Economist magazine says legalize drugs

As said, the economist magazine says legalize drugs (ht Carpe Diem).

This isn’t a big issue to me personally – relative to what I see as “big issues” like the current recession.  However, I can definitely see some good in legalizing (and taxing) drugs (something we were discussing here).  For some reason though, it is an issue where I think emotion has moved ahead of good policy design.

Pure regulation is often not the best solution – how much are we hurting peoples welfare by keeping many drugs illegal.  I don’t know, my goal is to have a government introducing policies that maximise welfare – and I believe that legalizing (and taxing) the use of some drugs may well be welfare enhancing.  With the Economist saying the same sort of thing I feel like I’m starting to form an opinion 😛

8 replies
  1. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    Maximise welfare, eh? What about the equity-efficiency trade-off? Isn’t maximising aggregate welfare a bit of a narrow goal? I guess I could probably search the past 1000 posts you’ve made to find your views on the issue! Get well soon 🙂

  2. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    The equity-efficiency trade-off is part of the welfare function. There is a difference between maximising welfare and maximising production after all 😛

  3. goonix
    goonix says:

    I’ve long held this view – I’m glad it’s getting (somewhat) more mainstream coverage. Furthermore, rather than lumping ‘drugs’ together, tax should be levied according to the true (scientifically proven) harm of each drug. i.e. marijuana has a much lower harm rate than heroin, so is taxed at a relatively lower rate.

  4. Will de Cleene
    Will de Cleene says:

    You’re going to have the opportunity to do just that, Matt. The Law Commission will be releasing a first principles review of the Misuse of Drugs Act later this year. Like the Sale of Liquor Act review, the commission will seek public input.

  5. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    @Matt Nolan
    Ah, I thought you were referring to a welfare function that was a simple sum of surplusses. If it incorporates some sort of equity measures too then it sounds far too complicated for me to get my head around 🙂

  6. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    I was assuming that any equity considerations are only important insofar as they impact on peoples utility – hence why I think the trade-off will be captured in a social welfare function.

    Of course – the social welfare function will look funky, but I think its a closer representation of what we mean by “welfare”

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