Source: The Examiner (Ireland)
Contact:  Thu, 27 Aug 1998


IS prohibition the best way of preventing the use of marketable goods such
as cannabis, heroin or eggs?

Eggs were one of a number of marketable goods rationed during the Second
World War. Rationing is merely the prohibition of certain goods above a set
quantity. Rationing led to a black market and cause otherwise law-abiding
citizens to become criminals. It also led to corruption, with authority
figures turning a blind eye in return for an extra slice or two of bacon or
a pair of nylon stockings.

The United States of America prohibited alcohol for a decade earlier this
century. Once again, a black market sprang up and flourished. Again, many
otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals, and again there was
widespread corruption.

The prohibition of a marketable commodity automatically causes a black
market. These goods, unlike other illegal activities such as murder, are
subject to the laws of economics.

Given demand, the result of restricting supply of a commodity is that the
value of it is enhanced. Because its unit price is raised in proportion to
the reduction in supply, the more effort law enforcement makes in reducing
supply, the more profit goes to the black marketers. The wealth, power and
influence of organised crime are directly increased by prohibition.

Prohibition actually serves the criminal by making the trafficking in
common goods so profitable that it is inevitable. To be a viable, long-term
venture, trafficking depends on the corruption of state employees. This
corruption has reached the upper levels of governments precisely because of
the enormous profitability of black market alcohol, heroin and cocaine.

Relegalisation would eliminate the inflated profits of these marketable
goods and destroy the money-making motives of black marketers. It took the
American government a little over ten years to see what a mistake they had
made with alcohol prohibition. It is taking them, and the governments of
Britain and Ireland even longer to realise that they are making the same
mistake again.

Hugh Robertson, Barrack Street, Perth, Scotland PH1 5RE.

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Checked-by: Pat Dolan