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Too much time in academia, and outside of Ontario? I could not for the life of me figure out what Overlapping Generations had to do with pot and prostitution - although it would no doubt make an interesting paper!

Whoops! I should have clarified that from the outset. Will edit.

Great post, Mike. I agree that, aside from contemporary social mores, there's little policy reason to separate these four commonplace vices. (Okay....prostitution has a much bigger impact on the lives of the providers than the other three....but aside from that....)

But how do you feel about the government being in these games at all? I worry to the extent that gambling in particular is used to generate revenue, as I think of this as acting mostly as a tax on stupidity. I can't help feeling that taxing stupidity is probably one of the most regressive and cruel taxes that we've invented. Shouldn't we be putting money in stamping it out (rather like we do with smoking) instead of advertising it to boost government's share of the revenue?

Absolutely agreed, Simon. I can understand the government wanting to regulate these things. But the difficult comes when they start to *promote* the activity, such as ads for sports gambling. Even more egregious are the quasi-ads, such as the "Tips from the Tipster" that run on the Fan 590 telling you which teams to bet on. (Here's a better tip - save your money).

It's been a pet issue of mine for awhile:

http://economics.about.com/b/2008/02/11/economic-responsibility-in-advertising.htm

Maybe that's the answer why selling marijuana should be left in the hands of drug dealers and not the government - drug dealers don't advertise!

Marijuana has all the advertising in the world. It even has a logo.

Not at the individual dealer level (for the most part). Though it would be funny to see a ProLine style ad for marijuana showing how it makes watching football more interesting.

I agree that it's problematic having the gov't actually running and promoting gambling. It'd be much better to leave it to the private sector and license/regulate it and tax it like we do with cigs.

Did anyone not stop and think that Ontario and every other province has NO jurisdiction over enacting criminal law? This thread is mostly moot.

Per the Constitution Act, 1867 the Federal Government has exclusive jurisdiction to enact criminal law. The Criminal Code is a federal statute, uniform in all provinces. Thus legalization of prostitution is a debate that belongs in Ottawa, not Queen's Park.

The same goes for pot. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is likewise a federal statute.

Ontario and any other province have no power to legalize prostitution or pot.

@pc Maybe try to be more succinct. Diatribes make you come across as a kook. Legalization doesn't have to imply orgies of sex drugs and gambling. Cigs are legal and yet use has declined dratically over the years. And think of the money saved on enforcement. There are other incentives system than the police state.

Mike, you keep making the case that there's no logical difference between pot and alcohol, and certainly I see your point and agree with you on this topic. But clearly there *is* a difference in the treatment of, and attitudes towards the two substances. What do you suppose accounts for the difference?

My vote is inertia, people don't like change, but maybe there's more to it than that?

Proper Conservative
"Holland is/was a homogenous Northwest European state populated by people with genetically determined high impulse control, and it is going down the tubes, so don't go there."

Them's fightin' words, my friend! How are you wrong? Let us count the ways!

1) Holland has been a low-inflation hard-currency country since the 1970s (around the time prostitution and marijuana took off.) Exactly how do you see it "going down the tubes" compared to, say, France? Germany? Belgium?

2) When you call it a "homogenous Northwest European state", I somehow doubt that you mean geographically. I'm guessing that you mean racially. That greatly confuses me. Holland has been religiously tolerant (esp. compared to its neighbours) since the middle ages and as a result has been built up by wave after wave of persecuted minorities. My father's side of the family fled Spain during the inquisition; my mother's side is Catholic from the south. There's been a substantial non-white presence since colonial times (as you would expect from a seafaring nation with colonies in the Caribean, Indian and Pacific Oceans.) Or was "homogeneous" just a sly reference to the fact that Hitler was particularly effective in exterminating Dutch Jews? (about 90% died in the Holocaust.)

3) Genetically determined impulse control?!?!?! Help me please.....where precisely in the genome is this marker? And I guess once you knock down your "homogeneity" claim, this one falls by the wayside as well.

4) Remember, this is the nation that invented Gin and then introduced it to the British. (You never noticed why they call it "Dutch courage?") Its beer is one of its most internationally recognised exports. Yet after centuries of liquor, you think weed is causing the nation's downfall? Really?

5) This is the nation that invented the corporation, the stock market and the Dutch auction. It also had one of the world's very first central banks. It has been the quintessential nation of traders. Yet of all the illicit things that have been bought and sold (including liquor, slaves, translated bibles, etc.) you think trading in sex will cause the country to unravel? Why exactly?

It kills me that you berate others for being ignorant of the world outside of Canada. People who live in glass houses......

Conservative, you seem to be disconnected from the realities of cannabis consumption.

