Thursday, July 31, 2008

Milton Friedman on the War on Drugs

In 2006 prior to his death, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) sat down with Milton Friedman to discuss his thoughts on the morality of drug prohibition and the failed War on Drugs. From the interview:

On Morality

"I do not believe the State has the right to tell me what to put in my head. We have a law for free speech, free assembly, and so on. I think the same thing goes with respect to what I put into my body. I don't think the state has any more right to tell me what to put in my mouth then it has to tell me what can come out of my mouth. Those two are essentially the same thingand they both are essential elements of freedom."

On Making Prohibition Work

"You can never make prohibition work. As long as there are substantial numbers of people that want to use the product, there will be a supply forthcoming. What will happen is that the cost of the drug will go up in order to finance the illegal activities that are necessary to bring it to market."

"I think almost every economist would agree that government gets itself into trouble when it tries to interfere with voluntary behavior. Marijuana prohibition is a victimless crime. You have a willing buyer and a willing seller."

"If you have a voluntary sale and purchase of marijuana between a willing buyer and a willing seller, then the only way to enforce the prohibition of it is to have an informer."

On the Drug Users

"We mustn't regard the users of the drugs as if they didn't count. They count! They are people. Who are we to say whether they are doing the right thing or not by using drugs?"

On the International Effects of the War on Drugs

"One of the worst features of our prohibition is its international effects. Here we are responsible in the United States for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people in Latin Americain Colombia and Peru and so on. Why are they dying? They are dying because we cannot enforce our own laws...we are fundamentally a murderer of people in countries like Peru."

Since 1972

"I challenge anybody to read a Newsweek column I wrote in 1972 and find out where it has gone wrong. That Newsweek column was an occasion by President Nixon declaring a war on drugs. In that column I pointed out all of the effects that would follow from it; the corruption, the violence, the lack of respect for the law, the difficulties overseas, and so on." (Milton Friedman: Prohibition and Drugs, May 1, 1972 Newsweek)

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leany said...

Drugs may sometimes be a catalyst to crimes, but that does not excuse the lengths that drug warriors have had to go to in order to even partially disrupt the drug trade. One could argue that in practical terms, the War on Drugs, can be at least as invasive in the lives of ordinary citizens, as any aspect of the drug trade, from sale to use.


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