An article in Forbes by Jacob Sullum examined the economics of the war on drugs. I have read plenty of articles which looked at the amount of money that the United States has expended in the war on drugs including law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration. However this is the first article that I have seen which looks at this from a purely economic perspective and explains why we are losing the this war but it does not tell me why the US government has not realized that they are simply banging the head against a wall.
“Prohibition plants the seed of its own defeat by enabling traffickers to earn a premium for undertaking the special risks involved in supplying an illegal product” says Sullum. People are willing to take greater risk because the payoff is so great and they are incredibly creative in figuring out a way to escape arrest or other problems they face. Additionally, the article notes that since 1990 interdiction has increased substantially over the years yet drug prices have fallen and drug purity has increased.
So what’s the answer? Well to keep the economic discussion going I would say that instead of concentrating on the supply side of the war on drugs perhaps we should make a bigger effor to curtail the demand. We have spent over $31 billion dollars on the war and drugs with vey little to show for it. I would suggest that spending more on treatment and curbing the demand for these drugs would be better for society and less costly in the long run. Use the market forces to our advantage less demand would mean the supply would go down and so would the economic gains of those involved.
Locking people up does not treat people. Mandatory minimum sentenceshave not proven an effective tool in stopping drug use. Doctors consider the addiction a sickness and these people should be treated as such. Our failure to recognize this has cost us billions of dollars. This theory should not be viewed as going soft on crime, but should be viewed as a way to reduce crime in the long run and save money.