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04.04.2006

Public lecture of prof. David Rasmussen, Dean of College of Social Sciences, Florida State University: Fighting Addiction to Drug War: What America Can Learn From Europe (An economic analysis of drug policy)

Publisher: MUDr. Tomáš Zábranský Ph.D. | Last update: 04.03.2006

The lecture will be given under the auspices of Prof. Tomas Zima, Dean of the 1st Medical Faculty, Charles University. The lecture will be followed by open discussion. Translation to- and from Czech will be available.

An economic perspective on the war on drugs is presented in the first part of this paper. Various criteria for evaluating America’s drug policy are identified and each is reviewed in light of economic theory and empirical evidence. The conclusion is that the policy based on prohibition has failed to shrink drug abuse, has undermined public safety, and has turned policy makers away from policy alternatives that may be much more effective. Economic analysis suggests that these failures are inevitable because drug users can change their consumption patterns in response to relative price changes, trade-offs and unintended consequences accompany any allocation of police resources because drug suppliers can react to law enforcement policy, and law enforcement officials respond to incentives in ways that are not necessarily consistent with a socially optimal drug policy.

The second part of this paper explores the extent to which America is “addicted” to its drug war. Addiction in this context would imply that the cultural and political forces supporting the drug war are so entrenched that critical policy analysis cannot overcome them in the foreseeable future. However, it is a reasonable conjecture that America’s federalist system is generating substantial pressure to reform drug policy in some states. As long as the national government suppresses drug policy experiments at the state level, European nations will be the “laboratories of democracy” that allow the evaluation of alternative drug policies.


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