do you hate a plant more than you love your rights?

Prohibition causes huge profit margins for dealers cause turf wars cause violence causes public concern causes calls to “do something” cause gun control. If you’re for prohibition, you are for gun control. That’s irrespective of the substance to be prohibited.

I posted that on Facebook yesterday, in response to one of my FB friends posting about the pot legalization law in Colorado. I want to expand on that statement a little, even though in its current form it’s pretty much distilled down into the TL;DR form already.

Prohibition of a desired substance or item always causes a black market, unless you have police powers and social controls similar to the German occupation forces in WWII Eastern Europe. (And the fact that even the Nazis were never able to fully suppress the black market for cigarettes and butter despite death penalties for “economic parasites” just shows how nigh-impossible it is to kill that sort of entrepreneurship.) The reason is simple: government prohibition of a desired good makes that good artificially expensive, and all the profits go to those willing to risk bucking the system. As the Prohibition was an effective price control and profit guarantee for bootleggers, hooch runners, and speakeasies, the current War on Some Drugs serves in the same fashion for pot growers, cocaine smugglers, and meth cooks. The risks are high, but when you pass a law that effectively puts a 10,000% profit margin on a simple plant product, you will always have plenty of people taking the risks involved in its manufacture and distribution. That’s a simple economic fact, and working against it is as pointless as working against gravity.

(It may not seem obvious from the position of a reasonably prosperous American suburbanite, but imagine I put an ad on Craigslist and offer twenty times the average annual U.S. salary to volunteers willing to smuggle twenty pounds of banned Earl Grey tea into a foreign country. How many takers do you think I would get per week? Answer that question to yourself, and you’ll realize why it’s utterly pointless when the DEA busts some scraggly smuggler at the border crossing with a few pounds of Colombian marching powder sewn into his car seat.)

Because people can make astronomical profits serving the market for the prohibited goods, turf wars between the suppliers are also inevitable. And because they’re all operating in an extralegal space already, they solve their competition issues in an extralegal way—gang violence. Prohibitions drive up the crime statistics directly (turf warfare between the gangs and syndicates involved), and indirectly (the ancillary crime related to the customers of those syndicates having to finance their purchases via property crime). Sooner or later, the public violence gets to a point where Joe and Jane Q. Public want Something To Be Done, and that something is often a push for arms control. The Prohibition violence brought us NFA ‘34, banning what were perceived the typical tools of the trade of gangsters: short-barreled shotguns and automatic weapons. (Machine guns got slapped with a tax rather than banned outright, but a $200 tax stamp on a gun retailing for less than half that in a time where the average annual wage is $1,300 is effectively a ban.) The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill was a result of the drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s (and Joe and Jane Q. Public watching Miami Vice as a documentary). And that stuff is a mere inconvenience compared to the awful excesses of asset forfeiture laws, which have given police departments all over the country a financial incentive to outright steal property from citizens without the inconvenience of having to prove that a crime occurred.

It’s interesting how the same people who scoff at the notion that criminals won’t use guns if they’re banned can simultaneously hold the opinion that people will stop using or trading in drugs when they’re banned. They’ll use the same arguments the gun control crowd makes in favor of gun bans: at least it’ll be more difficult to get them, we can just come up with really draconian punishments for offenders, and doing nothing will make things worse. If that logic doesn’t apply to guns, why should it apply to drugs—which are easier to make and smuggle, and carry much higher profit margins? The rules of the market are what they are, and they don’t bend around a pet cause. And what if that “doing something” is in fact far worse than doing nothing? Gun control is unilateral disarmament of the law-abiding citizen in favor of the criminal. Drug prohibition is government-enforced price control for drug cartels, and a universal adaptor for an overreaching police state. Both cures are far more poisonous to the host than the problems they mean to fix. And the kicker is that support for the latter invariably results in getting more of the former.

93 responses

  1. Amen.

    Funnily enough, in North America (and the UK) we HAD pretty free access to these products and it wasn’t a huge societal issue at the time.

    Fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes were “users” the 7% Solution refers to preparation of Cocaine (Heroin? I’ve forgotten) do note: it was quite dilute.

    Absent prohibition MOST people who indulge prefer to indulge in “weak” drugs, (See Alchohol – “hard” liquor consumption was MUCH less before prohibition, people liked their Beer and Cider & wine )

    In the US Laudanum, heroin in an alcohol suspension, was an over the counter medicine.

    I’m not suggesting all was sweetness & light, but addiction and all the related legal mess, seems to have been a much smaller problem and generally considered a personal moral failing ( hey, it’s the 19th century! It all was) and a medical management problem between you and your shyster of a doctor. Everyone knew these were powerful drugs that could do harm, just like drinking yourself stupid with alcohol, but more so. Some people abused them.

    • Replying to Fred2: Picky,picky, but Laudanum was opium dissolved in, usually, brandy.
      Heroin came much later and was hoped to be a replacement for, addictive, morphine. Good intentions and all that.

  2. Very well put, sir…and very succinctly argued. I’m probably going to have to use some of this logic in discussions with relatives this Christmas…but don’t worry, I’ll give full credit to Major Caudill, USMC. On a related note…I understand from other posts that you are originally from Germany, but I’m humbled by your command of English! I tutor native-born college students who have had 21 years to learn English, as a mother tongue, and don’t have nearly the facility with it that you have. (I hope that doesn’t come across as patronizing…it’s totally not meant to be.)

