The Corner

Drug Legalization

In my July Diary I passed a comment about the oxymoronic nature of the phrase “social liberal,

fiscal conservative.” Among the examples I offered to show how social

liberalism always ends up with more state power and state expenditure, I

cited the liberalization of drug laws, with the attendant costs in

treatment, counseling, and social disorder. This brought out the

drug-legalization crowd, arguing that the costs (i.e. in police, jails, and

so on) of the “war on drugs” far exceeds what we would have to pay as a

result of complete liberalization. I am, of course, deeply skeptical about

this. I am a conservative, with a rather low opinion of human nature, and I

think drug legalization would be a horrible disaster. However, I don’t know

any way I could prove this. But what about the liberalizers? Can they

actually prove THEIR case, numerically? Has anyone ever attempted to

quantify the costs on each side of the equation–”drug war” expenditures

versus the costs–actual dollar costs–of liberalization? I don’t even see

how it could be done convincingly, but I am open to persuasion. Anyone got

actual numbers on this?


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