Thursday, 5 September 2019

In honour of Helen Clark ...

In honour of Helen Clark, I am reposting an old blog about Milton Friedman. Specifically, about what he called his Iron Law of Prohibition:
Johann Hari from London's Independent newspaper is surprised that ten days after Milton Friedman's death he's been eulogised for his monetarism, praised for his proselytising on small government, and buried with his errors ... but few have raised the "one issue [on which] Friedman applied the forensic brilliance of his brain to a deserving purpose. Over forty years," notes Hari, "he offered the most devastating slap-downs of the 'war on drugs' ever written":
He once told Bill Bennett, Bush Snr’s drugs tsar, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognise that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

    Friedman proved, for example, that prohibition changes the way people use drugs, making many people use stronger, more dangerous variants than they would in a legal market. During alcohol prohibition, moonshine eclipsed beer; during drug prohibition, crack is eclipsing coke. He called his rule explaining this curious historical fact “the Iron Law of Prohibition”: the harder the police crack down on a substance, the more concentrated the substance will become.

    Why? If you run a bootleg bar in Prohibition-era Chicago and you are going to make a gallon of alcoholic drink, you could make a gallon of beer, which one person can drink and constitutes one sale – or you can make a gallon of pucheen, which is so strong it takes thirty people to drink it and constitutes thirty sales. Prohibition encourages you produce and provide the stronger, more harmful drink. If you are a drug dealer in Hackney, you can use the kilo of cocaine you own to sell to casual coke users who will snort it and come back a month later – or you can microwave it into crack, which is far more addictive, and you will have your customer coming back for more in a few hours. Prohibition encourages you to produce and provide the more harmful drug.
    For Friedman, the solution was stark: take drugs back from criminals and hand them to doctors, pharmacists, and off-licenses. Legalize. Chronic drug use will be a problem whatever we do, but adding a vast layer of criminality, making the drugs more toxic, and squandering £20bn on enforcing prohibition that could be spent on prescription and rehab, only exacerbates the problem. “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts,” he said. “But criminalising their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.”
Read on here for more. Challenge yourself. Or just watch Friedman interviewed:



  1. FYI Your read more link goes to 'file not found'

    And not just prohibition. Look at what US subsidies to the tobacco industry wrought. The limits on production to qualify for subsidy was based on counting the number of leaves harvested. So over the last 40 years, tobacco growers bred for leaf size and increased nicotine content. Likewise, the cannabis of today is orders of magnitude more powerful than the 'weed' of yesteryear when it was quite often found as a roadside weed.

    c. andrew

  2. I notice former ACT parliamentarian Muriel Newman is spruiking the notion that marijuana is a strong contributor to mental illness and suicide and violent crime. The idea of personal responsibility and sovereignty is quite missing.
    the truth about marijuana,mental illness and violence
    the tragedy of suicide

    1. Muriel has never been happy with people choosing how to live their own lives. That's the government's job, apparently.

  3. Muriel is probably spruiking the concept that chronic use of marijuana contribute to and exacerbates mental illness because it does.
    I won't be bothered discussing the matter with zealots without medical knowledge or experience. This is not an argument for prohibition but to claim cannabis is safe with prolonged use is to know nothing if the reality.It's psychoactive and in chronic use [ 20 years plus ] chronically damaging full stop. Check your friends who have been using for thirty years.
    The idea of passing control to Doctors might be OK if the medical profession itself was healthy. It is not. The only difference now will be paying a lazy Medico for supply rather than the mob. I don't know which is worse.
    My friends and I have given up on visiting Doctors who last performed a physical examination at Med school. I bring them back everything they properly need from Bangkok.

  4. Pardon my cynicism, but have you noticed how it's always "former" or "retired" professionals speaking out against the war on drugs?

    Politicians and police officers are always willing to make a career out of being "tough on drugs", and only start talking sense on the matter once they're retired and their careers are past damaging.

    1. True, they can only speak their mind fully once they are free to.


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