The simple case against drug prohibition

Apparently Randall Parker made a dumb argument against the libertarian pro-drug-legalization position, and Crasch responded.

I think all this talk of incentives and local vs. global control is making way too complex an argument which in this case is completely unnecessary. The reason why we should legalize drugs can be summed up in four words:

Drug prohibition doesn't work.

It doesn't matter if we can handle drugs, or if, as Parker claims, we use them irrationally. It doesn't matter who suffers from drug use (mainly the user, as libertarians argue, or society, as others argue). What matters is that passing laws and establishing Drug Enforcement Agencies has a demonstrably negligible effect on drug use - and a demonstrably terrible effect on civil liberties. It appears that order to actually eliminate drugs you would have to impose a completely insane police state - since nothing short has worked, including some moderately-insane police states (ie Singapore).

Hence the whole question of whether drugs are good or bad for people and who should be making the decision about what drugs we can handle should be punted for now. Until someone invents a magic drug-elimination device, or decides that drugs are so bad that a completely-insane police state is worthwhile, there is simply no point in getting into these sectarian arguments about whether people can decide for themselves. It turns out that they do decide for themselves even if you try to stop them, so it's a wasted effort, better replaced by harm reduction or doing nothing.

This is a simple, pragmatic argument that depends only on empirical evidence whose conclusion is glaringly clear to anyone who looks at it seriously. Thus it is vastly superior to any libertarian invocation of personal liberty, incentives, or whatever. I believe in most of our pet theories too, but no one else cares, so when there is a universal argument why use one that will only apply to the choir?

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