This piece doesn’t really contain anything all that new for those of us who have followed the debate on the drug war, but it is nice to see two prominent economists (Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy) making the case against it in a big paper of record such as the Wall Street Journal. Here is a snippet, but I recommend the whole piece:
The direct monetary cost to American taxpayers of the war on drugs includes spending on police, the court personnel used to try drug users and traffickers, and the guards and other resources spent on imprisoning and punishing those convicted of drug offenses. Total current spending is estimated at over $40 billion a year.
The more interesting debate is (or should be) over the question of whether recreational drug use of one sort or another is immoral. Since I drink alcohol socially in a limited fashion, my revealed preferences suggest I’m not opposed to some recreational use of drugs. Moreover, I utilize caffeine as a performance enhancing drug — meaning, I have enjoyed drinking soda the way others use coffee. But I’ve never used an illegal drug in my life and have abstained for much more than legal and prudential considerations. I’d like to have something deeper to say on this at some point but am still thinking through some facets of the issue. A starting point is that I generally don’t see drug use as consistent with human flourishing, especially in terms of the exercise and maintenance of the most important human faculty: reason.
3 thoughts on “Two Economists vs. the Drug War”
So why drink? I drink because I enjoy being a little less reasonable–loosening my inhibitions, talking to strangers, opening my mind to new ideas I wouldn’t have thought of sober. If that’s not your goal, why choose the beer over soda?
I’m not presently opposed to social drinking. One can easily see how social drinking may be consistent with human flourishing. However, I don’t think its virtue is that it lowers reasonableness. It lowers inhibitions that are not the product of reason but of a psychological barrier or your personality. Among other things, it is an grease for the development of new relations/new friendships that are key elements of a flourishing life.
BTW, I’ve made the argument against marijuana on the same grounds in the past. It has a propensity – from what I’ve observed in others – to draw one inward rather than outward.