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Where Ms. Clinton’s Logic Leads

This EconLog post by David Henderson helps to reveal the shallowness of Hillary Clinton’s thinking – in this case, specifically, regarding the so-called “war on drugs.”  As I read David’s post, and the linked 2011 essay by Jacob Sullum, I remembered a letter that I wrote back in 2011 on this same matter.  I then discovered that, while this letter appears in my 2012 book, it was never posted here at Cafe Hayek.  So here it is:

11 February 2011

Dear Ms. Clinton:

When asked by a Mexican journalist if drug legalization is a good idea you replied “It is not likely to work.  There is just too much money in it.”

Overlooking the fact that much of the money in the illegal-drug trade is there only because those drugs are illegal, do you also believe that, say, professional American football should be illegal?  The N.F.L. and its players make a lot of money!

What about coffee?  In 2010, Starbucks’s revenue alone was nearly $11 billion.  And how about currently legal over-the-counter medicines – plenty of money in that trade!  Annual aspirin sales globally are more than $1 billion, and that’s on top of all the money made by selling the likes of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, various antihistamines, and Flintstones vitamins.

If, however, you’re right that it’s best to outlaw enterprises in which there “is just too much money,” then surely we must forthwith criminalize government.  The money that is “in” Uncle Sam alone dwarfs the sums exchanged in the market for illegal drugs.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University