"It's a free country."
That's a popular saying -- and true in many ways. But for a free country, America does ban a lot of things that are perfectly peaceful and consensual. Why is that?
Here are some things you can't do in most states of the union: rent your body to someone for sex, sell your kidney, take recreational drugs. The list goes on. I'll discuss American prohibitions tomorrow night at 8 and 11 p.m. Eastern time (and again on Friday at 10) on my Fox Business program.
The prohibitionists say their rules are necessary for either the public's or the particular individual's own good. I'm skeptical. I think of what Albert Camus said: "The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants." Prohibition is force. I prefer persuasion. Government force has nasty unintended consequences.
I would think that our experience with alcohol prohibition would have taught America a lesson. Nearly everyone agrees it was a disaster. It didn't stop people from drinking, but it created new and vicious strains of organized crime. Drug prohibition does that now.
The prohibitionists claim that today's drugs are far more dangerous than alcohol.
But is that true? Or is much of what you think you know ... wrong?
I believed the Drug Enforcement Administration's claim that drugs like crack and meth routinely addict people on first use.
But Jacob Sullum, who wrote "Saying Yes", says, "If you look at the government's own data about patterns of drug use, it clearly is not true."
The data is remarkable: 8.5 million Americans have tried crack, but there are only 359,000 regular users. (The government defines "regular use" as using a drug at least once in the past 30 days.) More than 12 million tried meth, but only 314,000 still take it. The story is similar for heroin. Most people who try these "instantly additive drugs" do not get "hopelessly addicted." They give them up on their own.
As Sullum puts it: "The vast majority of people who use illegal drugs do not become heavy users, do not become addicts; it does not disrupt their lives. In fact, I would argue it enhances their lives. How do we know that? Because they use it."
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