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I'm sorry I can't find unifying themes in that long post. SO the only thing I can think to do is rebut point by point and maybe between the two of us looking at that we'll have a better idea where our essential disagreements are.

In the absence of regulations, proscriptions, or enforced monopoly power restricting competition, the marketplace dictates that there will be innovation. If crack was a 'black market' innovation response to the price of cocaine, then it would likely have been an innovation regardless of whether the substance was legal or not. In fact, if PhD pharmacologists, market researchers, and other sharp, legal actors were brought to bear on the problem, I'd bet they would have formulated crack well before the 1980s.

The relevant question is not whether it would have been figured out, but whether it would survive in the legal market. I actually don't have much of an opinion on crack because I am really quite ignorant of the difference between crack and cocaine, and why or how crack achieves its market strength.

But to the extent that crack is valued on the street because it uses less of the expensive cocaine in its formulation, it would effectively COMPLETELY lose that advantage if cocaine were legalized. Sugar costs pennies per POUND, cocaine is, at the street, ~$100/gram? That would be $45,000/pound or something like 100,000 times as expensive as sugar. It seems clear enough that technically, cocaine should be in the neighborhood the same expense to produce as sugar. So I would expect the price of cocaine to collapse AT LEAST 99.9% under legalization, possibly more. At that price, cocaine consumption forms would be traded off entirely on the basis of the quality of the consumption and various intangibles like faddishness.

THe closest legal market I can think of is bottled water. The cost of the raw material is not relevant to the success of the product. Smaller bottles of fancy shmancy water will sell just as well if not better as larger cheaper bottles saying "kirkland" or "walmart" on them.

But in NO case is anybody wasting their time trying to sell low quality water. There is no point, no material economic advantage in doing so.

That was the important point. When a good quality raw material costs a tiny fraction of the final selling price of an item, ALL competitors will use a high quality raw material.

So unless Crack is simply more fun than cocaine, or unless it achieves and maintains a cultural or stylistic appeal, it will not survive in the market, if there are any DISADVANTAGES to it.

After all, crack is usually viewed as more addictive than straight cocaine, is cheaper per dose to produce, and the usage profile indicates more return hits. From a profit-minded business perspective, ignoring the legality of crack, it appears to be a far better profit-source drug than cocaine.

Cheaper per dose advantage disappears under legalization, with raw cocaine at ~$1/pound. More addictive is a competitve DISADVANTAGE if it is true, unless crack is also more fun. Given a choice between getting drunk on something that addicts your or gives you a hangover, and something that gets you just as drunk but without a hangover or addiction, it is beyond plausible that the market would choose the latter.

Business might WANT to sell the more addictive substance. Let them try and see how well they do with better buzzes available on the market without the harmful side effects.

Or, heaven forbid, take the middle ground and legalize drugs one or two or three at a time, just to see what ACTUALLY happens, and keep crack really low on the list. See if OTHER legal drugs drives crack off the market anyway. It probably would: with the vast majority of the market switching to cheap legal drugs, the criminal gangs would be out of the drug business.

Think businesses wouldn't innnovate to make their drugs more potent? Again, look at the tobacco industry - where one of the charges against cigarette manufactures is that they artifically add extra nicotine to make their product more addictive. Think similar innovation wouldn't have happened in the cocaine industry?

And as information came out, they artificially lowered nicotine content to create a marketing niche for those smokers who thought that would help.

Drug addicts may not be "rational actors" by YOUR definition, but they are not stupid, by my definition. They definitely have wants and desires and goals that they are trying to meet with these drugs. And changing the mix of what is available to them under what conditions and what prices, will change their behavior.

I think it is plausible that were drugs legal, there would be effectively NO PCP use, no glue sniffing, and I don't know what else because I really do not know my drugs all that well.
I seriously doubt that. PCP was originally invented as an anasthetic, by legitimate medical researchers. It likely would have been invented regardless of the prevailing drug laws at the time, because it was invented legally. Its legal use quickly stopped once people started having psychotic reactions to the drug. In low doses, according to http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/pcp.html , the drug itself causes "Feelings of euphoria (well-being), relaxation, numbness, sensory distortions, feelings of detachment from one's own body..."