  3. In fact, things don’t have to be prohibited for this effect. In the mid-eighties I was at a presentation by officers from Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise during which it was stated that, by both physical volume and monetary value, smuggling of tobacco and tobacco products accounted for the largest amounts illegal goods transfer Customs & Excise had to deal with. This was enabled by the wildly varying tax rates for tobacco products within Europe. Taxation in the UK of tobacco products is so disproportionate that smuggling from low-tax areas is hugely profitable. I expect this remains true today.

    • Happens here, too. I know more than one person who financed a trip to New York City by hauling smokes in from places that don’t have the same taxes.

  4. At least it was understood that federal Prohibition of alcohol required a constitutional amendment. That understanding no longer exists.

    This entire discussion often fails to address the main point, that ostensibly at least, the purpose of the U.S. government is to protect liberty and justice. Now it has become the chief violator of both.

    What does result, or may result, from this or that violation of human rights is not a major concern. It is the violation that is the concern, and the fact that these violations go unpunished.

  5. Always. The Warsaw ghetto had a small group smuggling banned firearms -into- the ghetto right up until the final liquidation. There’s always a black market in response to market repression.
    Here in post initiative 502 Washington (Washington states “legalization” initiative) a -75%- tax was imposed I assume to make the initiative “saleable” to the public. Many are speculating that at that tax level significant black market supply will continue. If legalization fails, it won’t be blamed on repressive taxes… all IMO

    • Actually heavily taxing something is worse than prohibition. You still get all the bad effects of a black market, but the illegal product costs LESS than the legal one.

  6. As one of my favorite people ever posted on Twitter:

    “Drugs will always be around. Politicians are therefore making an active decision to distribute them through violent gangs”

  7. An interesting aspect of the points Fred2 brought up, while drugs were pretty unregulated and for the most part not abused, is that those who did abuse them usually died quickly of self-inflicted starvation/exposure, thereby removing themselves from the population, since the government wasn’t providing food/shelter as it does now.

    If they didn’t maintain enough brain power/strength to hold down a job, they didn’t eat and they didn’t have anywhere to live. Funny how choices actually had consequences back then.

  8. Well, I’d be alright with legalization under a system that said NO, ZERO, NADA “safety net” for drug abusers.

    If the libertarian anti-Drug War warriors will push for that first, then perhaps they’ll have some credibility as more than tokers, jokers and smokers who just want to get high while somebody else deals with the consequences.

    Of course, the internecine wars between the true libertarians for drug legalization, and the parasitic libertines will be quite entertaining to watch.

    (FWIW, I am a federalist where the subject is concerned. It’s none of the Federal gov’ts business save import restrictions, and I’ll vote against legalization every time at the state level unless my NO SAFETY NET concept is the situation.)

    • BikerDad,

      If the libertarian anti-Drug War warriors will push for that first, then perhaps they’ll have some credibility as more than tokers, jokers and smokers who just want to get high while somebody else deals with the consequences.

      Uh, yeah, because the Libertarian platform is SO BIG on a massive federal welfare safety net.

      Please tell me you’re just trolling and not actually that ignorant.

      • Tam,

        I’m neither trolling nor ignorant. Libertarian “drug warriors” are allied with progressive/anarchist drug warriors. It is perhaps an uneasy alliance, but it’s still an alliance. I don’t see Libertarians charging into the fray and directly attacking the redoubts of the druggie social welfare nets. It is inevitable in the short run that this net will be massively utilized if drugs are decriminalized/legalized, and as equally inevitable that the progressives will use this to expand their social welfare net (more like a fishing net rather than a safety net). Yet, do libertarians do anything specific to ward off this trainwreck? Nope, not a damn thing.

        And that’s why most seem like jokers, smokers and tokers, not serious.

        • Libertarian “drug warriors” are allied with progressive/anarchist drug warriors.

          And Libertarian “gun warriors” are allied with conservative/Republican “gun warriors” and so that must mean that Libertarians are also against gay marriage?

          Huh?

        • Anarchists by definition don’t want any government. So, yes, they’d be in favor of removing said “safety net”.

          Of course, in all of this, have you done a comparison of costs between what that safety net might cost, vs: what it already actually does cost to imprison all the druggies, and what we spend trying to keep drugs out of the country? What do US military operations in Colombia cost? What is the DEA’s annual budget? (Yes, the DEA does things besides drug interdiction, but other agencies besides the DEA are involved in the drug war, so I think we can guesstimate on the numbers a bit.)

        • Hell, old people use way more publicly funded health care (Medicare) than drugs addicts do. In fact, since drug addicts are vastly more likely to die before they get to old age, they probably save money compared to someone who makes it to their 95th birthday.

  9. “If you’re for prohibition, you are for gun control.”

    Prohibition of anything at all?

    Crack? Lead chew toys for toddlers? Murder?

    Or does your reasoning only apply to prohibition of tasty buds?

    It’s this sort of argument that makes me a Republican and not a Libertarian.

