A Complete Guide to Life, Death and Misadventure
Edited by Simon W. Bowmaker
3 Economics of drug liberalization 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...
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