Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Ohio is about to legalize marijuana in exactly the wrong
way, by creating
Issue 3, as the proposed amendment is known, is bankrolled by wealthy investors spending nearly $25 million to put it on the ballot and sell it to voters. If it passes, they will have exclusive rights to growing commercial marijuana in Ohio. The proposal has a strange bedfellows coalition of opponents: law enforcement officers worried about crime, doctors worried about children's health, state lawmakers and others who warn that it would enshrine a monopoly in the Ohio Constitution. [bold added]To their credit, many otherwise pro-legalization Ohioans are going to vote against this initiative. That said, much of the opposition is unprincipled, motivated by a vague suspicion of "big business" and popular myths about capitalism. I will take the opportunity this fact affords me to point out that government-granted monopolies are not capitalism, as Ayn Rand once argued:
A "coercive monopoly" is a business concern that can set its prices and production policies independent of the market, with immunity from competition, from the law of supply and demand. An economy dominated by such monopolies would be rigid and stagnant.The coupling of the grant of a monopoly is inconsistent in principle and in practice with the legalization of marijuana since it represents the mere granting of a permission by the government (that it has no business being in a position to grant), rather than a recognition of having been in the wrong, and a promise to protect the freedom it is supposed to protect. For just one concrete example, consider the threat of very easy regulation, taxation, and even revocation that the monopolist represents here. One grower, already meekly in the lap of the government, has but one neck to lead, throttle, or chop once a government hostile to the freedom to decide what one ingests comes to power.
The necessary precondition of a coercive monopoly is closed entry -- the barring of all competing producers from a given field. This can be accomplished only by an act of government intervention, in the form of special regulations, subsidies, or franchises. Without government assistance, it is impossible for a would-be monopolist to set and maintain his prices and production policies independent of the rest of the economy. For if he attempted to set his prices and production at a level that would yield profits to new entrants significantly above those available in other fields, competitors would be sure to invade his industry. [bold added]
While it is possible that such limited legalization could help erode the ignorance and prejudice that help keep drug laws on the books, the price is too great. That price is that an opportunity to advocate actual freedom might be lost, and with it, the chance to improve many more aspects of our lives by moving our laws generally to support individual rights.
If we are again to have a nation of laws, and not men, we must have laws that apply to everyone generally, rather than granting special favors to one faction or another. Advocates of legalized marijuana would do well to join advocates of individual rights, such as myself, in demanding that drug legalization be done on the correct basis.