    Guns aren’t addictive. They don’t make permanent changes to brain chemistry, rendering the user unable to stop using the product. They don’t turn people into lazy, passive, effeminate zombies. And there isn’t a fucking amendment that reads “the right of the people to keep and smoke pot-marijuana shall not be infringed.”

    Jesus H. Christ.

    • First of all, fignuts, marijuana isn’t addictive. Get that through your thick skull. And I know many people that smoke marijuana, and all of them save one HAVE A JOB*. They have stable families. You’ve eaten so much propaganda that your eyes are brown. You’re either for liberty, or you are against liberty. So f*ck off, slaver.

      *This guy is disabled. Even in 2012 America, a guy in a wheelchair has a hell of a time with people’s attitudes toward hiring people with disabilities.

      • Fig nuts? What does that even…never mind.

        Did you know that smoking pot causes permanent changes to brain chemistry? And you’re forming arguments with your brain, which has been thus altered. I’m sure your expert opinion on the addictiveness of mind-altering substances is based upon years of study and sound science, but…how can you be sure of any opinion you hold, when it’s held by an altered mind?

        Let alone be sure enough to accompany your opinion with the razor-edged epithet “fig nuts”?

  10. Laws against rape cause rapists to be incarcerated, which causes more prison rape, which causes people to want to Do Something, which causes calls for more leniency and shorter prison sentences, which leads to more rapists on the street, which leads to more rape.

    If you’re for laws against rape, then you’re for more rape.

    How is that absurd argument substantively different in form from yours?

  11. We’re talking about economics and laws banning trade goods, not laws against using force or fraud. There’s no black market for rape and murder. You can’t stockpile assault and sell it for a profit. Don’t pull the old reductio ad absurdum–”if we can’t ban pot, we can’t ban murder!”

    You’ve had it your way for fifty+ years. We’ve banned the stuff, but it’s more available and less expensive than ever. Meanwhile, we have a black market worth hundreds of billions a year that we neither control nor see the first cent of tax revenue from, we’ve destabilized entire countries by making the drug lords powerful via artificially inflated profits, our constitutional protections have gotten it up the ass in many exciting ways, we’ve had three major gun laws pushed on us because of the gang violence that comes with drug bans, and we’re spending tens of billions every year on this boondoggle for nothing.

    And you still want to keep doing the same thing year after year? Oh, no, let me guess–you want to do the same, only harder. That’ll work.

    • I’d rather not live in (and raise my children in) Amsterdam. Looks like a fun place to visit, but I’m pretty sure that Ohio has it beaten as a good place to live and raise children, despite the hellish nightmare you seem to think criminalization of drugs has created.

      Why is that, that I can take a walk with my daughters down the street of my home town, and not have to step over junkies laying in their own filth and cover my daughters’ eyes while we pass sex shops and whore houses?

      Some things should be driven underground and into black markets.

      And as for freedom…People who would prefer to live in a place where they can pickle their brains with crack are perfectly free…to move to Amsterdam. They needn’t bring it here and turn my society to shit.

      But your side has won this argument. National legalization is next, probably before the end of President Choom’s second term. Now we’ll see how great things are ten years from now, when 20% of the population is staggering around in an unemployed, unemployable purple haze like Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

          • Here’s a suggestion for your edification. Walk into any AA meeting you can find and just sit down, shut up, and listen. You’ll quickly be enlightened as to the addictive and destructive power contained within a nice, neat glass of whisky.

          • When the people with which you’re arguing tell you to shut up, and call you names like fig nuts and low-intellectual-wattage, you know you’re winning the argument. Yes, buddie, The Glenfarclas is just exactly like crack, and they should be regulated to the same degree.

      • More work for me then.

        I’ll stay off the wacky weed, and make myself way more employable. More work for me and less competition.

        Anything to accelerate the gutter dive of idiots who belong in the gutter is fine by me. They are headed there anyway. Might as well remove the crime portion of their dive.

        Yes, I value my rights more than the lives of some junkies. Too fucking bad for them. Here are your drugs, shithead. Now go kill yourself quietly in the gutter.

        • Good thing you’re employable, because you’ll need to support all of those potheads lying in their own filth. Someone will have to pay for their pot and munchies. But wait, maybe we can get the money by taxing the pot….Yeah, that’s it.

      • Sounds like you’re never been to Amsterdam, yet you make shit up about it. I’ve been there. No junkies lying in their own filth, unless there were some homeless dudes I missed somehow. And the whole “sex shops and prostitution” thing was a letdown considering what I had heard about it from friends. You really had to search it out to see it. I’ve seen bawdier places in New Orleans. In fact, the only real crime I saw was a medium-size fracas caused by English soccer fans in town.

        • There are people who like the ideas of mutilating girls’ genitals and stoning homosexuals; they tell me Riyadh is lovely this time of year. And when they try to impose sharia law here, I tell them: go live in Saudi Arabia.

          You like smoking shit, and you like Amsterdam. Good for you. Go live there. Leave my civil society of productive people not enslaved to addictive drugs alone.

          • my civil society of productive people not enslaved to addictive drugs alone.

            You mean the one where one in five 8th Graders have tried pot? Dude, we fought a war on drugs and drugs kicked our ass. It’s time to get on the helicopter before they completely overrun our position.

