Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Bad Guys Will Still Be Bad Guys

 

Detroit_police_prohibitionMegan McArdle has an excellent post describing one of the best consequentialist arguments for ending the war on drugs:

… I consider the reduction of violent crime to be the main benefit. Deprived of the ability to enforce contracts through the relatively peaceful legal process used by other markets, black markets are accompanied by high levels of violence: Gangs fight for territory, enforce business agreements and try to defer defections. The more profitable the black market is, the more incentive there is to use violence to protect your profits, which may be one reason that the introduction of crack cocaine was accompanied by such a huge increase in violent crime. Legalizing drugs cuts into the profits and gives industry players legal means to settle their disputes, so in theory, this should reduce the prevalence, and the brutality, of violent gangs.

I find the logic of this nearly unassailable. Just as there’s no inherent reason why the alcohol trade should be violent, there’s little inherent reason why the market for other intoxicants should be. Give people the opportunity to work within the confines of the law — and to enjoy its protections — and the worst sorts of behavior become unnecessary. Deny them those confines and protections, and we quickly descend into a petty Hobbesianism that drives out all the nice guys and rewards the worst.

So, once we end the war on drugs, people will give up on the violence and criminality, dust-off their guitars, and debate whether to play “Doctor Robert” or”Tomorrow Never Knows” with the latest offering of legal bud, right? And with modern Prohibition over, I can finally use Rob Long’s contacts to pitch my idea for a pot-themed remake of The Thin Man starring James Franco and Anna Kendrick (which would totally work; heck, the sequels are already written).

Well, probably not, says McArdle:

[W]e should be modest about how much the end of Prohibition achieved. Because the Mafia did not simply disappear along with the source of its biggest profits. Instead, like any business, it sat back, took stock, and opened up new lines of business. Labor racketeering, gambling, extortion — these things might once have been sidelines, but they became the main show.

In other words, policy outcomes have a lot of path dependence. The Mafia was not created by Prohibition; it seems to have been an outgrowth of post-feudal Sicily, and it made its way to America along with Sicilian immigrants. But the advent of Prohibition greatly increased their profits and power, and by the time Prohibition ended, they were far too big and well-organized to simply slip softly and silently away into the night.

In other words, we’re not only likely to see a persistence of crime (though probably at a less-violent level) we’ll see some of the smarter drug lords corrupt other things that aren’t currently so bad. And that’s just looking at the drug trade and leaving aside effects of drug legalization on consumption (also likely a mixed bag).

I’d still take the bargain, but ending the war on drugs will be no panacea.

There are 102 comments.

  1. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Because the Mafia did not simply disappear along with the source of its biggest profits. Instead, like any business, it sat back, took stock, and opened up new lines of business. Labor racketeering, gambling, extortion — these things might once have been sidelines, but they became the main show.

    So, deregulate gambling and reduce the monopolistic power of unions, and then law enforcement can free up resources to crack down on extortion.

    • #1
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:01 AM PDT
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  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: leaving aside effects of drug legalization on consumption (also likely a mixed bag).

    I doubt it will be that mixed.

    • #2
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:17 AM PDT
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  3. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:In other words, we’re not only likely to see a persistence of crime (though probably at a less-violent level)

    Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    The Mexico massacre of 72 migrants reveals how stronger police enforcement in the Mexico drug war is pushing criminal gangs into side businesses such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

    It also confirmed what the government and analysts have claimed for some time: that criminal gangs are increasingly diversifying their illicit activities and targeting more than just rival drug traffickers.

    The government says that sending some 50,000 federal forces to weaken the power of criminal gangs has made them desperate and forced them increasingly into other businesses, such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

    Decriminalizing drugs is all too likely to yield more traffickers taking such business sidelines and turning such into their primary source of income. The violence will continue.

    • #3
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:18 AM PDT
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  4. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Roberto: Decriminalizing drugs is all too likely to yield more traffickers taking such business sidelines and turning such into their primary source of income. The violence will continue.

