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Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization

by TChris

Milton Friedman, an economist who is generally esteemed by conservatives, doesn't understand the economics underlying the war against pot.

Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.

While Friedman's expertise is in economics, his arguments against using the criminal justice system to wage war on drug users go beyond the economic cost of the policy. Says Friedman:

"Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven't even included the harm to young people. It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes."

The report, authored by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, is available here.

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  • Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:36 PM EST
    This guy's evil and will burn in hell....sorry, someone has to speak for the 'righties...

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:36 PM EST
    Friedman's been at it at least since '72. I remember a debate he had with Bill I-blew-8mil.-at-the-slot-machines Bennett back in the 80's. Friedman bemoaned leaving a country to future generations in which planes could be shot down "on suspicion". But let's face it. Libertarianism is about as close to passing away as Friedman himself. Those in the so-called libertarian wing of the Reps have been busy trying to look more patriotic than their neighbor since 9/11. They've mounted no significant resistance to the Patriot Act[sic]. And the current bunch of Reps are interested in Friedman's ideas only insofar as they facilitate consolidation of power for the executive class.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mreddieb on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:36 PM EST
    I wonder why he chose now to come out for Weed? Hmmm maybe he scored a really good connection? Man I'm gettin really hungry

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#4)
    by DonS on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Oh well, there goes the medal of freedom I guess. Wait, maybe he was just disassembling.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimcee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Timmy don't underestimate the number of libertarians out there today that are not Republicans or Democrats, there are more than you can imagine we just don't make much of a show of it. Freidman is an economic genius and understands the market and social value of capitalism and like any pragmatist he abhors a waste of resources i.e. the war on drugs. He has also addressed the issue of problems in post colonial countries and suggested that most were better off as colonies than before they were colonies and after they became kleptocracies after thier liberation. There is no greater chance of marijuana legalisation under either party because the bi-lateral propaganda war against drugs has created an unwarranted fear in the general electorate. Politicians knee-jerk negative reactions to any talk of legalisation will make any common sense solution that much harder. Now where did I put my papers and lighter? Bye.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Thanks for the good news. I've linked to it here. I saw Friedman in a discussion a few years ago with Arthur Laffer, moderated by William F. Buckley, and sponsored by the Club for Growth. How's that for an event that would drive you lefties crazy!

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    it's hard not to underestimate independent libertarians. they haven't made a blip on the radar despite the largest expansion of powers by the state in decades. they've all lost their credibility in my eyes. i do have respect for friedman, but as i say, he's a dying breed. there just aren't any buckleys around in the conservative movement who've taken a page out of the libertarian handbook to join forces with. show me a prominent conservative today under 60 who would sign on with friedman's proposal. these days friedman gets accolades from the white house because his laissez faire approach serves the interests of the plutocracy. anything else the man thinks which doesn't serve that end gets tossed out like last week's dinner.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    w.c. mismatches always drive me crazy (laffer ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer). i don't think that's a leftist trait, though.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Timmy- I agree entirely with both of your posts -- 8:19 and 8:39. Looking forward to 9:09! W.C.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Make that 8:59. Failed my IQ test.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#11)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Marijuana prohibition is like making coffee illegal. LIT-ER-ALLY. Imagine Mrs. Olson in Shackles and orange jumpsuit.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Those of you who proclaim yourselves to be "left leaning" should take care when giving praise to a Social Darwinist like Friedman. While slightly better than the garbage spawn from "religious" hypocrites, his world view is no less cold and unempathetic. I've said it before -- while American law, its priorities, and its penalties are quite obviously unjust, racist, and classist towards controlled substance "abusers" -- I still do not understand how a progressive can honestly believe that making judgement impairing / addictive substances more readily available to large segments of society that are overwhelmingly depressed, violent, suffering, or disillusioned will not result in more suffering. I have known/know many people who are suffering/have suffered as a result of (or were exacerbated by) substance abuse. Having rolled joints on the counter next to the beer and liquor wouldn't have made things better - it would've made things worse. If they hadn't been arrested for possession, it would have been DUI, or vagrancy, or any number of other options a cop has to lock up people who become "criminal" while their judgement is impaired by chemicals. People in desperate situations are prone to self medication. More substances made more available (and heavily marketed!) will lead to greater consumption. The economist Friedman must know this -- and must not care.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    There is more marijuana than ever before. All interdiction methods have been a complete failure. The billions upon billions spent has done nothing to stop the trade. If you want some pot, it is as easy to buy as cigarettes. In fact, easier. It cannot be stopped and never will be stopped. Hell, Republicans smoke pot. If the government wants to make money on the sale and distribution of cannabis, they'll finally do something where they will actually make some money. The US gov came to its senses with alcohol prohibition. It can with cannabis prohibition, too. If they are too proud to put an end to prohibition, they will learn the hard way of what should have been done a long time ago. You can't run up deficit spending, continue to prosecute wars on countries, drugs or whatever without hitting a brick wall at some point. 'Helicopter money' can't go on forever.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    The idea that availability leads to overuse is disproven by the hundred million or more people in the US who are not alcoholics. Some may suffer further from their neuroses, for which they should get therapy. Now compare this absurd caution with the fact that some millions of Americans are labeled as criminals for no other reason than their use of this plant, which has been used by human beings for 10,000 years, and which was bred specifically for use in fact. Which is completely legal in Alaska. Will cannabis decriminalization (the article supports legalization and taxation) cause problems? It will indeed. No one will notice -- it would eliminate so many other problems that people would be positively GIDDY about the future. The same decriminalization goes for ritual use in sacred practices OF ANYTHING traditional and natural. I am, however, very worried that decriminalizing what never should have been criminalized in the first place (no showing of harm having been adduced in actual statistical or scientific evidence) -- will harm the income of sheriffs, DEA, and certain "tropical plant flying" sons of CIA chiefs who haven't sufficiently punished for their REAL, MURDEROUS crimes even now. I would be remiss not to admit that decriminalizing cannabis would DESTROY heterosexual and homosexual marriage as we know it, and lead to huge, worldwide, life-accepting orgies -- from which the human race may never recover (their death wish).