  12. How’s this one?

    Laws against slavery cause a demand for cheap field labor, which causes massive illegal immigration, which causes crime and chaos in border states including confrontations between armed citizens and armed illegals, which causes calls to Do Something, which causes gun control.

    If you’re against slavery, you’re for gun control.

    This one lacks the silly circularity of my first attempt.

    • Why not bring in nuclear weapons as a new strawman while you are at it?

      “Not outlawing ditchweed is like not outlawing civilian nuclear weapons! If you want to legalize ditchweed, then you are just as evil as someone who wants civilian ownership of h-bombs!”

      Are you starting to see how fucking stupid you sound, pasta4ian?

      • No, I don’t understand this criticism at all.

        I’m not saying that legalizing pot is as bad as something else, I’m saying that it is itself a terrible idea that will help drag our economy and culture into the shitter. See Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

        Legalization of nuclear weapons is actually a libertarian argument. I draw the line at guided missiles, ten inch guns, and (lethal) chemical, biological, and yes nuclear weapons, for civilian use. Well, maybe tactical nukes are ok. But you’d need a class three license for that.

      • Kristophr,

        Are you starting to see how fucking stupid you sound, pasta4ian?

        Are you kidding? This is obviously somebody who thinks Reefer Madness was a documentary.

  13. If you can’t parse the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se laws, and you try equivocating banning the ownership of $5 of plant product with banning the ownership of humans, I don’t think you have either the intellectual wattage or the willingness to discuss the subject in a non-trollish manner.

    I’ll sum it up more concisely:

    Your ban is not only not working, it’s making things far worse than they would be without it. You have not addressed that claim of mine with a single word yet. Instead, you’ve been busy over there making little dudes with straw.

    • True, I am a man of little brain. I’ll own that. But there’s no reason to start swearing at me in Latin.

      How’s this: should crack cocaine be legal?

      If your answer is yes, then you’re right, I’m just trolling; because you’re elevating abstract principles to dizzying heights without any thought of their repercussions to actual people, and all we’ll end up doing is arguing past one another.

      • Cocaine was perfectly legal in the 19th Century. Addiction rates were under .03% at the time of the 1900 census.

        A century of criminalization has caused the addiction rate to skyrocket as prohibition has made selling it intensely profitable.

        If you want to lower use rates, history shows that the use rate was miniscule when the substance was legal, and sold as a toothache remedy over the counter.

        • And…criminalization causes addiction? Is it the Taboo that makes it so irresistible, and not the chemicals and their effects on the brain? I’d better let those chemists and neurologists know that they’re just spinning their wheels.

          • If you don’t understand the attraction of things that are prohibited, you are not very observent. It’s part of human psychology.
            It seems pretty obvious at this point that you aren’t really looking for a dialog on the subject. That makes you a troll.

          • Will, if you actually believe that people try, and become addicted to, crack cocaine because it’s so naughty and deliciously wicked, and not because it’s a powerful narcotic that causes an almost maniacal compulsive craving at a chemical level…

            Look, I’ll not accuse you of having “low intellectual wattage” or being a cave-dwelling Norwegian dwarf, and I won’t curse at you in Latin. But that notion (that it’s the taboo of crack, heroin, and pot that makes them just so darn popular with addicts) is a pretty foolish notion.

            Making men free to enslave themselves to mind-controlling drugs does not increase freedom.

          • Criminalization causes profits.

            Profits drive marketing the product to people who would have never considered using it.

            If it just sits in the back of the pharmacy with a $1.50 price tag, there is no profit incentive to sell it to schoolkids.

        • Most of society’s bans are promulgated because of one phrase:”Oh, think of the children!” We all are not “the children”. What happened to personal responsibility? I’m for the eradication of social assistance for disabilities due to one’s own fault (if everything were to be legalized.)

          Would I smoke methamphetamine? No. I know how to make it. I know how bad for you it is. I also know that home making, distributing, or encouraging people to use, make, or distribute it would affect a damn lot of people. Or accidentally kill either myself or somebody else. Thus, I have no use for it.

          Would I smoke weed? Maybe. I know how to grow it, I know how to be safe with it. I also know that I aspire to greater things than sitting on my ass all day, eating Cheetos, and watching Comedy Central. At the same time, I know it’s okay for occasional use without making you want to go smoke some more 5 minutes after you finish up.

          Would I own a nuke? No. I know how to make one. I know how to be safe with one. I also know I could not use or possess one without potentially affecting a damn lot of people, or make one without getting radiation poisoning. Thus, I have no use for one.

          Would I own an M240B 7.62mm crew served general purpose machine gun? Possibly; I know how to use and maintain one, I know how to be safe with one. I also know that 7.62x51mm is too expensive for a belt of 200 rounds in a can for everyday shooting. At the same time, they’re reliable as all get out (more so than the factory new M4 I carried in the Army in 2007) and a riot to shoot the occasional watermelon with.

          Note that in the first and third examples I never said they should be banned, taxed, regulated, or anything otherwise. Just that I have no use for them.

          Personal responsibility. You screw it up for someone else, you own up and make it right. And then you prevent yourself from screwing it up again. “Doing something” should be hard labor on a chain gang. Like, mining coal or salt. Picking up trash. Repainting and cleaning structures. Picking fruit. Landscaping. construction. Vacuuming septic tanks. All of those jobs that illegal immigrants do, or jobs that are hard, dirty, or dangerous.

