Skip to comments.The Drug War as a Socialist Enterprise
Posted on 08/22/2002 10:51:34 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
In 1972, almost twenty years ago, President Nixon started a war on drugs-the first intensive effort to enforce the prohibition of drugs since the original Harrison Act. In preparation for this talk today, I re-read the column that I published in Newsweek criticizing his action. Very few words in that column would have to be changed for it to be publishable today. The problem then was primarily heroin and the chief source of the heroin was Marseilles. Today, the problem is cocaine from Latin America. Aside from that, nothing would have to be changed.
Here it is almost twenty years later. What were then predictions are now observable results. As I predicted in that column, on the basis primarily of our experience with Prohibition, drug prohibition has not reduced the number of addicts appreciably if at all and has promoted crime and corruption.
Why is it that the only observable effect on policy of the conversion of predictions into results has been that the government digs itself deeper and deeper into a bigger and bigger hole and spends more and more of your and my money doing harm? Why is it? That's both the most discouraging feature of our experience and also the most intriguing intellectual puzzle. In our private lives, if we try something and it goes awry, we don't just continue and do it on a bigger and bigger scale. We may for a while, but sooner or later we stop and change. Why does not the same thing happen in governments policy?
There is little point to my discussing in detail before this group the case for the legalization of drugs. Everyone in this room knows it. You have had numerous workshops featuring discussions by people who are more intimately familiar with the details than I am. I want rather to examine the puzzle that I raised. And in doing so, I'm going to rely on an adage that Bardett traces back to 325 B.c.: "Cobbler, stick to your last."
My last is economics, the study of how society organizes its limited resources to meet the many and varied wants of its members. Fundamentally, society's resources can be organized in only one of two ways, or by some mixture of them.
One way is by market mechanisms: from the bottom up. The other way is by command: from the top down. The market is one mechanism. Authoritarian organization-the military is a clear exarnple--is the other. The general gives the order, the colonel passes it on to the captain, and so on down the fine. In the market, the orders come the other way. The consumer walks into a store and gives the order and the orders go up. These two mechanisms have very different characteristics and are suited to handle very different problems.
Some element of both mechanisms is needed in any society. And every society has some mixture of both. We know the extreme cases in which authoritarianism predominates and we know what happened in those extreme cases, particularly since the fall of the Berlin WaIl. But we also have large elements of both mechanisms in our own society.
During the many years that I've been peripherally engaged in discussing the issue of drugs-I should emphasize that's not a vocation of mine; it's an avocation-I've been impressed by two things. First, most literature that I have read on drugs takes it for granted that the drug problem is a special case to be discussed in terrns of specific issues associated with drugs--the substances involved and so on rather than a special instance of a more general phenomenon. It is taken for granted that the drug problem has to be discussed in terms of its own merits and requires an extensive knowledge of the details.
From my point of view, it's as if one were to discuss the problem of theft in terms of the object stolen. So, theft of automobiles is one problem. Theft of hand bags is another. In the same way, people treat the prohibition of drugs as if it were a problem to itself.
Second, one consequence of that approach to the drug problem is that many opponents of the war on drugs propose alternatives that would be just as bad. They believe that the problem is not the basic mechanism being used, but simply that the government hasn't done it right. Most of these alternatives would involve going from the frying pan to the fire.
Such reformers believe that if they could write the law, the law would be enforced the way they wrote it. That is an illusion. What happens to a law has little relation, in general, to the intentions of the people who wrote it. The people who wrote the law on drugs did not intend to kill hundreds of thousands of people in the process. They did not intend to have a system under which prisons and prisoners would grow like Topsy. In general, the actual effects of any law are often, if not usually, the opposite of the intentions of the people who wrote it, a phenomenon that Congressman Richard Anncy [R-Texas], in an earlier guise when he was a simple professor, termed the "invisible foot of government.'
Let me illustrate with a few quotations from letters that I have received. First: "Instead of merely decriminalizing drugs, let's have the government make available drugs free to every user." That would obviously take the profit out of the business. The idea is that somehow or other we ought to treat drugs as a free good. But there are no free goods; there's no free lunch. It's not free; somebody would have to pay for it. So, we ought to tax the taxpayer to subsidize people who use drugs! More important, it seems obvious that if those "free" drugs were really available, they would be distributed in Europe and elsewhere where there's a paying market.
