Regarding the collection of views you published in "America After Prohibition" (Oct.): Most thinking people now realize that drug prohibition increases crime and makes huge profits for drug black-marketeers and corrupt government officials. But two things prevent the acceptance of drug legalization. First, fear that the easier availability of now-illicit drugs would increase abuse to the level of abuse of alcohol and tobacco, which kill over a quarter million Americans a year. Second, the belief that laws must send a message that drug abuse is a no-no.
Both objections to legalization would be addressed to the satisfaction of rational holders of these views, and the crime problems associated with the black market eliminated, if decriminalization rather than legalization were adopted as optimum social policy. This would mean that all personal drug use, trade, and production would be treated as a citable infraction like a speeding ticket. The black market in drugs would collapse because of the drop in prices, and the associated crime would disappear. And since it is easy to police open-market sales, drug availability would not increase, nor would levels of abuse. Finally, this would satisfy those who look to the law to send a message of potential harm from drugs.
Penalties could even be waived in court upon a showing of no harm from the use or from the showing of a consumer's drug-use certificate indicating knowledge of the dangers of abuse and the safe levels of drug usage. This approach makes far more sense than the spectacle of drug-vote-crazed members of Congress passing laws to subject users of intoxicants that are no more harmful than a glass of wine or whiskey to five years in prison and fines of $10,000 and trying to take away from all of us the right to privacy in the Fourth Amendment, turning the United States into a police state.
Lower Lake, CA
While I basically agree with Ron Paul's views on drugs, he is unrealistic about the effect of legalization on drug-related crime. The price of drugs would drop dramatically, yes, but let's remember that many addicts are not disposed to work to support their habits. Certainly, many are not desirable employees. Drug-related crime would continue.
Paul states that "there is no violence associated with acquiring alcohol." But there are neighborhoods where one is at risk of being hit over the head so that his attacker can purchase liquor.
While drug-related crime would continue, it would certainly diminish. What is also important to remember is that by not throwing away billions of dollars in a "war against drugs," many of these dollars could be spent in dealing more effectively with these crimes. Of the balance, we can hope that a significant portion might be left in the pockets of citizens who could exercise "individual responsibility" through such options as taking self-defense classes and purchasing burglar alarms.
John M. Campbell
Who Says Third Parties Can't Succeed?
I hate to disillusion you all ("Radical Views, Conservative Style," Nov.), but the last time a third party took over the second spot in the United States was in 1912, when the Progressive Party came out second, in popular and electoral votes, in the national election, and the Republicans third.
The editors reply: We hate to split hairs, but REASON stands by its statement that "no third party has taken over second spot since the Republicans displaced the Whigs in 1856." Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 performance did not break the Democratic-Republican duopoly.
REA Leaves People in the Dark
A friend tells me it's not quite true that "electricity reached every hill and hollow by the mid-1960s" ("FDR's Juvenile Delinquents," Editorials, Nov.). There are still places without electricity around Chattanooga. The electrification of one such place made headlines here recently. The Rural Electrification Administration has not only subsidized "the affluent suburbs of Atlanta…and Nashville." It has also failed to do its job—and the Tennessee Valley Authority, in the very heart of its bailiwick, has likewise failed.
Red Bank, TN
This Letter Printed on 100 Percent Recycled Paper
REASON is a superb publication. But in the Balance Sheet item titled "Eco-Hysteria" (Trends, Nov.), Virginia I. Postrel chooses rhetoric over reason in belittling legitimate environmental challenges: "We're not just running out of gas this time. The seas will boil. The skies will burn. AIDS-filled needles will wash up on shore and kill us all. This is not politics, it's not economics, it's fire-and-brimstone, apocalyptic religion."
Your hysteria discredits free-market thought. It implies that we have no answers to environmental challenges, and so prefer to pretend they don't exist. Rather than drawing us as narrow ideologues, rise to the challenge.
Free markets find their strongest theoretical foundation in nature. A healthy economy and healthy ecosystem operate by the same rules: both are enriched by diversity. Both advance through a complex interplay of competition and cooperation. Both depend on freedom, which facilitates creation and progressive evolution. A free-market environmental policy would internalize the costs of pollution and waste, end water subsidies, charge polluters (all of us) the full cost of their activities. Take the time to draw out these ideas in your pages. Build a constituency among environmentalists, rather than condemn them. Until free-market thinking moves beyond the easy issues and grapples with the problems that embolden community activists, it will remain peripheral, never winning the popular support it deserves.
William K. Shireman
It's a Dog's Life
I am a practicing veterinarian. I read REASON with a great deal of interest, but your comparison of $5.00 fees by groomers to $100 fees by veterinarians for dental care for dogs (Brickbats, Nov.) alarmed me considerably about your data gathering. A groomer, or anybody, can probably safely brush a dog's teeth. However, state-of-the-art veterinary dentistry requires general anesthetic for the pet, sophisticated machinery, and expertise acquired through education and experience. Veterinary dentistry is not just a "tooth-brushing," and the fee is set accordingly.
Wendy Fagan, D.V.M.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".