Monday, January 21, 2013

Why ending the war on drugs may have unintended consequences

Imagine you have very limited or no legal employment opportunities. Or perhaps you have some opportunities, but they pay poorly.

Dealing drugs may be a semi-rational choice then. American jails are famously nasty, but if you can avoid prolonged incarceration and drug trade violence you can earn money.

If we end the failed war on drugs though, those income opportunities vanish. Walmart and Philip Morris take the profits, and distribution becomes another high-competition minimum wage option.

Ending the war on drugs, without providing an answer to mass disability, may have unintended consequences.

We might do better to keep drugs illegal, but reform prisons -- turn them into enhanced skills development programs.


Jeremiah said...

Are the 'unintended consequences' of ending the drug war greater or less than the consequences of having started it in the first place?

Zol said...

I thought I read (Freakonomics?) that a street dealer hourly wage is comparable to a McDonalds worker. So they are already near the minimum wage category. Training programs are the right strategy but incarceration isn't the best venue. Perhaps the unintended consequence is job losses for prison guards and a direct hit on the lucrative prison industry. Capitalism works in mysterious ways.

John Gordon said...

Jeremiah -- I think it's pretty hard to defend the American 'war on drugs'. For a militaristic society we really aren't very good at wars.

Jeremiah said...

JG - in no way a defense of the WoD. Just riffing on the "cure is worse than the disease" frame with your post title.