How can you restrict the quantity demanded of free drugs? The only way to do so is to have strict rules for distributing it. That leads to an authoritarian system determining who gets the drugs and how much-as open to abuse and corruption as our present system.
Second-I promise you, these are honest-to-God quotes from letters I have received; I haven't made them up-"Legalize all drugs now illegal to be available in state stores." We have a lot of experience with state stores in the liquor area. The Twenty-First Amendment repealing the Prohibition Amendment repeated only federal prohibition; states were left free to engage in any measures they wanted to control alcohol. Indeed, the Twenty-First Amendment specifies that transporting alcohol or liquor from a dry state to a wet state shall be regarded as a federal offense and shall be prevented by the federal government. Some states stayed dry, at least for a while; others set up state liquor stores; and still others left it to the market.
The people who say drugs should be distributed only in state stores argue that that would facilitate control of distribution to minors, to ensure that drugs weren't abused, and so on. Has that been the effect of state liquor stores? Hardly. I know about the state of New Hampshire best because we used to have a second home there. Some New Hampshire stores are located right on the border of Massachusetts in order to attract as many customers from Massachusetts as possible. As that indicates, state stores give government an incentive to promote, not discourage, the consumption of alcohol. In addition, many states have now discovered that they are not really doing very well with the state stores and there is a movement on to sell them off and privatize them. Again, it's a silly idea.
Third: "Abolish the critninality of the use of drugs; establish a federal monopoly to sell drugs." That is, you are going to have the Post Office handle the distribution of drugs.
What do these solutions have in common? They propose to cure a problem caused by socialism by some more socialism. It's the standard recourse of the alcoholic: more of the hair of the dog that bit you to get over the inevitable hangover.
The fundamental problem we face is not the war on drugs-although some of us are most interested in that issue. The war on drugs and the harm which it does are simply manifestations of a much broader problem: the substitution of political mechanisms for market mechanisms in a wide variety of areas.
To illustrate, I want to go beyond the war on drugs. We all recognize that the war on drugs is destroying our inner cities. But if I were to ask any one of you what is the next most important factor that is destroying the inner cities, I suspect a great many would agree with me that the next most important factor is our defective educational system, the terrible schools in our inner cities, schools which do not teach, but which are essentially places to keep kids off the streets for a certain number of hours a day.
Both failures have the same source. The war on drugs is a failure because it is a socialist enterprise. Our schooling is deteriorating because it is a socialist enterprise. Except possibly for the military, education is the largest socialist enterprise in the United States. There are a few loopholes: private schools to which parents can send their children if they can afford to pay or, in the case of parochial schools, if they have certain religious views. However, ninety percent of all kids are in government schools. And that socialist institution performs the same as most other socialist institutions.
There are some general features of a socialist enterprise, whether it's the Post Office, schools, or the war on drugs. The enterprise is inefficicnt, expensive, very advantageous to a small group of people, and harmful to a lot of people. That was true of socialism in Russia, it was true of socialism in Poland, and it's true of socialism in the United States.
You all know Adam Smith's famous invisible hand, in which people who intend to promote their own interest arr led by an invisible hand to promote a public interest which it was no part of their intention to promote. I have for many years argued that an inversion of that maxim is also true: People who intend only to pursue the public interest are led by an invisible hand to promote private interests which it was no part of their intention to pursue. That is the case regarding drugs.
Whose interests are served by the drug war? The U.S. government enforces a drug cartel. The major beneficiaries from drug prohibition are the drug lords, who can maintain a cartel that they would be unable to maintain without current government policy.
In education, one major set of beneficiaries from the socialized educational system are high-income people, living in affluent suburbs, who are able to have good public schools. Those government schools serve as a tax shelter for them. If they send their children to private schools, the tuition they pay is not deductible in computing their federal income tax; but local taxes are deductible. Another set of beneficiaties are the educational bureaucracy, including officers and employees of teachers' unions, and politicians who are able to use the educational system as a source of patronage.
On the other hand, a great mass of people are harmed by the low and declining quality of our schooling system. And the people who are harmed worst of all are the people who live in the inner cities. They know it. In public opinion polls on privatizing the school system through vouchers that give parents freedom to choose, blacks are the most supportive group, with two-thirds or more favoring a voucher system. Yet, with the exception of Polly Williams of Wisconsin, not a single important black political leader has come out in favor of vouchers!