  14. Yees I have heard that bullshit before and you can repeat it as often as you want but its still bullshit.

    no my rihgts are not violated because you can’t smoke pot. You do not need pot to live, you may very well need a gun to protect yourself from some drugged up social experiment. You can polish that turd all you want Munchkin but it is an idiot’s argument and only stupid people will go fo r it.

    • It’s like watching a rhesus monkey trying to do long division. Sooner or later, he eats the pencil in frustration and goes back to practicing fecal ballistics.

    • Oh, hooray! I was worried that maybe Rusty had choked on his last cookie or something…

      Thankfully, he is still constant as the Northern star.

    • no my rihgts are not violated because you can’t smoke pot.

      How ’bout Kathryn Johnson, Rusty? Were her rights violated because you can’t smoke pot?

      • and speaking of monkeys here comes Tam, sucking on a ban ana and screeching about storm troopers and botched police raids. And you wonder why libertarians aren’t taken seriosly.

        How about we legalize rape Tam. If we got to legalize criminal behavior to protect your rights we may as well legalise it all right?

        • “Botched”?

          What an eccentric term to use for an outright murder and coverup that resulted in the perpetrators being sent to prison.

          That’s like saying the yahoo in Oregon had a “botched range trip”.

          Ah, Rusty, you drooling moron, you’re so much fun!

        • Rusty,

          I realize it’s pointless to reply (but it’s fun!)

          Your failure to grasp the difference between crime against the individual (the person) and crime against the state is telling.

          But if you insist on your absurd argument, I’ll play along. Decriminalize rape, if you feel you must, so long as my response is also decriminalized. If nothing else I guarantee recidivism rates will plummet…

          The essential failure of many folks wanting to pass laws is the assumption that laws are prohibitive. They aren’t, they’re merely punitive. So decriminalizing rape is not going to increase the number of rapes, those folks are already violating social, cultural and legal concepts without concern. And if you’ll decriminalize rational citizens’ responses to rapists at the same time, the problem will get handled.

          Thanks,
          JSG

    • The terminal dumb of Rusty is actually about the only argument for “gun control” that I always stumble at: “But Johnny, you can have stupid people using dangerous thing like guns, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

      However, rights are about principles not consequences… which makes Staghound just as dumb as Rusty.

    • You’re here on the internet so clearly you’re not too stupid to read, did you just not bother?

      You assert: no my rihgts are not violated because you can’t smoke pot. and yet Marko just laid out precisely how your second amendment rights are infringed due to prohibition. You may (and clearly do) disagree with that premise, but a blank denial isn’t any sort of refutation, it’s just a five year old standing there and going “Nuh-UNH!” to everything that’s said to him.

      Why do you even bother to show up in these comments? It’s clearly not to have any sort of discussion, because you don’t bother. You just say “Nuh-UNH!” over and over again, and never even try to explain in what way the logic presented is flawed.

  15. Marko, name calling suits you poorly and does your argument no favours.

    There are some legitimate points here. Prohibition of possession of a Bald Eagle, or child pornography, or driving 110 on my suburban streets doesn’t make me want to do those things, and I doubt the prohibition inspires many of those who do.

    Your truth is that prohibition, or taxation of a commodity always causes the price of the commodity to go up.

    Nonsense.

    Consider unregistered machine guns, hot art, stolen cars, or sex. All of which are sooooo much more expensive on the illegal market, right? NOT.

    You can call it a reductio all you want, but the fact is that no one sensible- not even you- wants every commodity available to every person without restriction. Maybe only heroin from nine year olds or plutonium from Al Quaeda, but even you want some things to be kept from some people.

    So since some line has to be drawn somewhere, don’t pretend that every prohibition or restriction, always, is wrong.

    Sure, in the U. S., today, the balance of costs, benefits, and morals might be against prohibiting marijuana. But it’s a balancing test, not an absolute.

    • But the prohibition on machine guns HAS raised the price. Have you priced a transferrable M16? They are running about $30,000 apiece. Sex is expensive when it is restricted. Take dating versus prostitution: prostitutes are cheaper, because they are more available than most women.

      It is all about supply and demand. Making something illegal doesn’t eliminate demand. If you pass a law that eliminates legal supply, the market will supply the good if you have not eliminated the demand, and at a higher price.

      Child pornography is different as well. It is my feeling that the pornography itself is not the crime, the child exploitation is. The pornography is merely a picture of a crime. You might as well make security video of a robbery or a murder illegal to possess. It would have the same effect.

    • staghounds makes some good points, so lets look at his examples:

      Possession of a bald eagle and hot art — how much would this be worth if it wasn’t prohibited? http://hotair.com/archives/2012/07/23/irs-wants-29-million-in-estate-taxes-for-bald-eagle-sculpture-that-cant-legally-be-sold/

      Machine guns – at one time you could buy a Thompson machine gun for $200 in a hardware store; now it’ll cost you in the neighborhood of $20k. That an illegal machine gun might sell for less than that simply reflects the MG’s free market price, vs the cost of legal compliance.

