin.

The UN report indicates, too, that Iran is active in trying to stem the drug trade. In heroin seizures reported to the UN, Pakistan was first in 2004, with 25 percent of the world’s heroin seizures; Iran was second, with 18 percent, followed by Turkey and China, with 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The USA reported 2 percent of the world’s heroin seizures, which, I might add, is low by comparison with the other countries, adjusted for populations and addict percentages.

The drug problem is just one more Gordian knot facing the Middle East. Despite various interpretations of this that one might fathom, one thing is certain: the aim to get as many people off drugs continues to be a significant goal of the authorities in Iran. That the US or any other nation, or the UN, might be able to provide some assistance in this regard, despite all else that’s happening in this desperate part of the world right now, is, in a word, promising. Of course, this is a moral response and economists are trained to ignore non-utilitarian or, perish the thought, “humanitarian” efforts.

It brings to mind that in 1900, shortly after the US took over stewardship of the Philippines from Spain, the Governor of the Philippines (and later our 27th president) William Howard Taft decided to tackle the opium addiction problem in the islands, particularly among the large indigenous Chinese immigrant population. To learn more about the scourge of addiction, Taft dispatched a medical doctor named Hamilton Wright and an Anglican Bishop by the name of Charles Brent to China where estimates of 70 percent of males being opium smokers were reported at the time. This led to the first international opium convention in Shanghai in 1909, where for the first time the colonial powers and China agreed to some extent on the scope and importance of the problem. This was the beginning of a process that has existed since then and has become part of the UN office that released the above-cited report.

The opium convention that was held in 1911-1912 at The Hague became a part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. Thereafter, some of the best work of the League was done in the field of international drug control, often transcending traditional political rivalries. For example, during World War II, when the League’s drug control offices (called the Permanent Central Board) were moved from Geneva to Washington, Germany and her satellites continued to permit their narcotics agencies to function and furnish the League’s office in Washington with information in accordance with the existing conventions.

Perhaps the magic juice of the poppy isn’t finished showing us its good and bad sides.

Axel Riemer March 8, 2007 at 11:22 am

John,
I’d like to clarify your position, please correct me if I am wrong here

1: Drugs (including alcohol and tabacco) have a harmful effect on the human body and/or mind

2: Drugs may cause people to act in ways harmful (in the private property sense) to others, other than they would have acted without the influence of drugs

3: Bans and/or regulation of whatever degree deemed necessary by the proper authority should be applied to decrease the harm from 1 and 2 as much as possible

4: You are in favor of more/stricter regulation on alcohol and tabacco, since when taken in excess may cause harm to self and others

5: The government is the only body with the authority and the ability to regulate drugs (and alcohol and tabacco)

For the record, I am in favor of complete legalization of all drugs. I am also in favor of stricter penalties for crimes committed by persons under the influence of a drug (say if you kill a man in a fit of passion when you’re drunk, you’ll get a harsher penalty than unpremeditated murder. If you steal a car when you’re high, you get more time than if you did it without drugs). This is perhaps not the best way to deal with the “I was under the influence so it’s not my fault” syndrome, but I’m open to suggestions as to how to deal with crimes involving drugs if drugs were legal.

mikey March 8, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Mr Coleman, people have a right to poison themselves if they want to.I hate drugs, just just hate them.And alcohol and tobacco as well.I’ve seen what they can do.But.Who am I to tell others what they should want out of life?
“If ye harm none, do what ye will.” The Wiccan creed applies here.The economic effects of drug addiction, the wasted productivity, do not outweigh individual freedom .
Prohibition does not stop the misery of the addict.It merely spreads it out over the entire community, who suffer the property crime,violent crime,that comes with making something that would otherwise cost one dollar cost one hundred.
It has given rise to particularily deadly drugs we would never have seen otherwise.Crystal meth is today’s bathtub gin.

Kevin B March 8, 2007 at 1:17 pm

John,

Although I agree that you may hold a different opinion, it is disgraceful that you would trample others’ property rights to have your way.

Dan Coleman March 8, 2007 at 1:24 pm

John, you write: “The issue here, quite simply, is whether pot alters one’s perceptions in a way that may cause that person to harm or injure me (or, for my fellow von Mises congregants, harm my property). If the answer to this is “yes,” then it seems reasonable and wise to try to limit that harm and injury by placing controls on the availability of the drug(s) in question.

Take out the word “drugs” and put anything in there that you’d like: religion, alcohol, political ideology. . .literature. . .public speakers. . .music. . .violent video games. . .etc., and it still “works” as an argument. Your criterion of reasonableness for government action is a recipe for an enslaved society.

Larry N. Martin March 8, 2007 at 3:53 pm

I’m waiting for government to outlaw caffeine–you guys are obviously way too wired! ;-)

All good things in moderation March 8, 2007 at 7:07 pm

John Coleman,

I recommend you smoke some pot, and listen to the entire mises.org audio collection while stoned.