These are by no means the only examples. Go down the list of our major national concerns, of which the crime and lawlessness spawned by drug prohibition is certainly one and poor educational performance another. We have major problems in medical care. Total costs for medical care have risen from four percent of the national income to thirteen percent in forty years. Why? Again, because the government has increasingly socialized medical care and there is a very strong movement to go all the way to a complete socialization of medical care. Largely as a result of greater government involvement, the cost of a day spent in the hospital, cost per patient day, was twenty-six times as high in 1989, after adjustment for inflation, as it was in 1946.
Another example is housing. Why does the Bronx in New York look like a war zone that's just been bombed? Primarily because of rent control. Again, an attempt by the government to socialize the housing industry. We have had extensive and expensive public housing programs. In the course of those public housing programs, more dwelling units have been destroyed than have been built.
I challenge you to find any major problem in the United States that you cannot trace back to the misuse of political mechanisms as opposed to market mechanisms. By any reasonable measure, the United States today is a little over fifty percent socialist. That is to say, more than fifty percent of the total resources in the country, of the total input, is directly or indirectly controlled by governmental institutions at all levels-federal, state, and local. Yet we in the United States have the highest standard of living of any country in the world. We are a very rich and prosperous country. It is an extraordinary tribute to the productivity of the market system that, with less than fifty percent of the resources, it can produce the kind of standard of living and the kind of society we have.
You are working from January 1 to close to June 30, or maybe somewhere after June 30, to pay for the direct and indirect cost of government. What fraction of your well-being comes from those government-controlled expenditures? Is it anything like fifty percent? I doubt very much that many of you would say it is.
The question that my puzzle raises is why is it that private enterprises are successful and government enterprises are not? One common answer is that the difference is in the incentive, that somehow the incentive of profit is stronger than the incentive of public service. In one sense, that's night; but in another, it's wrong.
The people who run our private enterprises and the people who run our government enterprises have exactly the same incentive. In both cases, they want to promote their private interests. The people who go into our government, who operate our government, are the same kind of people as those who are in the private sector. They are just as smart, in general. They have just as much integrity. They have just as many altruistic and selfless interests. There is no difference in that way. But as Armen Alchian, an economist at UCLA, once put it, "The one thing you can depend on everybody to do is to put his interest above yours." That is a very insightful comment. The Chinese who are on the mainland are not different people from the Chinese who are in Hong Kong. Yet, the Mainland is a morass of poverty and Hong Kong has been an oasis of relative well being. The people who occupied West Germany and East Germany before they were reunited had the same background, the same culture. They were the same people, but the results were drastically different.
The problem is not in the kind of people who run our governmental institutions versus those who run our private institutions. The trouble, as the Marxists used to say, is in the system. The system is what is at fault.
The difference is that the private interest of people is served in a different way in the private and the governmental spheres. Consider the bottom line they face.
Here's a project that might be suggested, to begin with, by somebody in the private sector or by somebody in the government sphere, and appears equally promising in either case. However, all good ideas are conjectures; they are experiments. Most are going to fail. What happens? Suppose a private group undertakes the project. Suppose it starts to lose money. The only way that they can keep it going is by digging into their own pockets. They have to bear the costs. That enterprise will not last long; people will shut it down. They will go on to something else.
Suppose government undertakes the same project and its initial experience is the same: it starts to lose money. What happens? The government officials could shut it down, but they have a very different alternative. With the best of intentions, they can believe that the only reason it has not done well is because it has not been operating on a large enough scale. They do not have to dig into their own pockets to finance an expansion. They can dig into the pockets of the taxpayers.
Indeed, financing an expansion will enable them to keep lucrative jobs. All they need to do is to persuade the taxpayer, or the legislators who control the purse that their project is a good one. And they are generally able to do so because, in turn, the people who vote on the expansion are not voting their own money; they are spending somebody else's money. And nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own.
The end result is that when a private enterprise fails, it is closed down; when a government enterprise fails, it is expanded. Isn't that exactly what has been happening with drugs? With schooling? With medical care?
We are all aware of the deterioration in schooling. But are you aware that we are now spending per pupil, on the average, three times as much as we were thirty years ago, after adjustment for inflation? There's a general rule in government and bureaucratic enterprises: the more you put in, the less you get out.
As these socialized enterprises have broadened their reach, it has become more and more difficult for the public to control them. That's the fundamental problem we face in respect of drugs. How do we make the vested interests of the government change their policy?
