Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drugs, Crime, and Automation

I should be planning some stuff for a conference right now, but an idea hit me that I just had to write about. I have long been a supporter of the idea that drugs should be legalized. Prohibition failed once. Why are we trying so hard to make it work this time? It is more than that though. There are basic economic reasons why it would be a huge benefit to legalize and tax drugs. It would take a lot of financial pressure off states for things like prisons and instead give them an alternate source of revenue. I also expect ti would lower crime rates for things like theft because the legal drugs would be legal and cost less. What is more, instead of having the profits of drugs go into crime cartels, they would go to legitimate companies.

This is where the thought for this post comes in. My basic assertion is that criminals don't use automation. That had never occurred to me before, but it probably should have. Criminal activities stay human intensive. They don't set up giant corporate farms for growing drugs. They don't set up online sales or have computer controlled routing. These things don't work when your whole operation is based on flying under the radar and not getting busted by law enforcement.

Now, automation does allow things to be cheaper. So does not having to avoid cops. Passing federal regulations will make things more expensive, but I'm guessing the net impact on product cost is still a drop. However, the question I have to wonder about it what this does to employment rates. How many people are there who are generally non-employable in modern society who are currently employed in drugs? Maybe this isn't a large number of people. I haven't given it that much thought. However, I think what I'm coming to see here is that because of the automation it allows, legalizing drugs would change the employment profile of the industry. The total job count likely goes down (though initially a lot of the jobs lost could well be in other countries). However, it would produce a set of higher paying jobs for the people who oversee that automation. Basically, it would work just like everything else in this regard.