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    Are you all too stoned to realize that the link to the report isn't working? Here's the real link: http://prohibitioncosts.org/MironReport.pdf

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#16)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    If they hadn't been arrested for possession, it would have been DUI, or vagrancy, or any number of other options a cop has to lock up people who become "criminal" while their judgement is impaired by chemicals.
    TS...as far as psychoactive chemicals go...THC is probably one of the lesser evil behavior-producing ones. I will relate the old joke about the three guys that come to the locked door of a shop with a sign on it that says "Be back at 10:30". The drunk guy says "Let's break the door down". The guy tripping on acid says "No, let's float through the keyhole". The baked guy says "Naw man, let's sit down and wait 'til 10:30".

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#17)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:38 PM EST
    Tampa Student, Sorry, I don't really find his position particularly sinister. You know why? Desperate people already medicate themselves with marijuana. The difference is that thanks to the drug war you evidently support, the government jumps in to destroy their lives even further. If marijuana were legal, my friend Thomas Louviere would be alive today. Pot didn't make him commit suicide, the hell our corrupt society forced on him for smoking a harmless plant (just like approximately half of the school) did. I will never forgive people who claim that legalizing marijuana will harm more people than the drug war, because it's a lie and I've got the pain to prove it.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#18)
    by roger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:38 PM EST
    Tampa must be reading those fabricated studies from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This is the same group that published , under Reagan, that one joint would get you high for over 1000 days. I still have friends who would like a shot at that joint! If you really are a student, and want to learn the facts about pot, go here for the truth

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:38 PM EST
    Tampa...I'm a bit surprised by your position. I prefer freedom...the freedom to decide for myself what natural resources I use. MJ helps me reduce stress. I find it works. No person or govt. agency should have any say in the matter.
    Marijuana prohibition is like making coffee illegal. LIT-ER-ALLY
    Ex-freakin-actly Dadler. How do we get the average joe to realize this?

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:38 PM EST
    Also, a net gain of around 13 billion for the govt. ain't nuthing to sneeze at. That could pay for a few days of the war:)

