Who's Irresponsible?

by Don Boudreaux on March 29, 2007

in Crime

Here is a letter of mine published in today’s edition of the Boston Globe:

OBJECTING TO an earlier op-ed
that endorsed legalizing marijuana for medical use, Maro Sciacchitano
says that "it is irresponsible to promote policies that ignore the
illegal drug trade and the complex problems US recreational consumption
causes other countries" ("Pro-marijuana argument blows smoke," Letters, March 23).

I say to Mr. Sciacchitano: It is irresponsible to
promote policies that create a multibillion-dollar underground economy,
that further gang violence, police corruption, and deterioration of our
liberties, and that ignore the complex problems US drug-interdiction
efforts cause other countries.

Fairfax, Va.

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M. Hodak March 29, 2007 at 10:41 am


Bruce G Charlton March 29, 2007 at 11:27 am

The evidence is that consumers of psychoactive drugs (alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, diazepam etc) – that is to say most people – are *rational* in the sense of being sensitive to incentives such as price and avaiability – and also factors such as safety.

On this basis it is probably reasonable to assume that more choice of legal psychoactive drugs will lead (among other things) to safer and less-antisocial drug usage. Here in the UK there is a binge-drinking epidemic which show no sign of reaching a plateau – it would be socially beneficial if some aggressive drunks (who are responsible for most instances of violent crime) switched to the relative serenity of marijuana use.


Sam Grove March 29, 2007 at 11:28 am

You don't understand, these people have a logic flaw in their brains. They always come up with the wrong result, or rather, they always come up with the result they prefer.

Methinks March 29, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Nice. Personally, I've never tried drugs. Not because they are illegal or too expensive but because I don't want to. So, I've not been deterred one bit by legislation – and neither was anyone around me who has done drugs when they wanted to. There's an example of laws working as intended, eh?

Your letter was excellent.

Martin March 29, 2007 at 3:00 pm

Law – 0

Don – 1

"It is irresponsible (says who) to promote policies that create a multibillion-dollar underground economy (it is no such thing – an economy can only operate within the confines of the rule of law), that further gang violence (shoot them on sight), police corruption (hang them in public), and deterioration of our liberties (Just Say No), and that ignore the complex problems US drug-interdiction efforts cause other countries (who gives a rat's backside about that in Nuevo Laredo?)

Tom S. March 29, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Is it irresponsible to simply rebuff deontological ethics?

I like this letter for nothing else than it gets your predisposition across concisely.

colson March 29, 2007 at 9:25 pm

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions public policy…."

Ryan Fuller March 30, 2007 at 1:32 am

"(it is no such thing – an economy can only operate within the confines of the rule of law)"

Black markets?

"that further gang violence (shoot them on sight)"

I wouldn't trust the police with that kind of discretionary murder power. They can't handle the discretion they've got half the time. SWAT teams are notoriously trigger happy already.

"police corruption (hang them in public)"

Sure, but who's going to do it? The State (with the police as its enforcers) has claimed a legal monopoly on lynchings.

"The road to hell is paved with public policy…."

That's a line worthy of a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, and possibly a tattoo. :)

Adam March 30, 2007 at 7:44 am

How about, "The road to hell is paved with politicians whoring for votes…."

Kent Gatewood March 30, 2007 at 1:30 pm

If drugs are legalized, how are the trial lawyers going to react and how will this impact welfare payments? Also, will all the drug gangs disband or look for something else illegal?

True_Liberal March 30, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Good questions, Kent. For clues, you could probably look to the repeal of (alcohol) prohibition a few decades back.

Patrick March 31, 2007 at 3:54 am

Don, I hear you…I just don't like what I hear. The horrid consequences of legalized drugs far outweigh your libertarian instincts. Besides, and I usually use a Euro example to point out how silly socialism really is, please see Holland for the great results that legalized drugs can bring a nation. Oh…yeah, never mind they still have lot's of underground activity, derelicts and bums, addicts shooting up in public places and then breaking into homes and cars to feed their habit, employees showing up to work stoned with no consequences. Yeah, it's really great to have legal drug use!! Nice try Don, please stop trying to help us with this sort of thing and stick to pure economics.

Randy March 31, 2007 at 8:29 am


I agree that simple legalization of drug use will not work. It will be necessary to allow the social network to discriminate against drug users as well. For example, allow (even encourage) random drug testing by employers, immediate jail time for DUI or breaking and entry, loss of welfare benefits, etc.

Nadia April 1, 2007 at 1:50 am

Maybe people should be a little more responsible in the decisions they make and not rely on the paternalistic government to protect them from themselves. If I'm correct in Socialism von Mises wrote something like: people consume alcohol not because breweries brew beer, but the causation is the other way around. The situation is quite similar with drugs, the difference is of a degree.

LisaMarie April 1, 2007 at 11:53 pm

I can watch the consequences of a perfectly legal addiction, alcohol, right within my own family. And believe me, a government war on booze wouldn't do a damn thing to help.

Kent Gatewood April 6, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Drunk drivers kill about the same number of people as are murdered. The penalties are different. Should the penalties for killing while drunk or high be the same as killing with malice?

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