US anti-drug laws essentially set a maximum price of zero on drugs. Economically speaking, would it be more effective to legalize drugs and let the market control things?
Economics cannot truly answer this question because this is a normative issue. It is an issue based on values rather than on economic principles.
Legalizing drugs would, according to economics, make for a more efficient market in drugs. However, one likely impact of this would be to actually decrease the cost of drugs. There would, for example, no longer be a premium paid to dealers who have to run the risk of going to prison or of being killed in gang wars. Economically speaking, this is a good thing in that the same product would be available at a lower price.
However, this is an area that really goes outside of economics. Economic thinking cannot decide which products are good or bad. It can only talk about how best to make those products cheaper and of higher quality. So legalization would help the market for drugs become more efficient, but we still have to ask whether we want the market for drugs to be efficient or if we want it not to exist at all.
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