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Obama’s Dismissal of Drug Legalization

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Obama’s Dismissal of Drug Legalization"

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(cc photo by Wili Hybrid)

(cc photo by Wili Hybrid)

Peter Suderman highlights a disappointing moment from the president’s generally excellent Allentown Q&A:

Prompted by a rather bizarre question from a Sophomore at Lehigh Carbon Community College who wanted to know – based on his criminology course studies – if the President has considered legalizing prostitution, some drugs, and releasing non-violent offenders to stimulate the economy, the President answered with an unequivocal no.

“I appreciate the boldness of your question,” Mr. Obama said during his Allentown, PA jobs town hall, “That will not be my job strategy.”

Obama delivered the line well and got a good laugh out of everyone. But this is a serious proposal—more serious, I dare say, than Evan Bayh’s threat to default on the national debt unless he gets a pointless commission appointed—that deserves a somewhat serious answer. I think it’s obvious you can’t end the recession by legalizing prostitution and drugs. But at the same time, it should also be obvious that there are real economic costs associated with the prohibition of these activities and politicians ought to actually justify asking people to bare those costs. This is particularly pressing because the laws in question are so selectively enforced. Elliot Spitzer had his political career derailed by prostitution, but he’s not in jail. Does Obama think the world would be a better place if Spitzer were serving hard time? What about Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana? For that matter, does Obama think the world would be a better place if he’d been caught using drugs back in the day and sent to jail?

Presumably not. But to have laws on the books that the national elite fully intends never to apply to themselves or their families is ridiculous. I don’t want to see hookers and blow available for sale at the corner store, but there’s enormous scope for the reform of our policy in this area.

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