Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the second of a three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

(R) Do we wish to become like Singapore, say, where even the smallest, most harmless "infractions" are severely punished, in a country where the laws and law enforcement practices of the government say loud and clear: "We do not trust our people"?
(MB) I think this is excessive exaggeration. We are in no danger of anything like that happening in this country. Incidentally, the "abuses" of Singapore are rather wildly overblown by the American media.
    Also, we have "infractions" in America that produce hearty laughs for people of other countries, so we shouldn't be chuckling too heartily about others.

(R) I'm not advocating blind trust or a lax attitude toward crime at all. In fact, I'm pretty hard-line on violent crime, I support the death penalty, and I support longer prison stays and harsher demands for violent criminals. (Put 'em to work, I say!) The existence of our body of drug laws crowds prisons, which in turn causes violent criminals to be released early - another obvious negative, given the horrifying recidivism rates among repeat violent offenders.
(MB) Putting one person in prison does not mean that someone else who is guilty of a more heinous crime will be released early. It's also obvious that somebody busted for possession is not going to be incarcerated in a maximum-security prison with the most violent offenders and, therefore, won't cause any of them to be released to make room for him.
    You can't alleviate the prison overcrowding problem simply by making almost everything legal. What's really needed is effective education and societal changes that will instill more respect for the laws we have.

See the example of fist swinging above. Prosecuting the fist swinger after the fact doesn't do much to heal the broken nose that he caused. Even though a person is undoubtedly responsible for his own actions, if any particular action produces a high probability of a negative effect for another person, the government -- acting on behalf of the general public -- would be justified in enacting legislation to try to ban that action.
(R) Boy, if overpopulation gets that bad...well, in a few hundred years, left unchecked, it might! Anyway, the purpose of prosecuting offenders is not chiefly to provide a remedy to the victim (although remedies might also be prescribed). It is to prevent the offender's bad behavior from hurting anyone else, and to punish him for his misdeeds. It doesn't heal the broken nose, but it hopefully will make him decide not to go swinging his fist like that again (thereby preventing other members of society from being victimized), and furthermore will hopefully show others the consequences of reckless fist-swinging, so that they will think twice before doing so.
(MB) Unfortunately, too many people take the attitude that they can do anything they want to so long as they don't get caught, or, simply don't fear the consequences of getting caught. In either case, the consequences will do little to prevent him doing his thing again once he gets back on the street. The prescribed legal penalties are meant to deter the initial fist-swinging so that those penalties won't have to be applied after the victim has already been injured. Also, if it does take getting busted and penalized in order to convince somebody not to do it again, that's also a positive outcome. In either case, there is ample justification for the law.

(R) To the "high probability of negative effect", uh-oh! Didn't you say earlier that we should not consider the negative effects alone, but must weigh all positive, neutral, and negative effects?
(MB) Indeed, I did. I've also said that it's hard to find a case where the negative effect of an action upon somebody else is outweighed by the positive effect of that same action for the person committing it.

(R) Not only that, there are clear negative effects that come from drug prohibition as well; as you said before (but not now?) we have to consider all the effects. On both sides of the equation, I presume...
(MB) Exactly...and I've already argued against the "clear negative effects" of drug prohibition.

(R) Is murder banned for the reason that it has a "high probability of negative effect"? (Very, very high, I'd say.) No; we ban murder because it is a direct and severe (there is no act more severe) injury on another human being.
(MB) Isn't 100% a "high probability"? Death is certainly a negative effect, is it not?

(R) To use an only slightly less direct example, child pornography is banned (and rightly so) because its very existence depends on the raping of (or other sexual predations upon) children.
(MB) I agree with you although I acknowledge that there have been societies where such acts would not have been considered immoral. However, those examples don't affect how our society decides to establish its own rule of law.

(R) All other bans on direct interpersonal crimes follow the same line of thinking. There are some laws - traffic laws, say - that are made on the basis you cite, but the imbalance of probabilities is much, much stronger. (That is to say, having no traffic restrictions, probabilistically speaking, most likely would produce negative consequences far heavier than any positive consequence such a free-for-all would create. This can be shown by the plethora of personal injuries, property damage, and fear and other negative emotions that well up in drivers in the case of accidents caused by failure to heed traffic regulations.)
(MB) I think that my argument has now been reasonably well-established. Certainly, there are drivers who disagree with traffic laws, but the need for those laws is clear.

