Legalizing Drugs

As an example of social pragmatism (and fiscal responsibility), I think the Democratic party ought to come out in favor of legalizing drugs.

One of my favorite blogs to read is the Becker Posner blog.  It is co-written by Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and Richard Posner, a professor in the University of Chicago Law School.  These two guys are really smart.  And they cover a very interesting set of topics, with one new one each week.

A week and a half ago, they covered the "War on Drugs".  There are four posts that you should read:

Becker’s initial post on The Failure of the War on Drugs

Posner’s reply to Becker’s post where he essentially agrees with Becker and adds a legal framework for thinking about this issue.

Becker’s reply to coments on his post.

Posner’s reply to comments on his post.

These guys are a lot smarter about this stuff than I am.  And they think drugs should be leglalized.

If Becker is right and the US is spending north of $100bn per year on a war that we are losing, we should try something else.  If we legalized drugs and used tax policy and the law of price elasticity to regulate drug use in our society, we’d produce a huge new form of tax revenue for the state, local, and federal governments.

The net of all of this should be at least a couple hundred billion in less red ink per year and given where we are right now in terms of defecits, that’s a big deal.

But the social benefits would massively outweigh the fiscal benefits.  I believe we’d see less drug users, not more, I believe we’d improve the quality of life in our inner city neighborhoods, and I believe we’d stop channeling smart young black men into prisons so early in their life.

This is a classic example of where smart fiscal and social policy is being held hostage to "moral values".  And its exactly the kind of issue where social pragmatism is a winning strategy.