July 12, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)

Drug Economics

Prohibition is an awful flop.

We like it.

It can't stop what it's meant to stop.

We like it.

It's left a trail of graft and slime,

It's filled our land with vice and crime,

It don't prohibit worth a dime.

Nevertheless we're for it.

Flaccus(in Only Yesterday)

During prohibition, neighborhood speakeasies were raided, booze warehouses were raided and a great amount of effort and money was expended in an attempt to stop the supply of booze. Did it do any good? Apparently it didn't accomplish much.

I remember my father taking me into a speakeasy one hot summer afternoon when he wanted a cold glass of beer. Speakeasies were easy to find and presumably the cops were paid to not notice them. In 1933, the constitutional amendment(ratified in 1917) that prohibited the manufacture, importation or sale of alcoholic beverages was repealed. Thus ended a 16 year experiment in regulating drug use by trying to eliminate the drug. Booze is now legal and a very lucrative business. Instead of the cops being paid off, it is the legislators who are paid to not tax booze too much.

Now the drugs that are prohibited are just about everything that affects the brain except for alcohol and nicotine. As with prohibition, attempts to reduce the supply of the illegal material has failed dismally. They have failed because there is a thriving market for those drugs. Who buys the stuff?

If I told you that expensive vintage wines were consumed by the poor you would be justified in concluding that I didn't know my grass from a hole in the ground. The poor don't have enough money to support the worldwide drug industry. The poor in South America chew coca leaves, but few can afford the purified cocaine.

I have read that most of the cocaine that comes into the west coast goes to silicon valley, where people have enough money to afford the stuff. Yet, the news programs give us the impression that they are mostly consumed in black ghettos. Crack houses are routinely raided, but I have yet to hear of a society shindig invaded by the narcs. It is identical to what happened during prohibition; the rich had all of the booze that they wanted, while the poor and middle had their home made beer and wine.

Like alcohol, the heavy drug users are not the major consumers. It is not the alcoholics who consume most of the alcohol. France consumes more booze per capita than any other country in the world. If you see a drunk in France, it is assumed that he is probably an expatriate American.

Every past attempt to regulate human behavior has not done very well. Despite efforts at their suppression, prostitution, booze and other drugs still survive and do very well.

Am I proposing making everything legal? No, I am not! As long as people are allowed to advertise their wares on the mass media, I favor keeping it illegal. If we could first abolish all advertising of all drugs and the mass marketing of sex, then I would favor making everything that people will consume legal, including all drugs.

Drugs don't have to be advertised. The users themselves advertise them.

There is one good side to drug use, particularly in excess. It is a prime killer of fools. The fewer fools in the world the better. Unfortunately, it is also a killer of the young, many of whom are very foolish in their youth, but might have gained some sense in their later years, had they survived.

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