After Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century

By Zeese, Kevin B. | Ideas on Liberty, June 2002 | Go to article overview

After Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century


Zeese, Kevin B., Ideas on Liberty


After Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century edited by Timothy Lynch Cato Institute * 2000 9 193 pages * $18.95

As the title indicates, this book takes an adult approach to drug issues. While most politicians argue over the mix of drug war funding-interdiction, eradication, law enforcement, treatment, or preventionAfter Prohibition avoids merely moving around the furniture on the Titanic and takes a different approach; it recognizes the bankruptcy of current drug policy and seeks to come up with a new paradigm for the 21 st century.

Not many attempt to argue these days that we are winning the war on drugs. It is difficult to keep a straight face when you do hear someone make that claim. We have spent approximately a half a trillion tax dollars-federal, state, and local--on the drug war since 1980. The facts show we are worse off now than when we began.

Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice, has brought together in this book (based on a Cato conference) a collection of essays by individuals who, for the most part, recognize the folly of our attempts to prohibit drug use and want to see change in our policy. There is a considerable spectrum of opinion represented here, ranging from those who want to end the drug war altogether to those who believe it must continue.

Lynch first describes Cato's position, which is that the United States would be better off with no drug laws: "The most valuable lesson that can be drawn from the experience of alcohol prohibition is that government cannot effectively engineer social arrangements. Policymakers simply cannot repeal the economic laws of supply and demand. Nor can they foresee the unintended consequences that invariably follow federal intervention. Students of American history will someday wonder how today's lawmakers could readily admit that alcohol prohibition was a disastrous mistake but recklessly pursue a policy of drug prohibition."

Roger Pilon, Cato's vice president for legal affairs, puts drug policy into a broader perspective, declaring drug prohibition to be beyond the constitutional power of the federal government.

What to put in the place of drug prohibition? Lynch answers, "Education, moral suasion, and social pressure are the only appropriate ways to discourage adult drug use in a free and civil society. …

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