Harvard Economist Calls For End of Drug Prohibition To Reduce Violence

Harvard economist Jeffery Miron calls for legalization of drugs:

Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this “war on drugs.”

The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it’s permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

See his full op-ed for multiple reasons as to why legalization is the right policy.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Slough. The word is slough. Maybe I am being over anally-retentive, but it bothers me that someone who teaches at Harvard would write ‘slew’. I think it is a sad statement about American education. I bet he even went to private school.

    Other than taking a gratuitous potshot at school vouchers because of his minor spelling gaffe, I agree with him in toto.

  2. 2
    Bob Levinson says:

    The University of Chicago’s economics department has gotten far more respect than Harvard’s, and Milton Friedman made these exact arguments for decades. Here’s one video of him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyystXOfDqo
    There are many more.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Well, I won’t hold the fact that Milton Friedman made them too against the comments. Everyone is entitled to a good idea on occasion.

    Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley Jr. said it decades ago as well, but no one listened to them either. I don’t expect them to start listening to Friedman or Miron now. If they decriminalize marijuana during the present administration I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m just happy they are effectively decriminalizing medical marijuana when a state has legalized it.

    It’s a bigger start than I expected from the federal government on this issue, honestly.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, lots of people including, but not limited to, Milton Friedman, have made this argument. I’ve pointed out Friedman’s arguments in several posts in the past, such as here. At the moment it is more newsworthy when someone currently makes such arguments as opposed to going to earlier examples.

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