Tony Millard writes in from Tuscany with an excellent perspective on the ‘war’ on drugs.
It was refreshing to hear on Radio 4 last night that Mo Mowlam taps my e-mails to Libertarian Samizdata as I had written this on Saturday (she has called for drug legalisation). Perhaps Samizdata should invite her to submit a
webwaffle blog of her own.
Raising the tax burden is about the redistribution of wealth – making drugs illegal has been about the redistribution of misery as a Bristol police report on crack cocaine crime-wave demonstrates. The process of criminalisation has not reduced demand but merely shifted the social cost from the addicts (in illness and premature deaths) to the law-abiding masses whose assets are appropriated, often violently and in public, by such users to pay for the inflated cost of their cravings. Such inflation of cost is directly proportional to the efforts of state law enforcement agencies. Freeing and legalising all drugs would shift the bulk of the misery burden back to its ‘beneficiaries’ and originators – the drug users.
Also, imposing a tax on the ‘product’ according to the true cost of the care of addicts would have two benefits – it would bring the distribution and quality control in from the shadows and deal a death blow to the underground drug economy with the terrorism and horror it fuels. (Guess what paid for the funding of September 11th!). Legalisation would be tempered with strictly enforced (and enforceable) rules relating to where the products can be taken and where they cannot. Whether we like it or not, this is informally already the case in England, Lambeth in South London being a case in point. Such measures would provide a relief for the majority, a safer, harassment-free environment for the minority, and a sweeping reduction in crime generally just in time for Mr Blair’s self-imposed September deadline. Over to you Tony.
Tony Millard (Tuscany, Italy)