I think you will come around and realize that if you want less drug use and less third-party effects of that use overall, then we need to LEGALIZE it!

The central conclusion from studying Austrian Economics is that the cures of the state are worst than the disease. There is no special case for drugs, it is a good like any other, subject to supply and demand. As long as there is demand the state is virtually powerless to stop it, however, it can create a big mess in the process.

We Austrians tend to judge people by their actions, not their words. So if you say you want less drug use – why do support the means that will increase drug use?

greg March 8, 2007 at 7:47 pm

JC> In drug-related emergencies and deaths, pot often is found along with other substances, including alcohol. There is consensus among epidemiologists that postmortem tests may not look for pot when the presence of these other drugs is more apparent and detected and so, if anything, it may be underreported in deaths and injuries.

Pure crockery. They don’t bother checking because the amount for LD50 is so high there is a vanishing chance it ever occurs. Not even the biggest pot-heads smoke that much weed.

John Coleman March 8, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Axel: You express my sentiments fairly accurately. Perhaps we disagree in degree only. I am not an absolutist and so the Austrian in me respects your right to privacy but your assertion of that, alone, does not guarantee that my property rights will be protected (see, there’s the Austrian in me!). It’s not that I think you are insincere. On the contrary, I would like to believe you are most sincere. The problem is, and this may be peculiar to psychoactive substances, that when you are exercising your private rights to use those drugs, you no longer may be capable of fulfilling your earlier obligations to me.

Anyone who ever has had to deal with a junkie, for example, knows that they will con, convince, cajole, and do just about anything it takes for someone to believe them about anything, something, perhaps bus fare for a job or a down payment on a car — just to get money for a fix. When the drugs that we’re discussing get into the body, they produce changes beyond those that are described as pleasurable. They affect reasoning skills, depth perception, motor skills, and a host of other important things that we take for granted in our day-to-day existence.

So, my friend, were I to accept your position, I would have to be willing to accept that you would be just as trustworthy stoned as unstoned. That’s a lot to ask and I don’t think many folks would be willing to accept that risk. Otherwise, we seem in synch. I would add, however, the democratic piece that I mentioned earlier in regard to Prohibition. It’s important that our values and cultural norms be protected by law and that those laws reflect the will of the people. I think we need this flexibility because those who believe that we should follow a strict orthodoxy, whether that of Marx or von Misses will inevitably, in my opinion, be disappointed. One might lead to central planning and loss of property rights while the other may lead to anarchy. The key here may be the ability to balance the best of both worlds.

Francisco Torres March 8, 2007 at 9:57 pm

The issue here, quite simply, is whether pot alters one’s perceptions in a way that may cause that person to harm or injure me (or, for my fellow von Mises congregants, harm my property). If the answer to this is “yes,” then it seems reasonable and wise to try to limit that harm and injury by placing controls on the availability of the drug(s) in question.

Mr. Coleman, it is irrelevant if a certain drug can alter a person’s perception in such a way as to harm YOUR property – first of all, which person’s perception are we talking about, your neighbor, or a person living 10 miles away, or 100 miles, or 10,000 miles away from you? Just because a certain drug can alter someone’s perception does not generate ipso facto a higher level of risk to your life, not unless you were able to see the future. Life is FULL of unertainties, which is why we buy insurance. However, asking the government to LIMIT some fellow’s freedom just so YOU feel safer is immoral and unethical, especially when you have NO way to know if that person can really harm you by smoking pot or shooting crack. What you are asking is to externalize YOUR costs for the uncertainties of life, placing them by frce on the lap of someone else.

If you feel that by taking drugs, people put you at risk, then try building a moat and watchtowers around your home, fill it with alligators if you must – it has helped in the past – at YOUR cost, but do not ask to have those costs placed upon ME or others (the War on Drugs takes a big chunk out of my paycheck in taxes). Let others live the lives they choose.

Sione Vatu March 8, 2007 at 11:42 pm

So, who owns YOUR body? If it is you, then you can put whatever you like into it. It is your choice and the consequences of that choice are yours to bear.

I may not agree with how you treat YOUR body, but so long as you do not harm me or my property I will respect your right to choose and I will not interfere (of course I may tell you that I disagree with your decision and/or attempt to persuade you to take another course of action but that’s as far as I’ll go- the choice and consequences remain yours). Should you harm me or my property I’ll respond as appropriate to what you have done to me and protect what is mine. That’s because I own my body and my property and you are not to interfere with that.

Simple enough one would think. Therefore drugs should not be criminalised. Do unto yourself whatever you like. Leave me alone.

