Magazine | October 5, 2009, Issue


Just Say No

In his September 21 review of Ryan Grim’s book This Is Your Country on Drugs, Kyle Smith says the author “makes a largely persuasive case . . . that law-enforcement efforts don’t much alter the overall supply” of drugs. Well, let’s see. Under traditional economic theory, if you reduce the costs of production and distribution, decrease the barriers to entry in the market, and simplify marketing and sales, prices should drop and consumption should increase. Why is that not true in this case?

One reason, of course, is that drug dealers are criminals — and if drugs were legalized, they would still be criminals. Even setting aside the moral stigma, no legitimate businessman would dare to sell drugs for fear of tort liability. When you consider how much tobacco companies have to pay in damages, and how much more dangerous than tobacco many drugs are, only a complete and utter fool would enter the business openly. A single judgment from a vengeful jury could wipe out a decade of profit.

So the same criminal gangs that currently control the drug trade would continue to do so, only now they would be dodging the process server instead of the constable. They would still use violence to protect their operations from competition (and tax collectors and tort lawyers), and they would still maintain an extralegal existence based on bribery and intimidation. And yet, whether or not they reduced their prices, they would sell more product, because they could do it without hiding from the police.

In other words, by legalizing drugs, you would take a preexisting criminal organization, put it effectively beyond reach of the law, increase its revenues, and decrease its expenses. Why exactly do Smith and Grim think this would be a good idea?

Alfred J. Duncan

Syracuse, N.Y.

The Deeper Question

I enjoyed Wesley J. Smith’s tactical analysis of recent skirmishes along the assisted-suicide front (“A Myth Is as Good as a Mile,” September 21). To the extent it offered arguments against legalizing assisted suicide, though, they turned mainly on the fact that Oregon’s experiment in same has facilitated abuse by persons with reason to want the patient dead. Such considerations are of course relevant, but, as always when I read about this matter, I felt incommensurable intuitions about whether the state has any business stopping people from killing themselves where the slope is not slippery. It would be worthwhile for Right to reflect, and NR to offer reflections, on this fundamental question, given that it frames the entire debate and that a certain answer to it motivates, intellectually and emotionally, the position NR opposes.

LaVerle D. Richards

Blackfoot, Idaho


Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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