Monday, April 24, 2006


Saying YES

I finished up Jacob Sullum's book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, on Friday and started his other book For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health.

I have to say that I really like this author.

Check out this section titled Paternalism's Price:

The fact that drug use is usually not the end of the world, or even a cause for regret, has important implications for the drug policy debate. To be sure, it does not change everything. Even if the vast majority of people who use drugs is still justified because of the harm that would otherwise be caused by the minority who don't. Empirically, this is a shaky proposition. It's not clear, first of all, that prohibition is very effective at preventing people from developing drug problems. The barriers it creates--cost, inconvenience, risk of arrest--are more likely to deter casual users, and potential addicts who are deterred may instead become alcoholics, thereby exposing themselves to more serious health risks that if they had taken up, say, heroin. Assuming that at least some people manage to avoid addiction only because of the obstacles erected by the drug laws, any harm thereby prevented has to be weighed against the enormous costs of the war on drugs, which include not only the explicit expenditures ($40 billion or so annually) but violence, official corruption, disrespect for the law, diversion of law-enforcement resources, years wasted in prison by drug offenders who are not predatory criminals, thefts that would not occur is drugs were more affordable, erosion of privacy rights, and other civil liberties, and deaths from tainted drugs, unexpectedly high doses, and unsanitary injection practices encouraged by anti-paraphernalia policies. These costs, which bear a striking resemblance to the side effects of alcohol prohibition, are hard to measure, and some of them cannot be expressed in financial terms, but that does not make them any less real. It's doubtful that they can be justified even on purely utilitarian grounds.

This reminded me of the current difficulties arising from buying cold medicine in North Carolina. This weekend, I went to go purchase some allergy and cold medicine and was stopped in my tracks. I had to hand over my license, give my telephone number, and wait for the pharmacist's assistance to purchase these simple items.

I don't know how the costs associated with North Carolina legislation could possibly outweigh the benefits. Who actually believes that this difficulty will stop drug use or drug manufacturing?

In fact, I heard somewhere that we aren't even buying American any more. Where are all the protectionists now? We are outsourcing Methamphetamine jobs to Mexico and increasing the chance of illegal trafficking. Gotta love the unintended consequences to the best of intentioned legislation.

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