As we have all discovered, that is not an easy job. The people running the drug program have a great deal more resources than we have. They can command the attention of the media to make reform or repeal seem not respectable, not reasonable. After all, they will say over and over, the people who urge the legalization of drugs are simply ignorant or naive or don't understand what's going on. We, they will say, are the experts and know what works and what doesn't.
One way that has been effective in eliminating or reducing bad government programs is private competition. The Post Office used to be just as inefficient in delivering parcels as it is in delivering first-class mail. But because the postal statutes gave it a monopoly only on first class mail, UPS was able to take away their business. Then Federal Express and similar enterprises took away much of their first-class business, and substitutes for mail such as fax emerged.
The same process is underway in drugs. Unfortunately, however, private competition is not an effective solution as long as the government completely prohibits some drugs-just as first-class Postage proper is still a government monopoly, because it is illegal for private enterprises to offer similar general carrierservices. In such areas, we do need to change the law.
My thesis can be expressed in two main points, and that is where I want to close and open up to questions from you. First, do not fool yourself into thinking that solutions will in fact work that simply involve changing the way the political mechanism is used. They will not escape the defects common to the political mechanism wherever it is used.
Let me emphasize, I am a limited-goverriment libertarian, not an anarchist libertarian, though I have a great deal of sympathy for anarchist libertarians, including the fact that my son is one. However, the role I assign to the government is limited to defending the country, providing law and order, helping us to determine the rules under which we operate, and adjudicating disputes. This is a very limited range of responsibilities.
A major cost of the broader extension of governmental activity is that it prevents government from doing well those things that I believe only it can do effectively. When people talk about innocent victims of the war on drugs, they very often forget the people who suffer robberies, theft, murder-not because they are caught in the crossfires of drug battles, not because they are the victims of addicts who are trying to support their habit, but simply because so large a fraction of law enforcement resources are being used to try to control drugs that there are not enough resources left to prevent theft, burglary, and the rest in the community at large.
The second lesson I believe that we should learn, and it's probably the more important lesson, is that we are likely to make more progress against the war on drugs if we recognize that repealing drug prohibition is part of the broader problem of cutting down the scope and power of the government and restoring power to the people. If we treat drug prohibition as an isolated instance, maybe the effort to repeal it will be successful, as the effort to repeal alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s. But I believe that our chances of success are greater if we recognize that the failure of the war on drugs is part of a much broader problem, that the reason to end the war on drugs is also the reason to end the socialization of medicine, the socialization of schools, and so on down the list.
Questions and Answers
Arnold S. Trebach: I have a two-part question, one from the floor and one with a bit of my own amendment. Should every produced good be subject to the free market?
And the second part of the question was, if I look back at Adam Smith and once, with great foreboding, I read the book, I think Adam Smith accepted the idea of, as you say, a limited role fbr government, including the administration of justice and I think the phrase was "the common defense." Many drug warriors would claim that because of the unique nature of drugs, they fit properly within the administration of justice and the common defense.
Professor Friedman: On the first half of the question, I believe that there is a case for keeping certain things out of the rnarkct. I believe it's not desirable to have a market in atomic bombs. But the number and the list of things for which you can really justify prohibition is very limited. And the only justification is always in terms of the existence of innocent victims, not in terms of paternalistic concern.
The major effect of drug prohibition is to multiply the number of innocent victims, not to reduce them. That's why I don't think that any general rule you might have that some products, such as atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, and a few things like that, should not be traded in the market applies to the case of drugs.
On the second question, I don't believe that if Adam Smith were here today he would agree with that interpretation you gave to his strictures. The reason why the prohibition of drugs is not a case of the administration of justice is because the drug user, whether he's smart or foolish or not, harms primarily himself. There is a case for doing something when the drug user harms other people, and we do. The case of alcohol is very simple. The person who drives when he's drunk clearly should be prosecuted fbr that. It's the act of driving while drunk, not the act of drinking, for which he should be prosecuted. Similarly, if people under the influence of drugs do a similar thing, the act of doing that is what should be prosecuted, not the ingestion of drugs.
I've always argued that there are two arguments against drug prohibition. One is from principle: that people ought to be responsible for themselves and the government has no business tclling me what to ingest. I'm sure this is the argument you've heard very effectively from Dr. Szasz.