    Yep, and since human trafficking (and prostitution) are always going to be illegal this is where they will go.

    • #4
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:22 AM PDT
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  5. Manny Member

    The King Prawn:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: leaving aside effects of drug legalization on consumption (also likely a mixed bag).

    I doubt it will be that mixed.

    I agree. I remember seeing studies that consumption of anything goes up by as much as 25% once something goes from being illegal to legal. (Don’t quote me on the 25% number, I’m going by memory.) Legalizing prostitution hasn’t brought prostitution down; it’s raised it. Use of alcohol went up after prohibition ended. Prohibition may have given a boon to organized crime, but it did lower alcohol use. (Not that I’m advocating alcohol prohibition; it was a bad idea because alcohol has been integral to the culture for thousands of years. Illegal drugs have not been integrated into the mainstream culture and should not be.) The law provides a moral line from which people will feel inhibition. The point is, if you legalize anything, use (and abuse) will increase.

    • #5
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:35 AM PDT
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  6. Manny Member

    Roberto:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:In other words, we’re not only likely to see a persistence of crime (though probably at a less-violent level)

    Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    That’s right. Criminals can always under cut the cost of a legal item. Just look how cheap you can get bootlegged movies on the street. No overhead, no taxes, and stealing drugs from someone else is cheaper than buying it through a legal manufacturer.

    • #6
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:39 AM PDT
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  7. Profile Photo Member

    When govco creates “rent”, humanity creates “rent-seekers.” And if the payments flow a little faster, a little wider, a little deeper with varying amount of violence to control both competitors and customers, well– it’s just a cost of doing business.

    • #7
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:41 AM PDT
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  8. Paul Dougherty Member

    I find this to be playing out in South-central Alaska. With the popular narrative being that the criminalization of acts create victims and with that, inevitable crime. We are confused and paralyzed when crime goes up with decriminalization. We, as a community, aren’t accounting for criminals being criminal in character. We are loath to confront problems to be the problems with people and not the problems of institutions.

    • #8
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:43 AM PDT
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  9. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Roberto: Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    Cartels and gangs based in other countries have an export-based business model. If denying them their export product forces them to switch to stealing from their own people, that’s Mexico’s problem.

    • #9
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:44 AM PDT
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  10. Douglas Inactive

    “… so in theory…”

    Ah, Theory World. It’s such a nice place to live. But it isn’t this world.

    • #10
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:45 AM PDT
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  11. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Manny:

    Roberto:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:In other words, we’re not only likely to see a persistence of crime (though probably at a less-violent level)

    Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    That’s right. Criminals can always under cut the cost of a legal item. Just look how cheap you can get bootlegged movies on the street. No overhead, no taxes, and stealing drugs from someone else is cheaper than buying it through a legal manufacturer.

    You still buy movies on the street?

    • #11
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:45 AM PDT
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  12. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The King Prawn:

    Roberto: Decriminalizing drugs is all too likely to yield more traffickers taking such business sidelines and turning such into their primary source of income. The violence will continue.

    Yep, and since human trafficking (and prostitution) are always going to be illegal this is where they will go.

    Prostitution will always be illegal?

    • #12
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:47 AM PDT
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  13. Douglas Inactive

    Misthiocracy:

    Roberto: Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    Cartels and gangs based in other countries have an export-based business model. If denying them their export product forces them to switch to stealing from their own people, that’s Mexico’s problem.

    Criminals go where the money is. That’s here. It’s like the Greek legend of the hydra. Cut off a head, and more will grow in its place. There will always be ways for criminals to make money. Crime fighting isn’t about elimination of crime; crime is a natural product of human nature. Crime fighting is about controlling crime so that it doesn’t get out of control. “Decriminalizing”, “Liberating”, etc, isn’t going to stop crime or make criminals less violent. It’s just going to shift their focus elsewhere to new victims. Start legalizing heroin, and you’re not only going to get more junkies (see :the Netherlands), you’re also going to get a fresh new set of victims as those criminals find new criminal markets. You’ll have bodies piling up composed mostly of people that weren’t in danger before. The law of unintended consequences is always lurking where drastic measures are being considered.

