Graham's Reviews > Regulating Vice: Misguided Prohibitions and Realistic Controls

Regulating Vice by Jim Leitzel
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's review
Jun 30, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: non-computer-books
Read from May 02 to June 29, 2010

A well researched book arguing why vice prohibition is futile and counterproductive. The book starts out by covering John Stuart Mill and his harm-reduction and robustness criteria for evaluating vice regulation. Harm-reduction concerns what Leitzel calls the 3 1/3 principle, consisting of harm caused to children, addicts, non-users, with the last third being rational users. Leitzel shows that while harm-reduction of the 3 1/3 groups is important, robustness must also be considered. Robustness consists of the effectiveness of prohibition and not overly restricting rational adult users in the pursuit of protecting the other 3 groups.

The first vice Leitzel covers is illegal drugs. It is here I found the most interesting information. When measuring bodily harm to heavy users, of all drugs measured (including alcohol and tobacco) alcohol came out the winner. It beat heroine and cocaine, and severely trounced cannabis, MDMA, and LSD. When measuring addiction potential (% of users that having started a drug wish to quit, but cannot) tobacco was the winner, followed by heroine and cocaine, and in last place, yet again cannabis, MDMA, and LSD, among others. Surprisingly, the drugs that are most harmful and addictive are already legal. Following the health and addiction argument, Leitzel goes on to show the parallels of alcohol prohibition with the current war on drugs. Leitzel concedes that while it is impossible to know a priori if drug use would not increase following legalization, consumption rates of alcohol were the same before, during, and after prohibition. A later passage shows how increases in taxation of alcohol and tobacco are shown to directly reduce consumption. The drug section concludes by showing how the new tax revenue, in addition to the money saved in lack of enforcement and incarceration of non-violent drug users, can be directed towards treatment and prevention programs, with plenty left over for other government expenditures. In conclusion proper regulation of drugs would virtually eliminate organized crime, release several thousand non-violent drug offenders, increase government revenue, and plausibly not increase drug use.

The remaining chapters cover gambling, prostitution, and porn using slight variations on the arguments used in the drug chapter. All in all, Regulating Vice shows through historical, medical, and current empirical examples from other countries, that not only is vice prohibition futile, it is also harmful and inefficient.
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