The other is the question of expediency. For a moment, waive the question of principle. are you doing more harm than good? The evidence that you are seems to me so overwhelming that it appeals to people who will not join you on matters of principle. I give you some examples.
My fundamental attitude toward drug prohibition initially developed out of the issue of principle. My good friend Bill Buckley was initially in favor of drug prohibition. In fact, my son David once wrote an article attacking Bill's views on prohibition under the title "Is Bill Buckley a Communicable Disease?" Bill had argued in favor of drug prohibition on the ground that one drug user would transmit his addiction to others, and in that way infect them. David said in his piece that Bill's ideas infect others. To take that to an extreme case-I don't think this was David's example; it's mine-Karl Marx's Das Kapital surely has ended up killing more people than have ever been killed by alcohol, tobacco, and so-called illegal drugs combined. But our principles of free speech say people ought to be free to read Marx. And that was what David meant by his "Is Bill Buckley a Communicable Disease?"
Well, Bill has switched and he is now a very strong proponent of drug legalization, not on grounds of principle but on grounds of expediency, on the ground that the eflbrt has faded and ought to be terminated.
I don't believe there's any way in which you can say that the prohibition of drugs is administering justice. Justice to whom? Is it justice to the people of Colombia who are being murdered because we can't enforce our own laws? That's hardly justice.
Trebach: I wasn't saying that. I was wondering if Adam Smith would. I know how you feel about...
Friedman: [Simultaneously] I know. No, I don't think Adam Smith would. Adam Smith was a very great man, a very smart man.
Trebach: This question says you supported Pinochet or advised Pinochet.
Friedman: I never advised Pinochet. I never supported Pinochet.
Trebach: We'll throw that one away.
Friedman: But hold on. No, I don't want to evade the question.
Trebachi: All right.
Friedman: Chile was a case in which a military regime, headed by Pinochet, was willing to switch the organization of the economy from a top-down to a bottom-up mode. In that process, a group of people who had been trained at the University of Chicago in the Department of Economics, who came to be called the Chicago Boys, played a major role in designing and implementing the economic reforrns. The real miracle in Chile was not that those economic reforms worked so well, because that's what Adam Smith said they would do. Chile is by all odds the best economic success story in Latin America today.
The real miracle is that a military junta was willing to let them do it. As I said to begin with, the principle of the military is from the top down. The principle of a market is from the bottom up. It's a real miracle that a mititary group was willing to let a bottom-up approach take over. I did make a trip to Chile and I gave talks in Chile. In fact, I did meet with Mr. Pinochet, but I never was an adviser to him, and I never got a penny from the Chdean government. But I will say that that process led to a situation in which you were able to get an election which ended the military junta. You now have a democratic government in Chile. There is as yet no similar example from the world of entirely socialist states.
So, I was not an adviser to Pinochet. I was not an adviser to the Chilean government, but I am more thanwifling to share in the credit for the extraordinary job that our students did down there.
Trebach: I believe you were a supporter of Ronald Reagan.
Friedman: I still am, but not of everything that he did.
Trebach: OK The real question is-as I say, I was grouping these togcther-How do you feel about his drug war? I think I know the answer, or we know the answer.
Friedman: The answer is clear. I think that the drug war was a mistake. There are two areas in which I think the Reagan administration performed very badly. One was the drug war and the other was foreign trade. In the case of foreign trade, he laid the groundwork, unfortunately, for what has become a protectionist drive and movement by agreeing to the so-called voluntary import quotas on Japanese cars. That was an enormous mistake, went against all of his stated principles.
As I once said to a Republican Club of students at Stanford, I am a libertarian with a small l and a Republican with a capital R. And I am a Republican with a capital R on grounds of expediency, not on principle. I believe that I can do more good by having influence with the Republican Party than I can by joining the Libertarian Party, although I have great sympathy with the Libertarian Party. I believe it's very desirable that they do well.
Ronald Reagan was a man of principle. He is the first president in my life who was elected because the people had come around to agreeing with him, rather than because he was looking at polls and saying what the people wanted to hear. He was saying exactly the same thing in 1980 when he was nominated, as he was in 1964 when he supported Mr. Goldwater. What changed was not what he was saying, but what the public had come to believe. His fundamental principle-that government is too big, that government is a problem-is correct. Unfortunately, the war on drugs was inconsistent with that fundamental principle and he should not have departed from it by supporting the war on drugs.
