Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Libertarian 101: What is the Libertarian position on drug Prohibition

Recommended article in the series of Libertarian 101, this time by Barry Ritchey II on the topic of the general Libertarian position on drug Prohibition. Part of the recommended piece:

It's not that libertarians necessarily approve of the behavior; we simply realize that Prohibition doesn't work. Moreover, we understand that it does more to make Americans unsafe that any other single factor.

First let's take a look at history. From 1919 to 1933 the Federal government outlawed the manufacture, transport, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages by way of the 18th Amendment. Widely supported by a popular majority of well-meaning religious groups in 36 of 48 states, citing the societal decay and "deviant" behavior under the influence of alcohol, they decided to establish a law banning its use for everyone.

Soon thereafter, major unintended consequences came to the surface. Firstly, gangs immediately filled the void. Mafia groups soon moved out of small-time thievery and gambling and into bootlegging and racketeering. In turn, corrupting law enforcement and creating an arms race between the rival gangs. Secondly, otherwise law abiding Americans became criminals overnight, leading to widespread disrespect for the "rule of law". On top of that, not having that $500 million of tax revenue annually had a devastating effect on government budgets. Lastly, the cost of enforcement, with no way of measuring its impact, was enormous and wholly ineffective, with nearly 100,000 "speakeasy clubs" operating in New York alone.

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