Harvard economist: Prohibition creates violence, legalize all drugs
Because of his title as a Harvard economist, people tend to listen to Jeffrey Miron. And, if the old principle holds true and controversy always creates interest, expect a lot of people to be talking about Miron's latest volley into the mainstream media.
"Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground," he wrote in an essay published by CNN on Tuesday. "This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.
"Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after."
Miron's proposed solution to ending the cartel war along the US-Mexico border is both simple and enormously complex.
"Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted," he wrote. "Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.
"The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs."
In 2005, Miron published a study titled, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition" (PDF link), funded by the Marijuana Policy Project. Over 500 professional economists, including Milton Friedman, signed on to the report, which was sent to then-President George W. Bush.
Miron's report found that "marijuana legalization would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods."
He also discovered a potential for $6.2 billion or more, were marijuana taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco.
However, during a CNN appearance on Tuesday, he took the anti-prohibition sentiment of his prior study on marijuana and applied it universally, telling anchor Kiran Chetry, "A lot of the violence we're seeing and a lot of the underground market is not related to marijuana but related to the other drugs.
"If we only did marijuana we would only have a small impact on the violence and corruption and disruption of other countries that is caused by U.S. prohibition of drugs and the U.S. forcing prohibition of drugs on other countries."
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Mar. 24, 2009.
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