(R) Sure, the same could be said for some incidents of drug use, but I see no reason to believe the scales are weighted in favor of the current policy.
(MB) Why not? People smoke pot now for the same reason they've always smoked pot and more people are using it. THC has the same effects and crossbreeding has produced marijuana with much higher concentrations of that chemical. If anything, the reasons why it was banned in the first place should been even stronger now.

(R) There are to some degree reasonable arguments on both sides, but I don't see where the consequences of lifting the ban would be any worse on balance that what we have now - indeed, I believe they would be somewhat better, and certainly more in tune with the idea of moving toward a more open, free, and responsible society.
(MB) Until such time as marijuana smoking can be shown as having an overall positive (or, at least, neutral) effect on the general public welfare, there won't be much chance of getting it legalized.

(R) "A high probability of negative effect" should be restated as "a high probability of NET negative effect"; I don't see where the ban on drug use meets the more stringent standard.
(MB) I guess that depends on your interpretations of the effects (or lack of) of smoking pot.

[RE: The drug use itself did not cause the accident; the stupidity and/or immorality of the user did.)]
That is an illogical argument since it attempt to separate an action from the expected consequences of that action.

(R) Illogical, huh? Okay, gloves are off ...Each act has its own individual set of consequences, yes. But there is no separation in my statement of an act and its consequences; we are discussing two discrete acts here, each of which of course has a separate set of consequences.
(MB) That's not correct if one action leads to another. Consider that no person -- no matter how stupid or irresponsible -- will suffer the effects of drug use if he doesn't use it. Also, the person may well believe that he will use his drug of choice responsibly before he uses it, whereas the effects of using it can have deleterious effects on his judgment and responsibility.

(R) To wit:
    Act #1: Joe Blow smokes some pot. Consequence #1 resulting from Act #1: Joe experiences the physical, emotional, and mental effects of marijuana use, which may or may not include significant impairment of judgment. And that's all we can definitively say.

(MB) No, we can definitively say that the impairment of judgment will significantly increase the likelihood that Joe will act in a way that could cause injury to another person and that the chances of his acting the same way would be significantly reduced if he had not smoked pot and impaired his judgment in the first place. The only way you can separate the consequence from the action is to show that Joe's pot smoking had no effect on the eventual consequence. That will be rather difficult, if not impossible.

(R) Any subsequent actions could be secondary consequences, but they could also be caused by other factors in Joe's personality and environment, or could even be caused by chance - any or all of these things COULD be true, but that does not tell us which ones in what combination ARE true. We do not have proof, or even probabilistic proof in most cases, of a causal link between Joe's smoking and his subsequent behavior, and we certainly have no logical basis for saying that the act of smoking pot constitutes a direct injury to another person. The consequences of the act are simply that Joe's "high" now, where he wasn't before.
(MB) This smacks of the old (and, sometimes, not so old) arguments that seek to discount cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer.
    It is well-established that marijuana smoking produces impairment of judgment. It is also well-established that people will do things and take risks while impaired that they would rarely, if ever, do while completely sober. In order to forge a link between Joe's pot smoking and his subsequent behavior, we need only to establish that the behavior was something Joe would not have done while sober.

(R) Act #2: Joe decides that it would be cooler to go satisfy some selfish desires than to watch his two small children, one of whom is severely burned in a kitchen mishap that most likely wouldn't have occurred with Joe present. Consequence #2 resulting from Act #2: Joe has made a decision, without all of his faculties at peak, to commit an act of child neglect. He then committed that act of neglect; he followed through on his impaired decision. The decision was equally wrong, however, whether it was made with an impaired mind or not.
(MB) Again, the question is whether or not Joe would be more likely to make that decision while impaired that he would if he was sober. Sure, the act is always wrong, but when is Joe more likely to commit it?

