Economics Uncut

Economics Uncut

A Complete Guide to Life, Death and Misadventure

Edited by Simon W. Bowmaker

This highly innovative and intriguing book applies principles of microeconomics to unusual settings to inspire students, teachers and scholars alike in the ‘dismal science’. Leading experts show how economics reaches into the strangest of places and throws light onto the occasionally dark side of human nature.

Chapter 3: Economics of drug liberalization

Mark Thornton, Bruce L. Benson and Simon W. Bowmaker

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, methodology of economics


Mark Thornton, Bruce L. Benson and Simon W. Bowmaker In Chapter 2, we drew attention to the many unintended consequences of drug prohibition, including violent crime and corruption, and suggested that prohibition causes or exacerbates the various risks associated with illicit drug use. Tullock and McKenzie (1985) argue that economists have always been anti-prohibition, dating back to the days of the ban on alcohol in the USA: In the early part of this century, many well-intentioned Americans objected to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. They succeeded in getting the Constitution amended to prohibit the sale of alcohol. By the 1930s most of them had given up because they discovered how difficult it was to enforce the law. If they had consulted economists, I’m sure they would have been told that the law would be very difficult and expensive to enforce. With this advice they might have decided not to undertake the program of moral elevation. The same considerations should, of course, be taken into account now with respect to other drugs. There have been exceptions, however. Irving Fisher, one of the USA’s greatest mathematical economists, was a leading proponent of alcohol prohibition. As late as 1927, Fisher claimed he could not find one economist to speak out against prohibition at a meeting of the American Economic Association, and in The Noble Experiment, published in 1930, Fisher clearly remained a strong believer in the virtues of alcohol prohibition: Summing up, it may be said that Prohibition has already accomplished...

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