Would a Free Society "Control" Drug Use?Submitted by MarcMadness on Tue, 05/14/2013 - 15:52
My recent criticism of Rand Paul’s comments on drug legalization and my follow up post have led to some questions from fellow libertarians about just if or how drug use could be regulated if it weren’t for the government. How would a free society, one without government at all, deal with drugs?
The easy libertarian answer is simply “it wouldn’t”. And this is certainly true in the sense of what we think of as “drug control” today. There would be no “State” that would make laws restricting what substances one puts in one’s body. Nobody would be punished simply for an act which, at most, would harm only themselves.
However, a private society would have its own way of regulating drugs. Without an FDA to decide what pharmaceutical drugs are “safe”, and without other drugs being pushed to the black market due to their prohibition, there would be a bustling market for drugs of all kinds. Alternatively, our current system of regulation and prohibition produces problems on both ends. One side we have a government monopoly, with no market price signals nor customers to serve, deciding what drugs are “safe” and “unsafe”. On the other we have black market drugs, which the user has less information about in terms of purity and quality and often has to “take what they can get”. Customer complaint forms are not passed out on the dangerous illegal drug market.
It is very likely that in a free society without State restrictions on drugs competing private “quality control” agencies would spring up to test certain drugs for quality, safety, effectiveness,etc. You might even see a “Yelp” type service for drugs in which willing users test and comment on their benefits and successes. Terminal patients could be free to try new drugs coming onto the market and report back with their results. Some people may get sick or even die from the side effects, but that already happens with many FDA-approved drugs today. At least under a market system it wouldn’t cost billions of dollars to get potentially life-saving new drugs out onto the market, and the overall cost of drugs would plummet.