Mona Charen
Five years ago last month, Milton Friedman died at age 94. To the very end, the Nobel Prize winning economist was astute, tireless and wonderfully avuncular. Thanks to the Internet, his commentaries on subjects ranging from greed, to slavery, to the Great Depression myth and many other topics, can be enjoyed forever.

Of course, great thinkers have been recording their thoughts in books for millennia. And Friedman was no exception. But there's no denying the immediacy and intimacy of video. Wouldn't we have loved to click on Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton or Cicero and watch them talk about their ideas? If you do dip into the Friedman oeuvre, start with his exchange with Phil Donahue!

Nothing would be easier than to invoke the great Friedman as the sage of limited government. He was certainly that. If he were commenting on America's current predicament, he would doubtless prescribe a radically smaller public sector.

But Friedman poses challenges to conservatives as well as liberals. He opposed, for example, the war on drugs. That's right. Friedman was for legalization of all drugs, not just marijuana.

It's a position embraced by only one candidate for president, Ron Paul. Congressman Paul holds some ludicrous views. He seems to believe, for example, that if we were just nicer to the Iranians, we wouldn't need to fret about their acquisition of nuclear weapons. Still, Paul deserves full credit for endorsing drug legalization. Friedman would approve.

Governments in the United States, federal and state, spend an estimated $41.3 billion annually to prevent people from ingesting substances we deem harmful, though many unsafe ingestibles -- you know the list -- remain legal. Half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for drug offenses, along with 20 percent of state prisoners.

In 2009, there were 1.7 million drug arrests in the U.S. Half of those were for marijuana. As David Boaz and Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute noted, "Addicts commit crimes to pay for a habit that would be easily affordable if it were legal. Police sources have estimated that as much as half the property crime in some major cities is committed by drug users."

Drug money, such as booze money during Prohibition, has corrupted countless police, Drug Enforcement Administration agents, border patrol agents, prosecutors and judges. Drug crime has blighted many neighborhoods. America's appetite for drugs has encouraged lawlessness and violence in many neighboring countries, most recently in Mexico, where its drug violence is spilling north.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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