Liberty and Prohibition

Update: Niklas Blanchard piles on the subject of drug prohibition, citing a Cato report on the positives of decriminalization in Portugal.

A scene from the drug war.


SWAT team breaks into home, fires seven rounds at family’s pit bull and corgi (?!) as a seven-year-old looks on. They found a "small amount" of marijuana, enough for a misdemeanor charge. The parents were then charged with child endangerment.

Prohibition is alive today and it’s a complete waste of resources and an attack against liberty.

You do not fight something you disagree with by hiding it. Prohibition of alcohol and drugs showed us that people who want something will find a way to get it. Prohibition didn’t reduce alcoholism or drug abuse; if anything, because of the unregulated black market, it simply made the problem worse. Prohibition, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or breasts, does not reduce incidence of usage (or ogling), it simply makes people turn to the dark alleys to get a hit. No amount of prohibition is going to change the way people act, except counter to the intent of prohibition.

The repeal of prohibition is a radical proposal only in the sense that it goes to the root of the matter. The "matter" in this case is some combination of the failure of prohibition to address the problems of
drug use and the negative results that prohibitions create (Thornton, 1991).

The lesson that prohibition teaches us is that the government cannot prohibit availability of the things people want without expecting consequences. When the market demands something, if the market doesn’t supply it, another market will open up to fill that need. Prohibition of alcohol led to smuggling and dangerous, black market goods; prohibition of marijuana has led to smuggling and dangerous, black market goods; the prohibition of prostitution has led to a dangerous, black market for sex.

We have many forms of prohibition today, more than we realize. We have prohibition of prostitution, recreational drugs, and immigration. That’s the short list.

So, the question is: why continue this fight at all? Drug abuse is definitely a problem but prohibition neither cures it or curbs it–and as a matter of fact likely makes drug abuse a worse problem than it could be. Never mind the crime that comes with prohibition, something completely unavoidable regardless of what is being prohibited. What say you?

Thornton, M. (1991). The Economics of Prohibition. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press.

One thought on “Liberty and Prohibition

  1. Pingback: Sex and Counter-Intuitive Indecency

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