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Memories of the 28th Century

Put the Mafia Out Of Business

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Is it a proper role for government to save people from themselves?

There are many people who think that they know how everyone should live his or her life. Those are the people who enacted laws that ban actions that harm no one, such as laws banning the use of certain chemicals. There are people who are not capable of taking care of themselves, and there should be protection for those, but the overwhelming majority of people are capable of determining for themselves.

There’s a lot of variation among humans, so what’s good for me may be bad for you and vice versa. I recently expressed my opinion along these lines with respect to food, but it applies to many things. And I was talking with a student of neuroscience recently, and we agreed that it a pity that nicotine is so toxic, and it might be nice if something like that also led to the release of other neurotransmitters in addition to the dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate that nicotine causes to be released. There may be some other chemical produced by a plant that has effects like nicotine and that is not as toxic and addictive, but the philosophies of legislatures would indicate that the drug would be probably would be outlawed quite promptly.

It’s almost a surprise that running hasn’t been banned, because it causes the release of endorphins, which are the neurotransmitters the receptors for which are used by opiates, thus mimicking its effect. People have been using plants for pleasure since long before history, and judging from other animals it is a common behavior among animals. It is peculiar that there are so many laws that restrict and punish the use of vegetable materials and chemicals that replace or mimic neurotransmitters, and such laws have resulted in the development of criminal organizations that supply such materials and related services. One of the attempted rationales for such regulation is that those chemicals cause harm to users, but there is more harm, both physical and financial, that is caused by those materials being outlawed. And the problems created by having large criminal gangs around are detrimental to society, while drugs, by themselves, harm only a few individuals.

It would be good for society to get rid of the criminal gangs, and it would not harm society if a wide variety of drugs were legal. The present age of banning drugs is only a hundred years old, and has been a failure. The hope in the early days of banning general access to drugs was to prevent the health problems that drugs cause, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.
“In 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview. This estimate represents 9.2 percent of the population aged 12 or older.”
Federal: On Dec. 31, 2012, there were 196,574 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction. Of these, 99,426 were serving time for drug offenses,”
State: On Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,341,797 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of these, 222,738 were serving time for drug offenses, of whom 55,013 were merely convicted for possession.”

That means that more than half of the people in federal prisons were held for crimes that would not have been crimes, if drugs had not become criminalized in the past hundred years. And about one sixth of the people held in state penal institutions are held for drug crimes. In addition, there are people who worked for criminal organizations who were convicted of activities in defense of their gang’s activity.

By criminalizing drugs the users have been driven out of the legitimate economy. They have been forced to deal with criminals to get drugs, and in many cases they have taken to crime to support themselves. Decriminalization would bring those people, and many more who have not been convicted back into the legitimate economy, and the drugs they might use would be subject to quality control regulations.

If we legalized all drugs, then organized crime would lose one of its biggest money makers. If we also legalized prostitution, then organized crime would have to make do with real crimes like lending money at interest, collecting taxes, and hijacking trucks. Prostitution has alreay been legal in many times and places, so that isn’t a novelty, but a little regulation might make it a more lucrative business. Maybe we could convince the Mafia that they should incorporate some banks; the people who run what’s now known as Bank of America did that, and see what they did. The people who run most banks are criminals, so why shouldn’t some criminals start a bank. They would be able to cut out some middlemen, and banking might be safer for retail customers.

Not only would we save money that is now wasted on prisons, but we would have legalized all sorts of mood enhancing chemicals, so people would feel even better about the situation. Legislators don’t often pass laws that are good for everyone, but this is one time when they could. They could even cut taxes that were enacted to pay for crime prevention.

The positive effects of legalizing everything would far outweigh the problems created by those things that would become legal, and the effects on other countries, especially if they followed suit, would be even more dramatic. Mexico has a crime problem that makes organized crime in the U.S. look insignificant, and Columbia is only slightly better off.

Remember to write to your state and federal representatives to legalize everything for the good of society. And let’s not go with phony legalization by making the taxes so high that the drugs will be impossibly expensive. Taxes should be for income not for prohibition. Marijuana should be about the same price as tobacco or a bit cheaper, because it requires less work and cultivation.

In addition to added tax income, the lower expenses in the judicial system and penal institutions would make general legalization very lucrative for other programs, and general taxes could be cut. The savings wouldn’t be a large amount of federal expenditures, but cities and towns would be able to layoff police, because there would be no drug laws to enforce, so they would save a considerable amount of money, and the states would be able to save on prisons, and there would be no need to rent space from for-profit prisons.

One complaint about this idea that I expect to see is that more people would take hard drugs. But the evidence from history is that there is a set of people who take hard drugs regardless of legality, and few other people use hard drugs. There also are people who take drugs, because they are forbidden, and those people might not bother.

This post is just a brief outline of the idea. Each paragraph could be expanded into a book, so understand that there is a huge amount of other information about this issue.


  1. Dark Muse's Avatar
    Is it a proper role for government to save people from themselves?

    Interesting post, and all in all I am inclined to agree.
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    Unfortunately, many people disagree with us.
  3. Dark Muse's Avatar
    Yes that is all too true sadly