I may say to you also that I would have no hesitancy to say that to Ronald Reagan. You know, people have a great misconception about Mr. Reagan. They think that somehow he only listens to what he wants to hear, but that's not true.
Trebach: There are several questions along this line. In light of the objective standing of the U.S. below the EEC by every standard that is, the European countries-that measures quality of life and the reality that every EEC country is socialist, how can you argue for laissez-faire capitalism or, this says, robber baron--robber bandit, free market capitalism as a path, you know, for a better life for Americans?
Friedman: I understand it. Well, I'm delighted that you have some socialists in this organization.
Trebach: We have a few.
Friedman: When I talk to you about dnig legalization, I'm talking to the converted. But when I'm talking to you about socialism, I'm not talking to the converted, so I'm being more useful.
In the first place, I do not agree with the factual statement in that remark. I do not agree that the EEC countries have a better quality of life in general. The typical difference between the EEC countries and the United States is that the United States is a country of much greater diversity and most of the EEC countries have relatively homogeneous populations. In almost all cases, the few immigrants they have are a great cause of trouble. You won't find a Turk in Germany or a Moroccan in France who will subscribe to the view that life is better in the EEC countries than it is in the United States, while we in the United States have a much greater variety and have been much more open and welcome to people.
In the second place, when you come to measure socialism, there's little more than a dime's worth of difference between the degree of socialism in those countries and in this. The major difference is that those countries, some of them, have more government-owned and operated enterprises. That's the major difference. Our only government-owned and operated enterprise is the Post Office. On the other hand, our government has extended its influence in considerable measure primarily by regulation and rules and restrictive arrangements. And in that case, far more so than most of the European countries.
In an issue that's very closely related to the drug issue, our Food and Drug Administration is a much more restrictive and socialist enterprise than its counterparts in England and other countries, as is evidenced by the drug lag. In general, it takes a good deal longer to get a drug approved for use in the United States than it does in Britain or Canada or Germany. Indeed, that's another case in which what's intended to save people's lives is killing far more people than it is saving, namely, our Food and Drug Administration, which I am in favor of abolishing.
So, I don't agree that those countries are very much more socialist. What I do think is a very different thing, and I'll go back to Adam Smith for this.
Trebach: Good idea.
Friedman: When Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown in the Revolutionary War, a young man came to Adam Smith and said that it was going to be the ruination of Britain. Adam Smith replied, "Young man, there's a deal of ruin in a nation"
Now what do I mean by that? I mean that we have the highest standard of living, in reality, of any country in the world.
Audience member: For the few.
Friedman: Not for the few, for the many. I beg your pardon. We have a more equal distribution of income, in general, than most of the countries you're talking about. The distribution of income... [Audience members making inaudible statements] I'm sorry, I couldn't hear most of it.
Trebach: Excuse me. Would you mind sending your questions up? The mike isn't picking it up, so please cool it.
Friedman: Somebody shouted out, "For the few, not for the many." It is true that there are a few who have enormously high incomes. Too many of them. But the fact is that when I speak about the level of living, I am speaking about the level of living of the great majority of the people in the country. There's inequality of income in every country. Those inequalities am far greater in socialist countries than they are in capitalist countries. If you compare the level of living of people at the top and people at the bottom, the difference was much wider, for example, in the precollapsed Soviet Union than it is in the United States.
The issue of distribution of income is a very serious and important issue and it's worth discussing; I don't mean it isn't. But I think that the statement I have made is correct for the great bulk of the American people.
The evidence is simple. How do people best vote? With their feet. Where do people try to immigrate? Some people do try to get into the European countries. In particular, the people from the former communist countries try to get into the less socialist countries of Western Europe. But so far as the United States is concerned, people from all over the world seek to immigrate here. They aren't coming here to be made miserable. They aren't coming here to be exploited. And you can't say that they're all fools; they know what they're getting into. So, I reject the idea that this is a country in which a few stand on the backs of the multitudes, which is a standard argument of the Marxists. Well, I'm glad to see there are a few non-socialists here, too.
Trebach: It's very clear, simply from the applause, that the Drug Policy Foundation attracts a very wide range of opinions on all manners of things.
Friedman: And so you should.
