Miron begins by toting up some of the principal costs of our anti-drug crusade. Government spends more than $33 billion annually on it. Arrests for drug-related infractions exceed 1.5 million per year. The United States now has well in excess of 300,000 people behind bars for drug violations. […]
For all our costly enforcement efforts, Miron shows that drug prohibition has little impact on the incidence of drug use, mainly because drug producers and sellers can evade law enforcement so easily. Yet the costs extend beyond the obvious ones already mentioned. One of them is increased racial tension because drug enforcement is so often targeted at minority areas.
Every worker, factory, shop and office that sits idle represents resources not being used, because there’s no one out there that believes they can make money using them. We shrug our shoulders and blame capitalism, or we blame the bankers, or we blame international competition, or we insist that it is those evil business owners who abandoned such resources in the first place. But if you really want to point the finger of blame, I recommend looking in the mirror. It’s almost impossible to do anything without the government having something to say, charge, or demand of you. We’ve done this, every time we’ve demanded “something must be done”. What’s true in the world of personal freedom versus security is true of economic freedom, too. We’ve gifted politicians enormous control over our economy and the nation’s wealth.
I understand why it’s happened. People crave security and stability, without really comprehending what they’re giving away to get it, or who specifically pays the price for it, or what it ultimately costs us in terms of opportunities lost – such as millions of people wasting their lives on the dole.
Before the last century, economic liberalism, especially free trade, used to be the great cause of the left – because it championed the rights of the people to live free of the tyranny of an establishment that assumed too much control and caused so much harm in doing so. It is a cause, however unfashionable, that needs fighting again. It just needs the left to remember it doesn’t exist purely to divvy up the spoils collected by the Treasury for its friends, and to remember, once again, that liberty is more than just free speech and privacy.