< Back to front page Text size +

A Harvard economist makes the case for legalizing drugs

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  April 18, 2013 09:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

It's not that unusual to hear free-market-minded economists argue for the legalization of drugs, but few do it with quite the gusto of Harvard professor Jeffrey Miron. In a March interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Miron made several familiar legalization arguments-- that legalization would lead people to safer drug use (more smoking, less injecting), fill government coffers through increased taxation and reduced law enforcement costs, and put an end to the crime and violence that flourishes in a black market environment.

But Miron went further than that. He argued that we violate the basic American principle of self-determination by prohibiting people from doing something they enjoy doing. The Der Spiegel reporter replied that maybe it's good to protect people from themselves sometimes, and, also, one man's drug use is the rest of society's problem. Miron replied that the "prohibition lobby exaggerates substantially to help it achieve its goals." He referenced research which indicates that drugs are less addictive, less dangerous to users' health, and less likely to cause antisocial behaviors like aggression than conventional wisdom has it.

And the picture he paints of a legalized world is downright sunny. Miron estimates that if drugs were legalized the U.S. government would save $85-$90 billion per year, the national murder rate would fall by 25 percent, and we wouldn't see any real increase in drug use (on that last point he cites the case of Portugal, where drugs were legalized several years ago and he says rates have barely budged). Miron does allow, however, that legalization would change his own behavior. "If drugs were legal tomorrow," he said, "I'd go out and give them all a try. I doubt I would use them more than once; but after all the research I have done on this issue, I am curious!"

Read the rest of the interview here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


Browse this blog

by category