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Keith Humphreys’ and Jonathan Caulkins’ dance cards are full of straw men

Check out this whopper of an opening sentence in the Guardian:

The loudest voices in US drug policy debates call either for enforcing prohibition with ever-increasing ferocity or for giving up altogether by letting corporations legally sell the currently illicit drugs much as they do tobacco and alcohol.

That’s in Towards a smarter drugs policy by Keith Humphreys and Jonathan Caulkins.

I guess they wanted to be like Kevin Sabet and invent their opponents out of whole cloth so they could be “centrists.” That’s apparently the “scientific” way.

Even for those drugs that we’d like to see sold like tobacco and alcohol, how is that “giving up”?

If they meant “giving up on failed prohibition policies” than yes, I’d go along with that, but they seem to be using the “surrender” straw man.

And legalization is far from surrender.

I didn’t even read the rest of the article. When you start with such a whopper, how much value is there likely to be in the rest?

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14 comments to Keith Humphreys’ and Jonathan Caulkins’ dance cards are full of straw men

  • Francis

    I guess they wanted to be like Kevin Sabet and invent their opponents out of whole cloth so they could be “centrists.” That’s apparently the “scientific” way.

    Yep, it looks like these guys are reading from the same playbook. But note that this is a defensive play not an offensive one. The drug warriors are losing. And they know it. Here are two passages that jumped out at me:

    The most stunning characteristic of illegal drugs is how expensive they are: cocaine and heroin are semi-refined agricultural products, yet at retail they cost many times their weight in gold. Those high prices, which are solely due to the illegal status of drugs, substantially restrain use and dependence. Routine enforcement of the law is necessary to deliver those benefits.

    Yeah, I mean I certainly can’t think of any other way to artificially raise the price of a product. Wouldn’t it be great if there were, though? Heck, while I’m wishing, wouldn’t it be great if you could do it in a way that would actually raise billions in revenue for the state instead of costing taxpayers’ billions? But enough about my crazy dream.

    In contrast, while across-the-board toughness does little to suppress sales of long-established drugs, smart enforcement can be effective at controlling the violence and other toxic side-effects of drug markets.

    Well, hello there MR. ABSOLUTELY-F***ING-HUGE ADMISSION, you don’t mind if I tuck you away for later use, do you? But yes, obviously the reason that prohibition has been a consistent and disastrous failure for decades is not because it’s inherently flawed, it’s that we haven’t implemented it quite right. But NOW, they’ve finally worked out the kinks and perfected it using “science”! I mean, who could oppose “smart enforcement”? They just need one more chance. Really, this is the last one. If it doesn’t work this time (but it will), we can scrap prohibition for good. Nice try, assholes, but sorry. Game over. You lose. Now get the f*** out of the way. (I’m a little grumpy on Monday mornings.)

  • JDV

    There are lots of models of legalization or decriminalization to choose from. Prohibitionists want to pretend that legalization inevitably means selling crystal meth from vending machines.

  • claygooding

    “”The most stunning characteristic of illegal drugs is how expensive they are: cocaine and heroin are semi-refined agricultural products, yet at retail they cost many times their weight in gold. Those high prices, which are solely due to the illegal status of drugs, substantially restrain use and dependence. Routine enforcement of the law is necessary to deliver those benefits.””

    While nearly every tobacco user will tell you that they need to quit tobacco,while they are lighting another one,marijuana users just worry about where to get more.

    And that is why driving the price of marijuana up will result in more people growing their own. Already hydro shops are doing a landslide business as more people invest in the equipment necessary.

  • darkcycle

    I’m gonna dog Humphries to his grave. That guy, for some reason, pisses me off like no other prohibitionist. Even Slimy Sabet doesn’t get under my skin like Humphries. I’m gonna go kick his tail all the way back to the “Realty-Based Community”. But it’ll hafta wait for naptime.

  • Francis

    He’s a drug warrior and a realtor? Ugh. Those guys are the worst. “Now is a great time to buy. Prices will only go up. A home is an investment.” Thanks a lot, jerks. 😉

  • N.T. Greene

    You mean our current policy of letting cartels control the supply via the black market isn’t a form of “giving up”?

    Some days I think the best way to attack criminal enforcement may be to call it what it is: lazy, uninformed, and delusional.

  • Duncan20903

    I thought straw men were for boxing matches?

  • darkcycle

    COMMENTS CLOSED! &^%#%$@&!!!!!

  • darkcycle

    Okay, here we go…this has been a banner month for off the rails prohibitionist ranting. Here another real eye roller. Is it just me, or do they seem to have utterly abandoned any attemp at all to sound like rational human beings?:
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/317609

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      You know, there used to be some really smart prohibitionists. The problem was, they were too smart to remain prohibitionists. The lower the average IQ of the Know Nothing prohibitionist plummets, the more insane the drivel becomes.

      The only alleged prohibitionists left with any brains are guys like Mr. Humphreys, who is more accurately described as a mercenary. Even his rhetoric will become more and more hysterical inversely proportional to the decline in the collective IQ of his potential audience. At least it will if he wants to milk it for all that he’s able to get.

    • Windy

      I went over there and posted a comment on the social comments answering a commenter on the DJ comments about the effect of cannabis on lungs, I pointed him to Dr. Tashkin.

  • kaptinemo

    So, now they’re adopting our language, huh?

    I’ve said several times in the past that when things start to get dicey for the prohibs, they’ll start trying to camouflage themselves by using our rhetoric. It looks like that time is here.

    I figured that when the fiscal writing was on the wall for all to see, spelling the eventual doom of drug prohibition, the tone of the language would change; we’d start to see “Smart on crime!” being used in a move away from “Tough on crime!”, as ‘tough’ will prove to be an expensive facade to maintain…not to mention being embarrassingly ineffectual. Especially when ‘getting tough’ has led to the cartels becoming even more powerful. So powerful that, in fact, they have become the fruits of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the prohibs were, prior to the Medellin cartel’s demise, worried that with all the money that the cartels have, they could buy all manner of military hardware and challenge national authority (which is what is happening in Mexico). Hence the paramilitarization of US police begun thirty years ago…all to fight a boogeyman that didn’t exist until they created it.

    The cartels didn’t start arming up and becoming insanely violent until the prohibs got their wet-dream of ‘fighting this war like a real war!’. (That it happened on Mexican soil is a two-fer for certain foreign policy wonks, as it gets to destabilize a neighbor nation and provide lots of cheap labor trying to escape the asylum.) The DrugWarriors, out of fear of a nonexistant threat, initiated the process that made that fictional threat into reality. Again, all predicted 10 years or more ago, by drug law reformers. One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see where all this was heading. Jus’ plain ol’ common sense. Which is starting to seep into the prohib’s rhetoric.

    But, while they try to sound like the voice of sweet reason, they’re still trying to pretend their basic premises don’t smell like the skunks they are. No amount of trying to paint themselves as reformers by adopting our language will cover that reek.