Did you ever hear the story of some kid who traveled to Singapore, sprayed some graffiti, and was then arrested and caned for it? That’s right. Graffiti can get you a caneing in Singapore. And littering can get you a $1,000 fine. But you know what? Their streets are clean, and their buildings don’t have graffiti all over them. They also don’t have drug problems. Why? Because importing drugs into the country can land the offender on death row. Drug dealers get the death penalty.
At the complete other end of the spectrum (at least on the drug issue) is the Netherlands. Unlike almost all other countries in Europe, and even the world, the Netherlands has legalized drug use. As a result, drug use has decreased, as has related crime. Roughly 10% of Americans have used marijuana in the last year, while only 5% of Dutch have. Heroine use is about 1/3 as prevalent in the Netherlands as it is in America. There are also 1/7 as many prisoners (per 100,000), and 1/5 as many homicides (per 100,000).
How can both nations have low drug use rates, both less than America, but have such wildly different policies? It is because of the risk/reward ratio. Whatever the action, to reduce it, the risk must be great OR the reward must be little. In Singapore, the risk of importing drugs is as high as it can be. No one would be stupid enough to try to import drugs; the risk is too great.
The Netherlands, by legalizing drugs, have made it far less profitable. Competition has brought prices down, and drug-gang monopolies don’t exist. By legalizing drugs, the reward has been diminished. The result is not only that there is less crime, but also that there is less drug use.
In America, on the other hand, our risk/reward ratio is completely reversed. Drugs are illegal, so dealers can make a lot of money selling them. Its a profitable business because drug cartels have a monopoly on the supply of drugs. Our criminal justice system is also pretty lax. Many drug dealers get multiple slaps on the wrist before they are ever sent to prison. And once they get to prison, chances are that they won’t serve their full time and will get out early on probation.
The way to fix this is obvious. To get rid of drug crime we either have to lower the reward by legalizing drugs, or increase the risk by having a stricter justice system. America has done neither, and the results are painfully clear. Considering the fact that we can’t manage to close our borders, and can’t even keep drugs out of our prisons, the only option is the pro-liberty option of legalizing the use and sale of drugs. This would end the cartel monopoly on drugs, increase competition, decrease profitability, and decrease the reward.