Froma Harrop Advocates Market-Based Solutions (For a Fleeting Moment)

In an op-ed in today’s Projo, Froma Harrop invokes the name of Milton Friedman in arguing for drug legalization…

I was alone on a New York subway platform, when a man started toward me. His glassy eyes foretold what was to happen. He pointed at the flute case I was carrying and said, “Give it to me”….
I didn’t need Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate who died on Nov. 16, to explain the economics involved. My mugger obviously had a drug habit made very expensive by the fact that his narcotic was illegal. Were his drug legal, he might have been able to buy it for the price of celery, in which case he wouldn’t have needed me. He could have found the required change under seat cushions.
As a pure economic transaction, the mugging was most inefficient…
Alas, by the end of the column, any implied endorsement that market-based principles have a serious place in the formulation of government policy as more than a dash of rhetorical window dressing is entirely lost…
Try this instead: Put the drug dealers and narco-terrorists out of business by providing free drugs to our addicted populations. That way, we know who the abusers are and can offer them treatment. And those who persist in their addiction wouldn’t have to prey on the rest of us for drug money.
It’s safe to say that government subsidies for narcotics would not be consistent with the views championed by Professor Friedman.
Still, this is progress of a sort. Maybe we can look forward to some future Froma Harrop columns where she will be supporting market-based ideas in education reform, health care reform, and retirement income reform — even if it’s only for half of a column!

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17 years ago

It doesn’t surprise me that it takes drugs for Froma Harrop to be in agreement with Milton Freidman… 😉

Justin Katz
17 years ago

Doesn’t it often seem as if Harrop’s entire route to intellectual policy formation is through reaction to inconveniences in her own life? There’s probably nothing unusual about that (except the author’s ready access to a newspaper audience), but thorough consideration seems to get lost in the mix. Who cares, she implies by omission, if the mugger were to buy so much celery-priced crack that he, his girlfriend, and her tweenaged child all died of overdoses? Who cares if more people could afford (financially and emotionally) to try it?
Consider: if drugs were free with a stipulation of treatment, wouldn’t that treatment imply a limit to the free drugs? And wouldn’t those who wanted more than their limit still turn to the neighborhood drug dealer (who would now have the new acquisition channel of fraud on the public dime)? It’s as if Harrop deep down understands that one must at least account for the likelihood that legalizing and cheapening drugs — particularly the kind that most often lead to subway muggings — will increase demand, which she doesn’t want, so she fills that gap with a socialist scheme that is doomed to cause more problems than it solves.

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