Letters to the Editor
The study of economics provides some insight into why we must end the war on drugs as explained in Mel Goldberg’s fine article on the subject. A principle characteristic of drugs is inelastic demand. What this means is that the demand for drugs is not greatly affected by the price. A drug user will pay whatever the market price of the drug of choice even if he has to beg, borrow, steal or kill to get enough money to buy the drug.
Drugs are also inelastic even if they are cheap in that a drug user only can use a certain amount each day. In economic speak, it’s called diminishing marginal utility – which means when the user is satisfied, there is no longer a demand no matter the low price. On the supply side of the drug market, inelastic demand provides a great opportunity for drug cartels. When the various governmental agencies attempt to curtail the supply of drugs, the price goes sky high and the cartels make a lot of money. They make so much money that they are willing to corrupt officials, kill and do other violent acts because the profit is extraordinary.
This has created a perfect storm where the drug user will pay any price to get drugs; the government limits supply causing the price to rise which makes it more profitable for cartels to sell drugs. Thus the only way to eliminate the violence is to legalize the use of drugs which will lower the price and stop the violence created by drug users as well as drug cartels. The savings to the government (US), according to Goldberg’s article, would be 45 billion dollars. The savings through legalization could be used for education and rehabilitation, and if the government chose to tax drugs they could pay off the national debt. The Goldberg solution is not a perfect solution but may be the only solution.
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