Why not legalise drugs and prostitution?

Tom Winnifrith Monday 2 June 2014


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The big news for libertarians, like me, last week was that vice (drugs and prostitution) look set to be included in how we calculate GDP in the UK. Apparently they are worth a combined £10 billion to the UK each year.  You can from that number make a number of assumptions.

1. The vast amounts the State spends trying to tackle these crimes is not working and is money wasted.

2. There are very few rich hookers or drug pushers (the actual distributors) and since the non-labour cost of sales is very low (drugs are cheap as a raw commodity and condoms and a bit of advertising cost sod all) you can assume that organised crime is raking in billions a year.

So please can anyone explain why the current system ( which brings endemic health risks for many, a tab the State then picks up) can be said to work? We do not prevent anyone who wants to from taking drugs or using hookers all we do is allow organised crime to make a killing.

Legalising vice would allow the sale of sex and drugs at lower prices, even after the State imposed suitable taxes, because the criminal element in the current equation would be eliminated.

State resources wasted on failing to tackle vice would be saved (80% of crime in the UK is drug related) and cutting down the health risks by allowing a regulated legal trade would be an added saving for the State. Driving these trades to a flourish underground causes diseases which could be reduced if drugs and syringes were sold legally in tobacconists and if hookers could operate legally under license as long as they passed certain health checks.

The effects on the UK budget deficit would be positive and the only losers would be the criminals. What is so bad about that?

As a libertarian I believe that what one does or puts into your own body is your call and your call alone. And so from an ideological standpoint I would legalise these “vices” – I cast no judgement on those who indulge.

The current system is muddled in that certain drugs (tobacco, alcohol, mushrooms) are legal while others are not. The system is the result of confused thinking.

But the key point that should drive non-libertarians into thinking as we do is that the current system just does not work. It is an economic and health disaster. I can see why organised crime supports the status quo. I can see why Daily Mail Readers might out of prejudice if not logic support the status quo. But if not driven by prudishness or a desire to engage in crime, how can anyone else argue against an end to these unworkable prohibitions?

This is a longer version of an article that originally appeared in my weekend Tomograph Newsletter. To register to ensure that you receive the Tomograph click HERE.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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