How to Win the War on Drugs

The New Republic, May 21, 1990.


Drugs should not be legalized, because many other social policy changes would be needed for legalization to be effective. In addition, making law enforcement an effective deterrent to drug use would be prohibitively expensive. A more promising approach is to give each individual access to a neighborhood, workplace, and school that is as drug-free as that individual desires. Thus, each parent would be given a voucher to enable them to choose and pay for a school with a drug policy that matches their own desires. Similarly, employers would have broad latitude in enforcing drug rules that make sense for that business and in developing drug policies through collective bargaining or collaborative processes with employees. Finally, landlords in neighborhoods hit hardest by drugs would be able to choose among prospective tenants without having to justify their arbitrariness, and tenant committees in public housing should have wide discretion in screening new applicants and evicting existing tenants. Like current approaches, this approach will not help the underclass, but it would enable those who want to avoid drugs to do so and would make outcasts of those who abuse drugs.