    • #13
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:52 AM PDT
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  14. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Misthiocracy:

    The King Prawn:

    Roberto: Decriminalizing drugs is all too likely to yield more traffickers taking such business sidelines and turning such into their primary source of income. The violence will continue.

    Yep, and since human trafficking (and prostitution) are always going to be illegal this is where they will go.

    Prostitution will always be illegal?

    Most likely, and mostly because it is the modern day slavery. Sure, some choose to prostitute themselves, but the vast majority do it by force or for a (perceived) lack of other options.

    • #14
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:57 AM PDT
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  15. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Roberto: Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    Cartels and gangs based in other countries have an export-based business model. If denying them their export product forces them to switch to stealing from their own people, that’s Mexico’s problem.

    I am not prepared to discount the likelihood that local gang distributors will quickly pivot from their previous line of work into more traditional mugging/robbery.

    You could say some possible targets even suggested themselves:

    The Los Angeles Police have arrested one man in connection with a series of violent robberies at several medical marijuana dispensaries in the San Fernando Valley. And now they are asking the public’s help to find six other suspects.

    A clerk was shot in the stomach Thursday afternoon during an armed robbery at a medical marijuana dispensary in Littlerock, authorities said.

    Los Angeles police said two people were arrested early Saturday after breaking into a medical marijuana dispensary in Mid-City.

    • #15
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:58 AM PDT
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    Misthiocracy: that’s Mexico’s problem

    Yeah, that and building the wall

    • #16
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:00 AM PDT
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  17. Paul Dougherty Member

    I am thinking that another force in favor of an organized crime entity is the confidence of the target population in it’s justice institutions. Constant assaults on “the police” and inefficiency of courts to restrain culprits may push an otherwise reasonable community to cooperate with crime’s demands. Not just liberalization of existing laws.

    • #17
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:07 AM PDT
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  18. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The King Prawn:

    Misthiocracy:

    The King Prawn:

    Roberto: Decriminalizing drugs is all too likely to yield more traffickers taking such business sidelines and turning such into their primary source of income. The violence will continue.

    Yep, and since human trafficking (and prostitution) are always going to be illegal this is where they will go.

    Prostitution will always be illegal?

    Most likely, and mostly because it is the modern day slavery. Sure, some choose to prostitute themselves, but the vast majority do it by force or for a (perceived) lack of other options.

    If drugs were legal, they could sell drugs.

    ;-)

    • #18
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:22 AM PDT
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  19. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Since Washington legalized the sale and use of marijuana, two pot stores have popped up along my drive to work. It’s three if I go the long way.

    Now, we often talk about unintended consequences. Things we didn’t think would happen, but did, as a result of some new policy. Well, the nicer of the three pot stores now has a big sign “Canadians Welcome.” Let me tell you people something: I want fewer Canadians, not more. Fewer. As far as I’m concerned, if keeping pot illegal means fewer Canadians, I’m all for it.

    • #19
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:25 AM PDT
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  20. Profile Photo Member

    Douglas:

    Misthiocracy:

    Roberto: Even this assumption is unwarranted. Cartels and gangs denied their current stream of drug income are just as likely to switch to even more brutal forms of criminality in order to maintain their profits.

    Cartels and gangs based in other countries have an export-based business model. If denying them their export product forces them to switch to stealing from their own people, that’s Mexico’s problem.

