I can think of no more powerful argument for maintaining the existing drug prohibitions than the almost universal opposition on the part of people who call themselves “drug policy reformers” to any effective action to control the damage done by the currently licit drugs.
Every year, more than 20,000 Americans die as the result of other people’s drinking, and yet Jacob is against even modest taxes on alcohol. He nominally supports a ban on drinking by people who behave badly while drunk while opposing the one administrative mechanism that would make such a ban effective. Is a dime a drink and showing your driver’s license to the bartender such an intolerable price to pay for saving thousands of lives? [For the data about the benefits to non-drinkers of raising alcohol taxes, see Philip J. Cook’s book Paying the Tab (Princeton University Press, 2007).]
In practice, the slogan “Let’s replace prohibitions with taxes and regulations” turns out to mean “Let’s make addictive intoxicants ordinary articles of commerce.” John Stuart Mill would not approve. Drinking, even to excess, can be, Mill says, self-regarding behavior and beyond the legitimate scope of regulation. But commerce, he points out, is irreducibly social, and the sellers of dangerous commodities can reasonably the required to take steps to moderate those dangers.