Monday, July 18, 2011

Complicating Legalization's Appeal

I've not yet read it, but the article "Are Underground Markets Really More Violent? Evidence from Early 20th Century America" would seem to cut against the case that a solution to Latin American violence in legalizing drugs. Here's the abstract:
The violent nature of illegal markets is one rationale for legalizing the sale of narcotics. High U.S. crime rates during the 1920s are regularly presented as evidence of the strong positive relationship between market illegality and violence. The author tests this theory by exploiting state-level variation in homicides and in the passage and repeal of temperance laws before and after Federal Prohibition. Support for the “wet” cause was positively associated with homicides in dry states. However, on average, murder rates did not increase when alcohol markets were criminalized. Observed crime trends during the early 20th century are primarily explained by demographic changes.
Of course, legalization is still pretty compelling from the standpoint of personal freedom (though up to and including which drugs I'm not quite sure), legal consistency (marijuana is illegal but tequila is not), and cost vs. benefit (we've spent a trillion dollars trying to enforce prohibition and are worse off in many ways). And who knows, maybe this article won't convince me.


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