My point is NOT that PCP never would have been invented. Again my point is its success in the market place. When drug distribution is as haphazard as it is, with high quality drugs only intermittently available at probably 1000X the price they would be under legalization, then people who want drugs will try lower quality CURRENTLY lower cost alternatives. But when cocaine and heroin rival sugar to see which is the cheapest per pound, why would ANYONE not pick these high quality drugs over something as stupid as PCP?

Further, maybe there would be some wierd hardcore of idiots who chose PCP. But with the market for PCP DECIMATED by the presence of cheap high quality other drugs, these connossieurs of bad highs will NOT have a supply made available for them. Especially if society takes the middle course and only legalizes drugs a few at a time, leaving the scariest ones for last.

Many of those would appear to me to be desirable sensations, for a large segment of the population. As such, I very much doubt that, once the substance had been invented, people would avoid it were it freely available. The disassociative anesthetic nature of the substance, however, would dictate that the unfortunate police encounters such as with Misters King and Jones would still be a problem, even if PCP were legalized and available freely.

The desirable sensations of PCP are available from other drugs, in most drug users opinions the sensations are BETTER from the other drugs. The idea that rate of people choosing PCP over cocaine or heroin when cocaine and heroin cost a fraction as much (under a partial legalization) flies in the face of what we know about market behavior.

You ought to know that during prohibition, alcohol was made in bathtubs in private homes, illegally, for illegal sale. The process was a bit rough, and a fair amount of Methanol would be present along with the desired Ethanol product. The methanol was actually harmful to those who drank it, if I recall correctly it blinded many people.

You think without regulation people wouldn't have figured out how to get safe alcohol? I think you are just wrong. Seagrams would make it a point to sell safe alcohol because a trusted brand name is valuable. They don't actually NEED someone from the government to tell them not to poison or blind their customers in order to figure out that is bad business.

In an unregulated free market, the rule is 'caveat emptor', let the buyer beware. Prior to the creation of the FDA and truth in advertising laws, Snake Oil salesmen abounded across the countryside, selling their potions as cure-all products to all who would listen. At best, their products did no harm. At worst, they were damaging.

The amount of business they could do that way was INFINITESIMAL compared to other delivery channels. Consider even the corner drug store or even a grocery selling drugs and remedies. There store was in one place, depending ENTIRELY on repeat business of the local folk. What kind of rate of poisoning customers do you think they could tolerate and still do well? Pretty low I'll tell you what. And if they did sell something that was questionable, do you think they would order it in again? No, the system corrects itself ADMIRABLY in the absence of regulation.

In the absence of regulation, the market would dictate that there would still be quality products, but instead of nearly uniformly standardized products, the market itself would dictate varying quality levels across the different demand points.

This is a feature, not a bug. If I want to pay extra for more quality and I can afford it, yay for me! Meanwhile, if a dirt-poor country in some tropical clime is losing 5% of its population per year from some stupid preventable infection, should they NOT be able to buy at a low price a less-than-perfect supply of antibiotics, when the real choice is simply not having enough antibiotics? If the "unsafe" supply of antibiotics would save 80% of the people dying, should the really be "regulated" into waiting, at the cost of 4% of their population per year, until they can afford better quality control?

Quality SHOULD be available at a price on the free market.

In a world where any substance could be ingested, the laws of supply and demand would still rule. Some businesses would compete on quality and deliver 'pure' drugs. Others would compete on price and would deliver lower priced, likely impure substances. And others would attempt to find innovative solutions, such as crack, to be able to compete at lower price points.

Yes thats right! And by keeping the price of cocaine and heroine at 100,000X what they would be in the absence of drug laws, government is giving these low quality low price producers 100,000X the incentive to do that work. Methanol in alcohol was a problem during prohibition. Not after, and not before. The higher quality raw material was too cheap before and after prohibition for such low quality as poison to succeed in the market at any price point.

The symptoms from 'impure drugs' that the legalize drugs crowd argues would be eliminated were drugs legalized would still exist. Any competitive marketplace has price and quality points at which different products and companies compete.

Yes, and price points at which certain products become uneconomic.

In wine, you can go from "Two Buck Chuck" to "Dom Perignon" or even higher.

And two buck chuck will NOT kill you, or at least it is no more dangerous than Dom Perignon. Under prohibition, the HIGHER priced illegal alcohol avaialble would kill or blind people.

PRICE MATTERS.

