Time was, I studied the natural sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, even a little meteorology. It’s not a program I recommend to anyone else. You see, it made me socially unacceptable.
Stop looking so shocked! The study of the sciences equips the student with facts, and you should know that the possession of facts is frowned upon these days. The actual transmission of facts to other persons can make you a pariah. In some neighborhoods, it can get you assaulted, possibly even killed. As all my opinions are founded on facts, experience has taught me to keep them to myself.
Here’s an ugly fact for you: Over the course of the Twentieth Century, governments killed more people, and in more horrifying ways, than all the “individualized” methods known to our time. If you don’t believe it, read R. J. Rummel’s Death By Government. However, it’s filled with facts, so keep your copy at home and don’t discuss what it tells you with anyone else.
Here’s another: interracial rape is almost exclusively black men raping white women. This is a single component of the black crime wave, of course. However, it’s also singularly revealing, as for a long time there was a myth that interracial rape went in the other direction. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report once reported on such matters. I don’t think it does so today.
Here’s a third, which I shall allow a more widely and deeply respected voice to express:
Winston Churchill was once known for his forthrightness. As the saying goes, he didn’t strike with the blunt end. In the above, he expressed a fundamental fact about supply and demand: outlawing the supply doesn’t dispel the demand. The suppliers will merely go underground. Prices will rise because of the risk of detection, capture, and punishment, but commerce in the outlawed good will continue.
Now, quite a lot of Americans are absolutely against the outlawed “recreational drugs.” They have good reason to be horrified at what such drugs do to those who indulge in them. But they haven’t yet dealt with Churchill’s observation. Once the market has been forced underground, it develops characteristics that make it far harder to deal with. I could go into the various consequences, but I’ll spare you.
Some very smart people have a problem with this that’s objectively unfounded. In some cases, their problem is a misunderstanding about the meaning of the word free.
If commerce in a good or service is free:
- It is not licensed;
- It is not regulated;
- And it is not taxed.
The contrapositive is where the action is: If commerce in some good or service is licensed, or regulated, or taxed, or any combination thereof, it is not free. The governmental intervention into that commerce creates an “umbrella” for criminals – i.e., those who are willing to operate without licenses, or without conforming to regulations, or without paying taxes — even if it’s not as pernicious as completely outlawing the good or service would be.
The size of the resulting black market will depend upon the weight of the government’s intervention in above-ground commerce. For example, if there were a huge sales tax on good X, a great deal of commerce in X would go to the black market, with a smaller amount remaining above-ground. If a license to trade in X were expensive or very difficult to get, that would have the same effect. Only very mild intrusions would have no perceptible effect: small taxes; easily complied-with regulations; easy to get licenses.
Apparently the states that have “legalized” trade in cannabis products have gone too far in their intrusions. Significant black markets, with all the problems that go along with such, have arisen in several of them. This has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of getting high on some THC-based product. It’s entirely about supply and demand.
You can hate “recreational drugs” and what they do to their users. I do, as they took the life of one of my siblings. But you can’t ignore the facts and hope for a good result. Churchill was right. There are no counterexamples to his assertion, and there never will be. And those who hope for a different result are in the position of a man who wants a barking cat:
In a recent column (Newsweek, Jan. 8), I pointed out that approval of drugs by the Food and Drug Administration delays and prevents the introduction of useful as well as harmful drugs. After giving reasons why the adverse effects could be expected to be far more serious than the beneficial effects, I summarized a fascinating study by Prof. Sam Peltzman of UCLA of experience before and after 1962, when standards were stiffened. His study decisively confirmed the expectation that the bad effects would much outweigh the good.
The column evoked letters from a number of persons in pharmaceutical work offering tales of woe to confirm my allegation that the FDA was indeed “Frustrating Drug Advancement,” as I titled the column. But most also said something like, “In contrast to your opinion, I do not believe that the FDA should be abolished, but I do believe that its power should be” changed in such and such a way—to quote from a typical letter.
I replied as follows: “What would you think of someone who said, ‘I would like to have a cat, provided it barked’? Yet your statement that you favor an FDA provided it behaves as you believe desirable is precisely equivalent. The biological laws that specify the characteristics of cats are no more rigid than the political laws that specify the behavior of governmental agencies once they are established. The way the FDA now behaves, and the adverse consequences, are not an accident, not a result of some easily corrected human mistake, but a consequence of its constitution in precisely the same way that a meow is related to the constitution of a cat.”
And this, too, is a fact. If you can’t trust Churchill, trust Milton Friedman. The man is a Nobel Laureate, after all.