Sione

Axel Riemer March 9, 2007 at 12:08 am

John,

For my rebuttal, I will simply say that in life, there are no guarantees, and no absolutes save those physical laws that govern nature. As Francisco said, if you wish for guaranteed safety and security, you’d best build a castle.

There is no guarantee that tomorrow you will not die on the highway going to work. Will that stop you from going to work? What possible way can you guarantee that you and your property will remain safe until the day you die? (what a boring way to live!) How can you keep people from backing into your car in the parking lot? What stops a tree from falling on your garage? Again, as Francisco stated, the world is an uncertain place, full of risks that we inherently calculate, making rational choices to take the optimal path through life given our limited understanding of the world, and the limited information availible to each individual.

But what you let slip in your last paragraph I think is the most horrible thing you’ve said yet: “It’s important that our values and cultural norms be protected by law and that those laws reflect the will of the people.”

Whose values? What cultural norms? Yours? Mine? It is a certain impossibility for every single person to have the same values. If those values were codified by law, the only way to change those values would be by breaking the law. Freedom of choice, yeah right! Imagine it being illegal for women to wear pants, or makeup, or men still wearing tights, or kilts. Whose values?

The only consistent ethical code that can be applied uniformly and indiscriminately is that of the common law of personal property. It’s just like set theory, really. We must define the set (all humans) and the operations under which the set remains closed (self ownership, and private property). Any interference with another’s person or their property constitutes a violation of the set (that is, you cannot define a subset of people who can interfere, and those who cannot, ie, masters and slaves. Humans and animals however, does work). Etc etc. I digress.

My argument for you to not worry about my drug use which may or may not threaten your property, is that until I aggress against you, and not before, I have not provoked any response. It does not matter if I am more or less responsible when on drugs. The only thing that matters is the interaction between us. I may be more irresponsible when I am late to work, and more prone to a car accident, but that does not mean you can take action against people who are late to work, unless, I repeat, unless they have committed some aggression against you.

Then, of course, prosecute to your hearts content.

I think you and I are suffering a basic disagreement on human nature. I don’t feel any human owes any other human anything, except to obey the law of private property. I don’t have any obligation to provide for your welfare, I don’t have to care for my parents when they are infirm. I don’t have to take off my hat when I enter a building, or put one on when I am outdoors. I need not donate to any charity, nor give alms nor food to the poor, nor visit the sick, nor give comfort to the dying. I can be callous, mean-spirited, and cruel, just so long as I never trespass against another’s property.

This does not mean that I will not willingly give of my self, my time, and my possessions, counting these as the best uses I could have made of them.

An important point to make here, is that the action of taking a drug is premeditated (unless you’re being forced, of course, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). The individual taking the drug knows at least of the effects, say for a first timer, or straight knows the effects. Now, if I’m on LSD, and I’m in my car, I may swerve to avoid the snakes and kill a young mother and her baby in the stroller. As a habitual user of LSD, I knew the effects before I got on my trip. What was I doing in a car?! So nail me for unintentional manslaughter, and double the time for negligent use of a recreational drug. There’s a reason the label says not to drive or operate heavy machinery. LSD users around the country read about the sordid tale, and think “That could have been me!!” and henceforth only do LSD with a friend who can keep them from doing the same thing.

My point is that only property aggression should elicit a legal response. Proponents in favor of regulation to make the world safer start with the assumption that people either do not desire to be safe (and therefore must be made “safe” by a certain arbitrary metric) or are incapable of achieving a “safe” level of living.

As is said, our experiences color our decisions and our values. As we have new experiences every day, our values must change every day, and our responses to a given situation will not necessarily be the same from day to day. This is the nature of the world. Our only guide to our path through life can be rational thought. As rational thought can only stem from freedom and private property (slaves don’t think), we must define a rational, consistent code of action that can hold for all men.

The nature of a government is to accrue power, so government will always tend toward central planning and socialism. Freedom will always imply private property rights, tending away from government towards the absence of government: anarchy (which is not equivalent to chaos).

John, you and I share this tendency: being long winded :) ah well.

John Coleman March 9, 2007 at 9:42 am

Francisco: I need some thought-out philosophical positions to understand my inner Austrian better. Why are so many people basing so much of their beliefs on Prohibition, a relatively obscure event and something that occurred probably long before anyone in this blog was alive? If Prohibition showed us anything, it showed us the power of the people who, in 1919, voted to outlaw liquor and a scant 14 years later, turned around and voted to repeal the law. A constitutional amendment, unlike a statute, is not an easy accomplishment under the best of circumstances, which explians perhaps why there are only 27 of them in our long history. Moreover, each of us could cherry-pick things from bygone days to illustrate some point. Don’t misunderstand me, I like von Mises and think he has a lot to offer us, even today and here. But I’m sure he would be the first to agree with me that just as his greatest thinking was a synthesis of his thoughts and those of folks who went before him (like, for example, Carl Menger), we should take the best of what he has given us and blend it or synthesize it with concepts and organizing principles that work for us today.