      Illegal sex: “Law enforcement agencies in America’s biggest cities spend an average of about $2,000 for each arrest of a prostitute, which amounts to more than $120 million a year in enforcement costs nationwide.” http://articles.latimes.com/1987-07-10/news/mn-1941_1_prostitution-arrests
      Add to that the costs of violence against prostitutes, pimp wars, arrests and handling of Johns, etc.

      And staghound’s assertion that “prohibition of [insert item here] doesn’t make me want those things” is a grammatically correct way of saying, “no my rihgts are not violated because you can’t smoke pot.” Aside from the fact that prohibiting [item] *does* make some people want that item, that is entirely beside the point.

      “So since some line has to be drawn somewhere, don’t pretend that every prohibition or restriction, always, is wrong.” — this is the real issue. People without morals can’t see the difference, but there are things that are banned because they are wrong — like rape — and things that are banned because a busybody doesn’t want you to do it — like smoking pot, owning machine guns, or drinking a large soda. Legally called malum in se and malum prohibitum.

      For some reason, many people cannot tell the difference between acts that violate the rights of others and thus need to be punished, and acts that violate the rights of others because you are punishing them for doing something that isn’t wrong, you just don’t like it.

  16. I am a little puzzled how Portugal decriminalized all drugs about 10 years ago and their addiction rate dropped by 50%. Anyone want to explain that one? Unintended consequences or is this the result of sanity in public policy?

    • Bruce, they had tried the War On Drugs approach in the 1980s and 1990s, and got the results that we did: high police costs, high court costs, high prison costs, lots of deaths and disease (reused needles, etc).

      They figured that they couldn’t do any worse this way. The focus is on detox, and it looks like they’re getting better results.

      • So, who pays for the detox? Is it the government? If so, then it sounds like you’re simply exchanging a regime of “government thugs with guns preventing you from doing something” for “government thugs with guns forcing you to do something.”

        How is this an improvement? If your point is simply a narrow one regarding addiction rates and decriminalization, then the use of completely different post-decriminalization paradigm than you, a libertarian, would theoretically advocate, is tragically flawed. You’re essentially pulling a bait and switch. On the other hand, if you’re okay with the gubmin’t detox model, then you’re back into the “jokers, smokers and tokers” crowd I mentioned above.

        Because politics is takes place in the realm of the possible, and we can’t always get everything we want, I’m curious about something. As a general principle, which is more offensive to libertarians?

        Government prohibition on doing X
        or
        Government compulsion to do Y?

        • Is Borepatch a Libertarian? Or are you just using “Libertarian” as shorthand for “someone who thinks the war on drugs is a costly flop”, because then “Libertarian” would include people ranging from William F. Buckley Jr. to Pat Robertson.

          One would need a certain degree of stubbornness bordering on the perverse to look at society today and say that the Wo(S)D has done more good than harm over the last forty years.

        • What if some people are merely pragmatic and want to take the choice that has the lower public cost? What does that make them?

  17. Staghounds: Partial Prohibition HAS made the price of machineguns go through the roof.

    Try buying a transferable Galil, and then get back to me.

    And nowhere did Marko advocate heroin for 9 year olds and plutonium for Al Qaida.

    Why do the drug prohibitionists always bring out the nuclear weapons strawman?

    • Kristophr,

      I like to think I’m fairly bright, and that my friends tend to be, on average, smarter than the average bear. Staghounds may be the smartest person I know, and I know some pretty smart people, so when he hands me a Rubik’s Cube, I like to turn it around several times before I start cranking on it in an attempt to get the colors to line up.

    • Why bring up nuclear arms into the debate on gun control? Because they are seeking to bring about a visceral emotional response to bolster an illogical position. No one is talking about repealing the age of purchase requirements for tobacco or alcohol, or making everything available to anyone anytime, so they have to make a ridiculous claim to even stay in the conversation.

  18. Marko started by contending that prohibition raises prices.

    “The risks are high, but when you pass a law that effectively puts a 10,000% profit margin on a simple plant product, you will always have plenty of people taking the risks involved in its manufacture and distribution. That’s a simple economic fact, and working against it is as pointless as working against gravity. ”

    What I was pointing out is that on the contrary, prohibited items often cost LESS on the inevitable black market, and gave some examples of things that do. Stolen goods and unregistered machine guns are made CHEAPER by their prohibition.

    As is employment of illegal aliens.

    And I have to say that prohibition causes use is a weak argument. I do not believe that a legal prohibition is the MAIN motivator in causing ordinary, sensible adults to do things. I gave some personal examples. Seriously, commenters, what non drug activity do you personally spend money to do not that happens to be illegal, but BECAUSE it’s illegal?

    If it were made legal tomorrow, would you stop?

    And I’m not a “drug prohibitionist”. I use aspirin and antibiotics and nitrous oxide at the dentist.

    As usual, the goal posts get moved. If you contend that “prohibition of any commodity is always wrong”, then nuclear, poisonous, explosive, and contagious things are commodities too.

    If you don’t like nuclear, then how about Sarin? Pondimin? Thalidomide? PCP? They are all just chemicals.

    SOMETHING is going to be generally prohibited in any society. Maybe marijuana shouldn’t be, maybe driving without a license shouldn’t be, but again, that’s a balancing argument not an absolute question.

