Dan Kahan and Ilya Somin are entirely correct. If you simply ignore all the negative consequences of legalizing cocaine, including the violent crimes likely to result from combination use of cocaine and alcohol, then legalizing cocaine looks like a good idea.
Update I agree entirely with Kahan’s point (noted by some commenters below) about “cognitive illiberalism” in the gun debates. Too much of the discourse that on its surface is about the effects of gun policy actually reflects a culture-war battle between people to whom guns are icky and people to whom guns are liberating.
Kahan has updated, acknowledging my point above. For some reason the update is behind a sign-in wall. But here’s the version he sent to me:
Honestly, I only meant to say, “like Mark Kleiman says ….” I even linked/cited him multiple times!
Likely I should have been more nuanced; instead of “legalize,” I should have said we should … we should … That’s part of the problem; this is a very complex — one needs to write several excellent books, as Kleiman has, to spell it all out.
The U.S. has reached a dead end in trying to fight drug use by treating every offender as a serious criminal. Blanket drug legalization has some superficial charm—it fits nicely into a sound-bite or tweet—but it can’t stand up to serious analysis. The real prospects for reform involve policies rather than slogans. It remains to be seen whether our political process—and the media circus that often shapes it—can tolerate the necessary complexity.
Consider mine a “gateway” argument to the more serious stuff that Kleiman is offering.