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The Economics of Prohibition

  • The Economics of Prohibition by Mark Thornton
July 20, 2005

Tags HealthThe Police State

It is conventional wisdom that alcohol prohibition failed, but the economic reasons for this failure have never been as extensively detailed or analyzed as they are in this study by Mark Thornton.

The lessons he draws apply not only to the period of alcohol prohibition but also to drug prohibition and any other government attempt to control consumption habits. The same pattern is repeated again and again.

Thornton's treatment of the topic is methodical. He first examines the history of prohibition laws, primarily focusing on American implementation of prohibitionist policies. He examines the prime movers in the alcohol, narcotics, and marijuana prohibition movements. He then examines the theoretical premises upon which prohibition advocates depend, and thoroughly exposes them as fallacious.

After examining the history and theory of prohibition, Thornton reveals the effects of such policies on the potency of illegal drugs. He explains how prohibition inevitably creates incentives for producers to increase the potency of drugs and alcohol products distributed via the black market.

Also investigated in this book are the effects of prohibition policies on crime rates and government corruption rates. Finally, Thornton discusses the repeal of prohibition, offering both public policy alternatives and truly free-market solutions.

According to Murray N. Rothbard, "Thornton's book... arrives to fill an enormous gap, and it does so splendidly... The drug prohibition question is... the hottest political topic today, and for the foreseeable future... This is an excellent work making an important contribution to scholarship as well as to the public policy debate."


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References

 (1991) Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.