    And I agree that currently, the loss of rights we all face is way worse than the social costs of marijuana. And that most rights-eroding law comes from drug cases, as it did from liquor cases a century ago.

    I recognise the link between drug profits and corpses in the street and anti gun agitation. No doubt of that, never has been.

    I doubt that legalizing marijuana, or every other drug, would reverse that loss of rights or even slow it down.

    • Illegal things that cost less than their restricted counterparts are often substitute goods. There’s a decent wiki entry on such. Hiring a hooker as opposed to dating is an example.

      An ounce of marijuana is much more than its free market price would be, so Marko’s position holds.

      A legal machinegun is much more expensive than an illegal one because it doesn’t carry the massive risk of arrest and incarceration. For some the risk doesn’t factor in, so why bother going legal? Because the supply of legal machineguns is fixed, and the demand is slowly growing, prices are going up as they get ever more expensive some people become willing to substitute the illegal examples to feed their demand. The counterintuitive thing to note is that legal and illegal guns are not fungible to each other and really do need to be considered as similar but distinct goods.

      Econ 101 really.

      • Excellent. You hit it. I was trying to figure out what the difference between marijuana and machine guns was from an economic perspective. And the answer is: “There exists a legal (but extremely limited) supply of machine guns. There is no similar supply of marijuana.”

        Machine guns produced in a free environment (standard rates of mass production applying) are far more analogous to marijuana grown in a free environment than the current situation. Yes, legal machine guns are more expensive than black market machine guns, but there’s minimal evidence to demonstrate that the current price of black market machine guns is less than what legal machine guns would be priced at on an open market.

        Likewise, even if it were the case, there’s a fundamental difference between marijuana and machine guns: Machine guns require human creation, whereas marijuana is literally a weed which will grow even without human cultivation, let alone significant effort and investment. Mac-10s don’t grow on trees.

  19. Staghounds:

    there are (almost) always exceptions to the rules. Concentrating on those to support your argument is a weak response.

    I have to laugh at those who claim that pot causes people to become dumb, worthless citizens. Silicon Valley puts the lie to that position. A LOT of the creative people here use it, and the claim has been made that this place never would have become what it is without the use of it.
    (Stuff gives me a headache from smelling it nearly as bad as cigarettes do, unfortunately)

  20. It’s simple really…but oh so complicated.

    True freedom means having the right to do whatever one pleases so long as it doesn’t infringe the freedom of someone else, no exceptions. So, we just have to define “infringe”.

  21. Black market items, like machine guns, only appear to be cheaper than their legal counterparts because they are not completely prohibited, they can still be purchased with a massive sin tax that artificially inflates the price to above-black-market levels. Marko’s argument is valid: A black-market machine gun costs more than a free-market machine gun would, but less than a prohibition-taxed legal one does.

    Regarding the enticement of prohibited goods, I believe none of us are users of illegal substances because we’re not “rebels”. Consider underage drinking or smoking. It’s prohibited, and oh-so-cool and edgy. And no, drug users would not stop if it were legal tomorrow, because they either tried it and found they genuinely liked it (just like people didn’t stop drinking after the Prohibition) or (in the case of harder, more addictive drugs) because they are genuinely addicted.

    Finally, I’d like to address illegal substances. I believe that the intended (likely) use matters. I can think of precious few legal applications for Sarin. Frankly, I don’t insist that ALL controlled substances be made over-the-counter legal tomorrow, but definitely the ones that are harmless (except possibly for the user) and cost everyone precious civil rights and untold billions to futilely attempt to control.

    • It isn’t hard to make a nerve agent, but sane people don’t make things that are intentionally dangerous, nor buy them on the open market. No supermarket will stock sarin, there is no demand. Clearly market forces dictate that Sarin would be cost prohibitive for everyone, and not readily available everywhere. Kinda like 470 Nitro Express ammunition, perfectly legal pretty much everywhere, yet hideously expensive due to very low demand.

      Someone who is crazy enough to acquire Sarin to use, is not going to be deterred by an artificial ban by a legal entity. See the Tokyo sarin attacks as proof of this.

  22. That is why I advocate focusing our resources on whackos who try to acquire Sarin and the like, instead of spending billions on arresting and warehousing harmless potheads.

  23. Welll now munchkin, that black piece of shit in the white house is due out any moment now with unfavourable gun legislation. Do you hate negroes more than unfavourable and unconstitutional legislation?

    If you are goin g to polish turd kid, you may as well do a good job of it…

    • Rusty,

      you are a vile douchebag. When you finally croak (and that day really can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned), they’ll cut you open and find that you’re nothing but bile-soaked ignorance inside.

      I don’t have to give people like you a forum. Go shit on someone else’s virtual coffee table. As of right now, you are banned from commenting. You have the distinction of being the first person to achieve that status here.

      This is as kindly as I can say it: fuck off and die, preferably in a fire.

  24. Marko, thanks for a breath of sanity in the face of all the anger and madness. I knew better than to read all the comments, but did anyway.

    I haven’t been touring this particular blog ring in awhile, and stepping into the choir briefly doesn’t solve problems, but it does feel good for a few minutes.

    Cheers,

    -E

  25. The Libertarian logic seems to be if people want to do something, it should be legal to do it. I can use my gun to defend my life, there is no right more fundamental. Drug use is a net loss to society, legal or not. Nobody “needs” recreational drugs to survive.Those of you have seen friends and family member destroy their lives through drug abuse will understand what I am saying.

