Libertarian economist David Henderson explains how ending the War on Drugs will lift people out of poverty.
We hear a lot about the top 1%. We don’t hear a lot about the bottom 1%. There are about 313 million people in America today. 1% of 313 million is 3,130,000. In our prisons today are 2,200,000 people. So the people in prison are 2/3 of one percent. And their wages are typically about 23 cents an hour. They are, essentially, the bottom 1%.
Many of them are there for violent crimes, theft, fraud, and other such things. But hundreds of thousands of them are there for buying, selling, or producing illegal drugs. The drug war has put them there. And we taxpayers are paying $30,000 a year and more to keep them there.
So let me get this straight: high-income people are paying lots of taxes so that the government can put poor people in prison and keep them poor or put non-poor people in prison and make them poor.
We hear the occupy people advocate taxing the top 1% more. I’ve got a better idea: let’s tax the top 1% less–they’re already paying a disproportionately high share of taxes–and let a few hundred thousand of the bottom one percent out of prison and out of their grinding poverty in prison.
David Henderson, “The Bottom One Percent“, Econ Log, 29 April 2012.
The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest in the world. This human tragedy in caused, in no small part, by the War on Drugs. It is time to decriminalize victimless crimes.
I do not agree that the top 1% are “paying a disproportionately high share of taxes”, but want to point out that drugs can be legalised without changing the tax code. Taxes and drug legalisation are related, however, for two reasons. First, maintaining prisoners in jail is costly for taxpayers. Second, and more important, ending prohibition creates opportunities to tax drug consumption (witness the examples of tobacco and alcohol).