    Criminals go where the money is. That’s here. It’s like the Greek legend of the hydra. Cut off a head, and more will grow in its place. There will always be ways for criminals to make money. Crime fighting isn’t about elimination of crime; crime is a natural product of human nature. Crime fighting is about controlling crime so that it doesn’t get out of control. “Decriminalizing”, “Liberating”, etc, isn’t going to stop crime or make criminals less violent. It’s just going to shift their focus elsewhere to new victims. Start legalizing heroin, and you’re not only going to get more junkies (see :the Netherlands), you’re also going to get a fresh new set of victims as those criminals find new criminal markets. You’ll have bodies piling up composed mostly of people that weren’t in danger before. The law of unintended consequences is always lurking where drastic measures are being considered.

    Hail Hydra.

    • #20
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:25 AM PDT
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  21. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin:Since Washington legalized the sale and use of marijuana, two pot stores have popped up along my drive to work. It’s three if I go the long way.

    Now, we often talk about unintended consequences. Things we didn’t think would happen, but did, as a result of some new policy. Well, the nicer of the three pot stores now has a big sign “Canadians Welcome.” Let me tell you people something: I want fewer Canadians, not more. Fewer. As far as I’m concerned, if keeping pot illegal means fewer Canadians, I’m all for it.

    Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    heyooo

    • #21
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:30 AM PDT
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  22. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy: Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    The Mexicans do the work we don’t want to, and they sell us tacos. So I’m all for that. All the Canadians do is make us mad on the roadway, and clog up the Costco and the Fred Meyer.

    • #22
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:32 AM PDT
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  23. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The law of unintended consequences is always lurking where drastic measures are being considered.

    I don’t think that repealing a law that’s less than 80 years old and returning to a millenia-long status quo should be characterized as a “drastic measure”, necessarily.

    • #23
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:33 AM PDT
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  24. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    We should decriminalize everything to simplify things and minimize risk since bad guys will still be bad guys.

    • #24
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:34 AM PDT
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  25. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin:

    Misthiocracy: Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    The Mexicans do the work we don’t want to, and they sell us tacos. So I’m all for that. All the Canadians do is make us mad on the roadway, and clog up the Costco and the Fred Meyer.

    So, no crowdfunding campaign to get me in to the US then?

    ;-P

    • #25
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:35 AM PDT
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  26. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin:

    Misthiocracy: Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    The Mexicans do the work we don’t want to, and they sell us tacos. So I’m all for that. All the Canadians do is make us mad on the roadway, and clog up the Costco and the Fred Meyer.

    So, no crowdfunding campaign to get me in to the US then?

    ;-P

    Well, change your name to Pedro, get you a beat up truck that you can sell tacos out of, oh and actually make some good tacos. And a torta would be good on the menu, too, and learn how to say “six dolluh!” just like the nice lady that runs the taco truck on the corner does, and you are in.

    But if all you are going to do is drive your fancy sports car 10 miles an hour under the speed limit and sit in the left lane, then not so much.

    • #26
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:50 AM PDT
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  27. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin: But if all you are going to do is drive your fancy sports car 10 miles an hour under the speed limit and sit in the left lane, then not so much.

    How about if I drive my Bricklin at 20 kph over the limit in the carpool lane and then yammer at the cop in French when I get pulled over?

    • #27
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:57 AM PDT
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  28. Douglas Inactive

    Spin:

    Misthiocracy: Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    The Mexicans do the work we don’t want to, and they sell us tacos. So I’m all for that. All the Canadians do is make us mad on the roadway, and clog up the Costco and the Fred Meyer.

    But they’re nice about it.

    • #28
    • April 7, 2016, at 11:06 AM PDT
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  29. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Douglas:

    Spin:

    Misthiocracy: Fewer Canadians, but more Mexicans.

    The Mexicans do the work we don’t want to, and they sell us tacos. So I’m all for that. All the Canadians do is make us mad on the roadway, and clog up the Costco and the Fred Meyer.

    But they’re nice about it.

    images

    • #29
    • April 7, 2016, at 11:12 AM PDT
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  30. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom,

    So in summation. Ethics neutral libertarianism is problematic.

    Yep.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #30
    • April 7, 2016, at 11:17 AM PDT
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