Friday, March 1, 2013

Harvard Economist: Legalizing Drugs Suits Ideal of American Freedom

March 1, 2013

Harvard University professor Jeffrey Miron has advocated the legalization of drugs for decades. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, he explains why prohibition is more dangerous than selling drugs in supermarkets.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Miron, why should heroin, cocaine and marijuana be legal?

Miron: The prohibition of drugs is the worst solution for preventing abuse. Firstly, it brings about a black market that is corrupt and costs human lives. Secondly, it constrains people who wouldn't abuse drugs. Thirdly, prohibiting drugs is expensive.

SPIEGEL: How expensive?

Miron: If it legalized drugs, the United States could save $85 billion to $90 billion per year. Roughly half that is spent on the current drugs policy and half that is lost in taxes that the state could have levied on legal drugs.

SPIEGEL: On the other side of the equation, there are many people who would become addicted to drugs.

Miron: Let us assume that the consumption of drugs would increase as a result of legalization. Would that be a bad thing? If we apply the standards of economics, that is (at least partially) a good thing. Any policy that prevents me from doing what I'd like to do impairs my happiness.

SPIEGEL: Drugs lead to addiction. They impair people's happiness.

Miron: Addiction isn't the problem. Many people are addicted to caffeine and nobody worries about that. Many people are addicted to sports, beer or food. That doesn't bother the state either.