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#21)
    by pigwiggle on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:38 PM EST
    I read this a couple of days ago but decided not to email it in. I figured the chances of a liberal blog running a story about Milt was slim. Guess I was wrong. “Tampa...I'm a bit surprised by your position.” This position is common to many progressives and conservatives alike; the mandate of government is to care for and ensure the safety of its citizens in all aspects of their lives, hence prohibition, seatbelt laws, and so forth. Of course some freedoms will need to be suppressed or taken back (taken back, as they flow from government/society to the people). I think this is backward. Rights are an intrinsic characteristic of the people and these should be reflected in the laws and machinations of government. I don’t think government should curtail the rights of all for some supposed gain of ‘society’ but should simply facilitate a resolution where individual rights may conflict. I think this position is distinct from Dr. Friedman’s in that he tends to view things from a position of what is healthy for markets. For example, I would also argue against the regulation and taxation of MJ; tax revenues and decreasing government expenditures are second to personal freedom. TS- Perhaps your concern would be better expressed through charity and volunteer work with addicts, in place of supporting a policy of state violence. Anyway, thanks for your concern, now you can get back to living your own life. I assure you I am capable of making my own decisions, and as I only have a finite number of them to make in my short life I’m particularly covetous of them.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#22)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:40 PM EST
    Anyway, thanks for your concern, now you can get back to living your own life.
    I recall, PW, that you expressed surprise the first time you heard my position. Now you say that you weren't? But I've gotten the point loud and clear that you believe that you owe nothing back under the social contract that protected you, provided for you, and allowed you to be comfortable at the expense of others while you were a vulnerable youth. Like it or not, some modicum of agreed upon collectivism allowed the middle class to exist. If your parent's income was in the top 5% of the nation, forgive my assumption. Scar: Sinister isn't the correct word (and I didn't use it). He is true to his principles - those principles being that every man/woman should act only in their own best interest and that each should earn/lose based on their ability (except, of course, what they were fortunate enough to start with from birth).
    The difference is that thanks to the drug war you evidently support
    You know, I went out of my way to detail that I do not support the current state of affairs. Issues do not exist in a vacuum - they are datapoints in an interconnected system. Just because I do not want what I consider a dangerous product on the market doesn't mean that I applaud the focus of our criminal justice system (revenge and deterrance through fear). Any progressive policy, say a move to a more rehabilitative system, will be ineffective as long as our society continues gleefully onward down it's current path of unbridled material worship...and I do not have to be anti-capitalism to believe it, I just have to be anti-laissez faire capitalism.
    the hell our corrupt society forced on him for smoking a harmless plant (just like approximately half of the school) did.
    Our society forces a hell on many people for a host of reasons other than posession charges. I am sorry that I disagree with you, but I most vehemently do. The market for *everything* has grown exponentially through economies of scale and innovations of communication technology in the past 30 years. When Corporations get ahold of the Cannabis plant and drive the costs down as they have in a host of third-world produced commodities, that exponential increase in the "adoption" rate of the product is exactly what you're going to see. It will disproportionately impact those who have lost hope in our society (amongst them in large percentages, the marginalized), and those unfortunate friends of mine will continue to neglect themselves and their families in favor of a short-lived fix that makes the daily pains of poverty subside.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:40 PM EST
    It will disproportionately impact those who have lost hope in our society (amongst them in large percentages, the marginalized), and those unfortunate friends of mine will continue to neglect themselves and their families in favor of a short-lived fix that makes the daily pains of poverty subside.
    Interesting point, but I would argue that criminilizing the weed doesn't make the poverty subside. All it does is add to the incarceration rate of those on the margins.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#24)
    by pigwiggle on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:40 PM EST
    TS- Clearly we have a disparate value system. I value personal freedom more than protecting the interests of folks who will use their own personal freedom to harm themselves. I can sympathize with these folks; my father is a recovering alcoholic and I know firsthand what it is like to grow up with addiction and poverty. But like many others my father cleaned up with the help of folks like him in an organization that isn’t state funded. The solution was to fix the deficit in his character with the voluntary help of others like him. This is the social contract; folks compelled of their own free will to help others. The social contract is not using the state to coerce money from working folks to fund a violent bureaucracy that suppresses the freedom of all, irrespective of their problems, lack of, or sympathy for. My ability to use MJ free of state interference is more important than protecting your friend from his bad choices, and clearly an entire nations liberty is far more important than the thousand or hundreds of thousands that may harm themselves given the opportunity. And I suppose this is off topic but: “I recall, PW, that you expressed surprise the first time you heard my position. Now you say that you weren't?” Frankly I was surprised to see how bold you were at admitting the connect, as I believe most of the mindset I described above either don’t see it or refuse to acknowledge the pervasiveness, or perhaps invasiveness. That is to say there are a great number of folks, I think most here, who see government doing things they approve of and consider common sense and never question the mandate or validity until it effects their special interest, and even then they only consider the particular intrusion unwarranted. So, I am not surprised now, and frankly I’m glad I have the opportunity to argue with someone who has given this thorough consideration and is consistent. “… you believe that you owe nothing back under the social contract that protected you …” Well, I suppose we disagree about what this contract is, as I think most folks do. From our previous exchanges it is clear to me you have some ideal in mind that is very far from what I would call the de facto social contract. For whatever reason I am compelled to help out folks, mostly those I am sympathetic with, others feel the same. However, I think this should be voluntary, as most will disagree about whom they personally sympathize with.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#25)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:41 PM EST
    Pigwiggle, I admire your purist approach to decriminalization of MJ. And your pinning of Freidman as taking a free market approach is right on. He's not what I would consider a social crusader.

    Re: Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization (none / 0) (#26)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:45 PM EST
    Hey TL, This just in... Supreme Court Outlaws Use Of Marijuana For Medical Reasons Anyone wanna visit next weekend? :-)