Vice Squad
Sunday, November 21, 2004
British Minister For Drug Legalization?

Tessa Jowell is the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport in Great Britain; she has been much in the news lately as British gambling reform wends its way into law. Today in the Observer she offers a defense of New Labour's approach to "nanny state" issues, which besides standard adult vices, include things like fatty food advertising and fox hunting. I don't find her attempt at providing coherence all that successful -- she eventually defends the proposed smoking ban on the grounds that a majority supports it -- but she does offer some interesting words against prohibition of adult vice:
On issues like smoking, drinking and gambling, government has three basic choices: we can prohibit, regulate or leave it to the market. Prohibition does not work - it drives the activity underground or, in the case of online gambling, it drives activity offshore where there are zero safeguards for either players or their credit-card details and no requirements of social responsibility. Only ideological extremists favour a free-for-all where only the laws of the market hold sway. So the third option is regulation - and regulation with as much emphasis on the quality of the debate as the policy outcome. 'Better regulation' has to mean government engaging people in the decisions that affect their lives and doing so in new and better ways.
Excuse me, Minister, doesn't this anti-prohibition argument apply just as well to currently illicit drugs?

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