There are few healthcare costs associated with it's consumption (though I imagine smoke inhalation can cause problems for some). In fact, many studies have found THC to have cancer-fighting properties by causing cell apoptosis. Moreover, the chemical compounds in cannabis have many medical uses: they increase appetite, reduce nausea, reduce neuropathic pain, reduce intra-ocular pressure and they have, I imagine, many as-of-yet discovered beneficial uses.

The higher mental illness incidence tends to be caused by those predisposed to mental illness being drawn to psychoactive drugs. Smoking marijuana will not make you psychotic. In fact, the opposite is quite true for the vast VAST majority of people.

That it's illegal is the only reason "crime" is associated with it. You could qualify my buying cannabis from a friend a "crime", the reality is benign. From what I've gathered from the people I know who smoke, it's improved their outlook on, and appreciation of, life... though it is only anecdotal evidence.

More single-parent families? Trashy daughters? Less business activity? I won't even bother with these.

@Proper Conservative:

Nice to see that you don't let facts get in the way of your opinions.

Instead of country A or B, why don't you look at a real example: Portugal before and after? It is a developed country and can be used as a proxy for Canada:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization

@Mike -

I am deeply troubled by your casual equation of sex work and marijuana.

The major problem in the market for sex work is the exploitation of women - if some women wish to exchange sex for cash - well, a contract between a prostitute and her customer is only shorter-term and more direct and explicit than the contracts many other women enter into. Who am I to criticize?

It's not the work, it's the wage rate - sex workers exploited by those who appropriate a large part of their earnings.

Having the government exploit women is no better than having any one else acting as a pimp.

If you're seriously concerned with the inefficiencies created by the current restrictions on sex work, there's lots that could be done to make the market for sexual workers more similar to the market for, say, chiropractors - regulation, licencing, etc.

B.t.w., you can edit or delete offensive comments. I think you might want to use that for some of Proper Conservative's remarks.


The question that should be on everybody's mind:

-Illegal status of weed drives up cost to consumers
-Legalization would likely lead to a government monopoly with huge mark ups simmilar to alchohol.

Would the price to consumers (financial price, not including benefits of convenience, risk premiums etc) rise or fall with legalization?

What about quality/ variety available?

"Holland has been religiously tolerant (esp. compared to its neighbours) since the middle ages ..."

On the other hand, my ancestors survived the Catholic inquisition in the Netherlands but not the Protestant, being somewhat too Protestant. Consequently, they were driven out of the country under disagreeable circumstances; they went to Poland, which at the time was in fact much more religiously tolerant. But don't worry, after so many centuries, not even I can hold a grudge ;-)

Anyway, I don't think it's wise to let PC bait you like that.

"If you're seriously concerned with the inefficiencies created by the current restrictions on sex work, there's lots that could be done to make the market for sexual workers more similar to the market for, say, chiropractors - regulation, licencing, etc."

Agreed. In both cases having the OLG act as an LCBO-type monopolist is far from an ideal solution. Regulation and licensing works better. But the choice is between prohibition and a government monopoly, then it's hard to argue against the latter.

RE: PCs comments. I didn't know I had that ability. Will clean up.

@Frances,

When I first read Mike's post, I'm afraid I didn't think about it much, and I simply assumed that Mike's connection between prostitution and illegal drug use was merely superficial. Your comment has caused me to reflect, and now that I have done so I think you are mistaken.

The business of illegal drugs bears much resemblance to a pyramid scam, does it not? That is, a handful of criminals at the top do extremely well, but the vast majority of underlings earn less than minimum wage and are at the wrong end of a very high homicide rate. They do not tug on our heartstrings the way an abused prostitute does, but they are victims in the same sense.

In both cases, the bottom-rung workers would likely benefit by becoming civil servants because they would gain access to ordinary legal machinery for redress, they would be able to unionize, and they would be able to apply pressure on their employers via the informal channel of public opinion.

Therefore, although "having the government exploit women is no better than having any one else acting as a pimp" is a valid logical proposition - you can make any hypothesis you like on the empty set.

I think they're related in one very important area - people who are victimized during a transaction are lacking in rights due to their inability to access law enforcement and the courts.

Re-reading the post, I realized how light it is on economics. I've edited it to rectify that.

I've deleted a few comments. A healthy debate is encouraged, but I ask that we be respectful to each other and not resort to name calling. In particular, please don't post under multiple names using fake e-mail addresses.

"The business of illegal drugs bears much resemblance to a pyramid scam, does it not? That is, a handful of criminals at the top do extremely well, but the vast majority of underlings earn less than minimum wage and are at the wrong end of a very high homicide rate."

Not really. You watch too much television.

or, let me guess, your source is the Freakonomics guy?

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