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RaplhCramden,

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.

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.

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?

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..."

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.

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.

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. Even today, in the legal, unregulated dietary supplement market, false claims, non-standardized dosages, and impure products run rampant. The FDA, for all its bureaucratic delay and excessive cost-imposing problems, does serve a function in quality and product standardization control. 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

The fact is, mandatory, uniformly high quality control requires regulation. And regulation implies government enforced restrictions of and penalties on behavior. The market itself does not deliver uniformly high quality across the entire demand curve, otherwise my Saturn would be as luxurious and as high quality as my neighbor's Lexus and my Coach Class airplane seat would come with the same ammenities as my boss' Business Class one. The market does deliver high quality goods and services, but the market does not restrict the delivery of lower quality goods and services at lower price points along the demand curve than can be served by producers of the higher quality goods.

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.

-Chuck

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