Thursday, January 7, 2016

Robert VerBruggen Rethinks Drug Legalization

Libertarian Robert VerBruggen used to support the legalization of all drugs. But the opiate epidemic has him rethinking:
For as long as I can remember, I've thought all drugs should be legal. In a nutshell, I believe that people should be allowed to put themselves at risk if they want to. . . .

I was never so naive as to think there would be no increase in drug use or abuse if drugs were legal. But I did think legalization would easily pass a practical cost-benefit test: reduce incarceration, if perhaps not as much as some might think; end an illegal market whose violence spills far beyond our borders; and expand personal freedom, all for the acceptable price of an extra overdose or other health problem here and there, plus maybe some extra property crimes by addicts stealing to feed their habit.

Drug addiction couldn't go up that much. The War on Drugs is an utter failure and drugs are widely and cheaply available anyway. Everyone knows that.

Well, reality is not lining up with this view of the world. In 1999, Americans had fatal drug overdoses at a rate of 6 per 100,000. In 2014, that number stood at 14.8 per 100,000 — a rise of 8.8 per 100,000. To put this in perspective, America's famously high homicide rate is about 5 per 100,000. And the overdose spike is apparently driven by a policy change much gentler than full legalization.
Of course if we spent all the money we are now spending to jail drug users to make treatment freely available to everyone, that might do something to bring the numbers back down. But I agree with VerBruggen that a real libertarian approach to drugs would be a disaster. Plus it's always nice to see people rethinking their beliefs in the face of evidence.

1 comment:

leif said...

Ironic how those who rail against the 'nanny state' are so adamantly for preserving the government's role in telling people what not to smoke or eat or inject.

They also have no qualms about forcing a woman to listen to a fetal heartbeat before an abortion.

I'll go out on a limb, but probably a very short one, in claiming that neocons are pro-government when it suits their aims, and anti-government when it doesn't. Ergo, government, like religion, is just another tool of social control.