Suggesting that an unregulated free market would naturally eliminate quality control problems ignores a very large chunk of human history and economic reality. Are you suggesting, instead, that the government be involved in mandating product safety standards? How would those laws look and work, in a world where the government could not prevent the personal ingestion of any substance? It could not mandate that cocaine be sold only as pure cocaine, and not mixed to form crack. And speaking of cocaine, the drug itself is found naturally in leaves. If the product must be taken 'au naturale' as a consequence of any laws restricting alteration, the powdered substance itself could very well be prohibited, as it would be an alteration of the natural form of the substance. Additionally, any legal scheme restricting chemical alteration could potentially take a whole host of currently legal compounds and make them illegal.

The most basic driver or quality control is free market. Brands or delivery channels that hurt their customers are driven out by brands or delivery channels that are safer through pure human nature.

If the FDA were stopped tomorrow, would you buy ANY of the new drugs that came on the market the next day? The answer is:
1) If you were smart and you were not in imminent danger, you would not, you would wait to see what happened with them, and you would check with experts and do other things to figure out if they were worthwhile
2) If you were about to die of a tumor or something that was untreatable using legal drugs, you MIGHT buy something that came out, even though it might be unsafe! And it would be INCREDIBLY rational for you to make that choice, and it is incredibly annoying that the FDA prevents us now from making that choice.

In an unregulated free market where 'caveat emptor' ruled, nor could the government enforce civil penalties against the manufacturers or producers of the lower quality substances. After all, the purchaser knowingly and willingly purchased the substance and used it, in spite of the fact that it was a risky substance. Think it wouldn't happen? Look at the difficulty that private and class action lawsuits have in getting civil judgements to stick against the tobacco industry, in spite of evidence directly linking smoking to cancer and death. The only one of any consequence that has really 'stuck' has been the one levied by the state governments themselves. And that to me has more a feel of Mafia-esque 'protection' money than a legitimate liability claim.

Lets face it, anybody suing the tobacco companies that is less than about 50 years old in the U.S. has no one to blame but themselves. The information was crammed down my throat in public schools about how bad tobacco was. Yet my reject friends all took up smoking, as teenagers. How do you blame the tobacco companies for that?

There may be a lot of "all or nothing" types around here, but I am not one of them and it is a counter productive way to argue. If SOME drugs, the less scary ones, were legalized, and they WERE covered by FDA rules to list ingredients, to follow some nanny-state rules, then would we be better off or worse off? Why argue against legalization of drugs because Crack and PCP suck, when hardly ANYBODY can think of a case against Marijuana or Psilocybin?

Baby steps, babyfrog, baby steps. To paraphrase Bob.

Presume, for a minute, that liability claims could be enforced in a Libertarian, 'any substance can be ingested' world. The result of expensive liability claims would, by economic necessity, be higher prices. And higher prices would increase the likelihood of black market, uncontrolled alternatives - or precisely the types of substances and behaviors you claim will be eliminated by following the Libertarian philosophy. In other words, Crack Happens.

Lets get our orders of magnitude in order.

First of all, liability claims would serve to weed out the more dangerous drugs, since it is the price of THOSE which would rise to cover the claims history. Second of all, with legal coke going for $2/hit in 7/11, $6/hit in the juvenile night clubs, and $7/24 hits at Costco and Walmart, just how much can the black market PCP and crack dealers make? I'll give you a hint: a LOT less than when illegal coke goes for 10 or 100 times those prices.

Wouldn't you LIKE to see lower success rates for PCP and Crack?

If you accept the need for regulation to enforce uniformly high quality control standards, then you accept the need for restrictions on behaviors and substances, and you therefore implicitly reject the Libertarian principle that any substance should be legal to ingest. And if you believe that the unregulated free market provides uniformly high quality products across the demand curve, making such regulation unnecessary, then you ignore human history.

Between the theoretical extremes is a vast playing field called reality. If you think I am extreme, then consider where the tradeoff should be made. Politics and government and policy are NOT all or nothing, not in real life.

Consider legalizing MORE drugs, skipping the ones you are most afraid of.

Consider some level of regulation of the substances if that makes you comfortable. Perhaps a level of regulation that does not involve military attacks in columbia? A level of regulation that does not result in shootouts between the regulators and those in the business as commonly happens now?

Consider the fact that we have more Americans in prison than any other country has of their citizens, and we could fix that in a hurry by decriminalizing drugs.

I hope this helps.
R:

-Chuck
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