Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Want tax cuts? End the War on Drugs.



So, strangely, just as a $1.8 billion government “surplus” is announced* a billion-dollar need for more prison beds is discovered (or will it really be a $2.5 billion bill?) to bed down 1800 more prisoners in our already swollen prison population.

With a prison population of just under ten-thousand, New Zealand’s incarceration rate is not yet among the world’s highest – America’s 693 per 100,000 makes our 202 look positively like a land of the free – but it’s still a lot more than otherwise comparable countries like the UK (143), Australia (152) and Canada (115), and fewer than two-thirds are there for sexual or violent crimes.

But here’s the thing. The War on Drugs is not just a failure, not just a formula for easy profits for gangs, not just a violent crackdown on a victimless crime, it’s also one way the prison popuation is much greater than it would be otherwise.

End Prohibition and you don’t just take away profits from gangs and reduce the violence around drugs, you also get to reduce the prison population by around fifteen percent.

Which is frighteningly close to that figure of 1800 beds the government reckons it needs to lock up the victims of victimless crimes.

So end the War on Drugs and (if the surplus is genuine*) then you have a legitimate argument for tax cuts without commensurate spending cuts. Don’t, and you won’t.


* Or is it really even a real surplus when net Crown debt increased by $1.3 billion? You tell me.



  1. Hi Peter, I disagree with much of your economic voodooism, but on this issue you are right on the money shot. When the vast majority of "illicit drugs" are no more harmful than a beer or two, the waste of time, energy, financial resources, and the damage to our fellow humans is immense.

    A well regulated supply regime for drugs such as Mary Jane, horse and acid with guaranteed manufacturing standards would eliminate most of the harm these drugs supposedly cause. Strong sanctions for misuse, such as supply to minors, spiking the drugs of others, etc.

    I can see no reason why marijuana should be illegal while jaeger bombs are available on almost every street corner. I know which one has the greater potential to cause harm. I have never seen, nor have I ever heard, of a bunch of stoners leaving a rock concert and inflicting random violence on strangers, but alcohol and Rugby certainly seem to cause a lot of that. Or is it just the alcohol?

  2. I notice in the Crown debt link that Gross debt under National has increased about 170%. And yet Mr English is considered to be fiscally prudent; someone to be applauded for his excellent management. So much for a rock star economy when it is based on borrowing (with interest to be paid via taxes)for non capital items.


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