    There are other costs also such as people stealing to get money to buy drugs. That will occur whether drugs are legal or not. Drug users can end up on Welfare and cause significant losses to economic productivity. We will not be getting rid of the Welfare State soon, that is a political reality. Therefore, the general public as an interest in minimizing the costs of drug use. There is no victimless crime here.

    Criminality related to drugs will not disappear if they are made legal. Hard core street drugs won’t be legal, it won’t be legal to sell pot or anything else to minors. Driving under the influence will still be a crime. The social costs don’t go away because a substance is “legal”. Our experience with alcohol abuse tells us that.

    Finally, legalization would culminate with massive class action lawsuits against the recreational drug industry. The lawyers will wait until the industry is generating billions, then mysteriously there will be all of these studies coming out about how bad drugs are for people. Public opinion will change. Parents with young children will line up to have the dispensaries removed from their neighborhoods.

    Like much of the Libertarian agenda, drug legalization is a fantasy that will not produce the results they are claiming it will.

    • Drug use is a net loss to society, legal or not. Nobody “needs” recreational drugs to survive.Those of you have seen friends and family member destroy their lives through drug abuse will understand what I am saying.

      Beer use is a net loss to society, legal or not. Nobody “needs” beer to survive.Those of you have seen friends and family member destroy their lives through alcoholism will understand what I am saying.

    • “There are other costs also such as people stealing to get money to buy drugs. That will occur whether drugs are legal or not. Drug users can end up on Welfare and cause significant losses to economic productivity. We will not be getting rid of the Welfare State soon, that is a political reality. Therefore, the general public as an interest in minimizing the costs of drug use. There is no victimless crime here.

      Criminality related to drugs will not disappear if they are made legal. Hard core street drugs won’t be legal, it won’t be legal to sell pot or anything else to minors. Driving under the influence will still be a crime. The social costs don’t go away because a substance is “legal”. Our experience with alcohol abuse tells us that. ”

      This is foolish.

      Yes, there are costs such as people stealing to buy drugs. This will happen if drugs are legal or not. But the PRICE of drugs will be lower. This suggests less stealing. Also the product people crave won’t be criminal to begin with, so they will not already be on that side of the fence.

      Society has an interest in minimizing the costs of drug use, but banning them does not minimize these costs – rather it maximizes them by creating a ridiculously lucrative black market backed by violent criminals. This is a very high cost. This will likely be reduced if the market collapses.

      Saying “X” won’t go away is a shallow argument. The legalization position claims that X will be reduced. Your own word, “minimizing”, inherently implies a continuous scale, not a binary one.

      The social costs don’t go away because a substance is illegal either. Clearly the violent black market is VERY HIGH COST caused by prohibition, both to its victims and to the taxpayers who have to support the medical care of the victims and the outrageously expensive and ineffective war on drugs.

  26. OT. The postcard writing post has very interesting, but did not seem to illicit nearly as much replies.

    I have to weigh in with anti-pot side here. A lot of questions are raised with weak answers from the pro-pot side. We already have 2 major legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and a host of social and medical problems stemming from them. More importantly, increasing regulations and restrictions on their sale, use, distribution and advertising. The current price point is such that for the “restrictionists” the social costs outweigh any profit the government may obtain. So I am curious as to what “price point” pot advocates feel would eliminate the contraband market? Five bucks a joint? Two bucks? At the lower price point, would government taxation revenue be sufficient to outweigh the inevitable social costs? (there would have to be taxation and regulation just as there is for the existing 2 drugs), Unless of course the claim is that there will be no social costs whatsoever (which is pure B.S). Moreover, you’re still going to have all of the enforcement costs related to DUI and underage use. Also if the legal product is say 5% THC, how long is it going to take the new class of “bootleggers” to come up with the 10, 15, 20% joints? Then what’s the plan? The active ingredients of tobacco is nicotine which is toxic, so there is no demand for super high nicotine cigarettes. As for alcohol, well you can’t really even drink 96% alcohol (the practical limit of distillation – and we already have 40-50% routinely available). But as the pro-pot lobby keeps telling us, THC is relatively non toxic so the euphoric effect can be easily increased by upping the THC content. Would the pro-pot lobby (for lack of a better term) accept super high THC joints from non-regulated sources?

    Given that we have 2 drugs and a lot of problems stemming from their use, I’m not convinced the magic solution is to legalize yet another drug. So, the Netherlands has pot houses, but they also have severe gun restrictions (so how do you reconcile the drug liberalism and the weapons prohibition, hey Marko?) and probably the highest general taxation rate in the EU. Portugal has decriminalized drugs but also has a moribund economy. Canada has a federal pot program providing medical use marijuana for about $5 a gram and users say it’s still too expensive and weak (so most continue to buy from illegal sources).

    The CDC claims $97 billion in costs stemming from tobacco use (the non-impairment drug) and $224 billion from alcohol abuse (the impairment drug). Now the plan is to bring in a new drug with pretty much all of the impairment problems of alcohol and the health effects of tobacco. But don’t worry, according to the magic plan the “potters” have, it will be all rainbows and unicorns.

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