The concept of “government” should not be so quickly disdained for both von Mises and Menger spent much of their careers in government service and I have to believe that this was a free choice for each. Indeed, government gave each the opportunity to try out their economic theories in real life situations. Perhaps if it was not for their government service as functionaries, both might be lost to history and we’d be discussing Smith or Ricardo, instead. My view of economists, as you may have surmised by now, is quite ecumenical and eclectic. And I don’t think von Mises would hold this against me, at least to the degree that some here have. Von Mises adopted the United States as his home in 1950, after moving about Europe during a time when this was quite dangerous for him.

From his writings, he rarely if ever ignored an opportunity to praise his adopted country that he so frequently and exuberantly held up to the world as the model of why capitalism offers so much more to people than socialism. Like each of us, he probably had his pet peeves with our government but, overall, I’m sure he would not accept the denigration of it that we hear so relentlessly from our paleolibertarian pals in search of Eden. That they exist at the fringe is a good thing, for they keep the rest of us intent on finding the common center, the interface between government and the governed that protects our liberty, guarantees our freedom, insures our rights, including the right to own property, and, in general, co-exist in a society that may not subscribe to all our beliefs but respects them, just the same. I guess, Francisco, that is what is meant by civilization.

Francisco Torres March 9, 2007 at 11:30 am

Why are so many people basing so much of their beliefs on Prohibition, a relatively obscure event and something that occurred probably long before anyone in this blog was alive?

Mr. Coleman, you are missing the point. The 1919-1932 Prohibition is used here as a good example of government intervention generating unintended consequences, as a way to illustrate a point. As a Libertarian, my rejection of prohibition stems directly from the ethic of human liberty, from the moral standpoint that each of us own our own bodies and that neither government or someone else have the right to dictate what others can do with their own bodies. Almost everyone else here would agree with this ethic.

My objection also stems from economics – every time a government prohibits something, that good becomes artificially scarce, which means that the price will be driven upwards, encouraging many to invest in providing that good. That is the first unitended consequence. The second comes from enforcement of that prohibition, where the mildest, most courteous suppliers are easily whittled down by the court systems, police and other armed thugs, leaving on their place the more dangerous, unscrupulous types (something like what happens with drug-resistant bacteria or insects). Enforcement generates this artificial selection which works just as well as the Natural (evolutionary) kind.

The third unintended consequence is, of course, the loss of liberty and safety on the general population. You may be afraid of what a drug addict might do to your tranquility, but the odds are always in your favor with no prohibition, since junkies would generally shoot in their homes and would not find their habit prohibitively expensive. With prohibition, however, your odds are not as good considering the creation of armed gangs and the need of the junkies to obtain large amounts of cash fast, not to mention the illegal searches by police and other armed thugs. All of this, at YOUR expense as a taxpayer.

The concept of “government” should not be so quickly disdained for both von Mises and Menger spent much of their careers in government service and I have to believe that this was a free choice for each.

It is irrelevant to the issue of government-enforced prohibition if both von Mises and Menger worked in government. The principle of liberty does not depend on the credentials of some participants but relies on self-evident truths, like the self-ownership principle.

John Coleman March 9, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Francisco: It’s unrealistic to think we could ever become the society you suggest in the 21st century. What you propose may have been possible in the Dark Ages or thereabouts when by today’s standards, there were only a handful of people around and each could do pretty much as he/she pleased. As cities and industries evolved and populations increased, so, too, did the need for civil order. It’s bizarre to think that today in the U.S., for example, 300 million people could act individually as you seem to think, relying on the “self-ownership principle,” whatever that may be, and that order would prevail.

How would you get everyone to go along with this, short of requiring a dictator, forming an ironclad government, and running a police state? Do you really think that the only reason people violate laws is because there are laws to violate? Does this make any sense whatsoever? Without an overwhelming structure to mandate what you propose, it seems to me that the logical outcome would be anarchy. It’s a nice idea for a winter’s afternoon, perhaps, but so is flying to Mars for lunch. The likelihood of either happening in the near future is nil.

Do not misunderstand me. I would like the world to be the way you and others here have fantasized in the last few days, really, but I have to live in the real world where there are all sorts of predators who subscribe to a different fairy tale. My only sensible recourse under the circumstances is to accept and execute a social contract between me and the government so that if and when I ever have to dial 911 for something important like preventing someone from taking my property, I don’t get some paleolibertarian recording telling me to press 1 for Menger, 2 for von Mises, 3 for my “self-ownership principle,” or 4 for the Laugh Channel. No offense, Francisco, but I feel comfortable in a world where folks appreciate and value the diversity of ideas.

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