Trebach: Thank you. This may well be the last question, sir. There have been several like this. Looking at the future, in a market of retail sales, of re-legalized drugs, what do you think of the suggestions that have been made about how you model those reforrns? For example, one of our board of directors members, Lester Grinspoon of Harvard, has suggested a harmfulness tax based upon the relative harmfulness of the drugs. Senator Galiber of the New York State Senate, who is here, put in a bill that would have made all the illegal drugs-all of them-available legally, but would have regulated them like alcohol. They've used precisely the alcohol model. For example, you could get the drug if you were an adult; you couldn't have the retail store near a school, etc. What thoughts do you have on the future?
Friedman: There is no chance whatsoever in the near future or the distant future of getting what I would really like, which is a free market. As a first step on the right road, I believe the right thing to do is to treat drugs, currently illegal drugs, exactly the same way you treat alcohol and tobacco. Not because that's the best way, not because that's the ideal arrangement, but because it's an arrangement that people know, that is in existence. It involves, in a certain sense, the least kind of change, so that the law you've described by Senator Galiber seems to me the right direction in which to go-night direction in the sense again of a practical compromise, not of ultimate principle.
NOTE: This chapter is adapted from Prof. Friedman's keynote address presented at the Fifth International Confcrcnce on Drug Policy Reform in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16, 1991.
From: Friedman & Szasz on Liberty and Drugs, edited and with a Preface by Arnold S. Trebach and Kevin B. Zeese. Washington, D.C.: The Drug Policy Foundation, 1992
How true! I'm glad the author pointed out the "advantages to a small group of people" part.
Again and bigger:
Very nice article. Thanks.
I have never understood why the WOD continues, when the politicians could make everything legal and tax it to death, as they do for alcohol and tobacco. It seems strange that they have deliberately ignored this source of revenue for so long. They've gone after everything else, why not this?
No, he's a Libertarian with a capital L, and probably closer to his anarchist son than he's willing to admit.
This is just the same-o same-o Libertarian recycled crap, just from an economic perspective, if that. His intellectual contribution to this? His esteemed opinion? His sage musings from on high? Oh, just sell it the way you do alcohol and cigarettes. Why? "Not because that's the best way, not because that's the ideal arrangement, but because it's an arrangement that people know, that is in existence".
Thank you, O Mighty One!
Uh George Soros is the main benefactor of the Lindesmith Center, the Sierra Club of drug legalization.
Of course you already knew that.
Actually it is my answer to Libertarian hubrismindedness, idealoguemindedness, and shutmyeyestodrugabusebecuaseIdon'tseetherealworldmindedness.
Some good information in there for you.
It seems you are right, in part. Three men are the major donors to the drug reform movement. Does it necessarily mean something? NO, not in the least, no matter what your "implications" are!
Political advantage, my rosy pink Daschle. What keeps the WOD going is the loot that any little tin dictator in the law-enforcement field gets to seize from the public without due process. There are whole county governments that thrive as highwaymen, living off money and goods stolen from "profiled" travelers passing through.
The motto I live by is "he who complains has already lost". Why not join the winners instead of constantly complaining about the results? The bottom line is that whether or not one agrees that the WOD is a bad idea (myself included), there's something disturbing about seemingly intelligent people constantly banging their heads against a wall.
Life is too short to waste on losing propositions; the amount of time fighting this issue could have been more profitably spent catering to the insatiable appetite of the drug warriors.
What, you've never seen pictures of Soros' giant dope plantantions he got down in Hungaria?
Anything Milton Friedman says or writes is worth a replay on FR, even if it was 11 years ago.
BTW, the OCR software tripped over a couple of words, most especially Congressman Richard Armey, but the pertinent points were made I think.
As regards the LP,I really don't know enough about them-as a political party-to say at this point whether I'd be interested in an anti-LP caucus or not. I know that the LP has been amazingly ineffective at the nuts-and-bolts of getting candidates elected to office,and this is something that I flat out cannot comprehend.
Maybe it's because I'm a curmudgeon,but the Libertarian philosophy(as opposed to the LP) appealed to me immediately,when I was exposed to it. Why on earth it doesn't appeal to everyone,or at least a significant percentage of the population(i.e.,those of us who have jobs or businesses,and work,and through our taxes actually pay for all the nonsense that's foisted on us by various governments) is beyond me. I'm not willing to abandon a philosophy that I admire and try to live up to. If the LP isn't getting candidates elected to office,I'll listen to anyone who has an alternative plan.