(R) There is enough of a consequence here that he could be charged with criminal neglect (although he likely wouldn't be if it was a one-time thing). Joe's act of neglect hurt his child. Unless he's totally heartless, Joe will feel truly horrible about this. Not only that, anyone else (his wife, neighbors) that is aware of Joe's mistake will not think as well of him; he will pay a social cost, at least for a while. His wife may wish to divorce him and take the kids. His guilt will be there for a long time. If he's at all honest with himself, he will think long and hard about where his limits with substances should lie before he uses marijuana again while babysitting.
(MB) So, what does Joe do? Does he keep using marijuana and hoping each time he does so that he won't use enough to impair his judgment sufficiently to cause any other terrible things to happen to him? Or, does he do the intelligent thing and not use it at all -- acknowledging that his personal pleasure is outweighed by the effects his actions have on others?

(R) Okay. Joe's failure here was this: he did not know his limits. By smoking the pot, he made the decision to accept its effects. He reasoned (incorrectly here) that he could handle being that high while having the responsibility to watch his kids. Furthermore, he decided it was a good thing on balance to be high, that it would add to his enjoyment of the day without hurting anyone. But what hurt his child was not the pot smoking itself; it was Joe's act of neglect. Did that neglect necessarily result from Joe being high? No. It result from his decision that neglecting his child was okay. That this decision was made with somewhat impaired judgment is not relevant.
(MB) On the contrary, it is the most relevant issue here! Would Joe have made the same decision had his judgment not been impaired? What was it that initially impaired Joe's judgment and led to the tragedy? The pot smoking didn't directly hurt the child, but it obviously led to the act of impaired judgment that *did* hurt the child. If judgment had not been impaired, Joe would likely not have neglected his child and the child would likely not have been hurt.

(R) Joe is responsible for the quality of his own judgment, about what drug dosages he can handle and about how to treat his kids. He took the hit (oops) to his faculties willingly. Joe is 100 percent responsible for the consequences of his acts, right? The consequence of his first act was being high (not wrong in itself); the consequence of his second act was his kid being injured (which is wrong in itself).
(MB) The first act led directly to the second. The injury would not have happened had Joe not initially gotten high and impaired his judgment. Therefore, the base cause of the subsequent injury was the initial act of getting high.

(R) We have nothing that directly links the first act with the consequences of the second, except for the fact that Joe's decision to smoke more pot than he can handle and still act responsibly was stupid.
(MB) Is that not a direct connection? If Joe had never smoked the pot in the first place, the injury would never have happened. It can't get more direct than that.

(R) The faulty judgment here started before the first toke.
(MB) It wasn't Joe's decision to toke that is at fault, it was actually doing the toking. Consider that Joe may well not know accurately how much pot he can handle, but if he never smokes at all, he'll never risk the consequences of his inadequate knowledge.

(R) The causal link is not drawn between marijuana intoxication and child neglect by any of the above. It is drawn between Joe's bad judgment and child neglect, though.
(MB) On the contrary, I think that the connection has been rather firmly established. No toke, no injury. Period.

(R) Man, this is taking more time and space even than I thought it would.
(MB) Drive on, my man!

What is the purpose of using drugs if not to "get high"? I doubt anybody smokes marijuana primarily for the taste. If they do, would they be just as likely to smoke marijuana if it contained no THC? Wild hemp with negligible THC content still grows in parts of the country, but nobody raises it with the intent of smoking its leaves.
    Since the primary purpose of using drugs is to get high, anybody who does so is, by extension, more likely to commit acts that are associated with impaired judgment. While that person might well be completely responsible prior to his drug use, his judgment is not nearly the same after using them.

(R) We've addressed some of these issues before. To reiterate, "impaired judgment" does not occur at all in some cases, and, in many more cases, the impairment is not strong enough to cause a material deficit in judgment.
(MB) "It doesn't happen all the time" is not sufficient to call for legalization. Again, it must go back to the equation of risk vs. reward. Even in your case about Joe, you must certainly admit that there is no possible benefit that Joe could have gained from his pot smoking (either that one time or the sum total of all previous times) that could outweigh the injury suffered by his child.

(R) In those cases where impaired judgment is present, we can only assign blame to the user's failure to exercise proper restraint and moderation (any drug use that results in significant impairment is immoderate, no?), and his failure to control his own behavior (if a personal offense is committed).
(MB) And, when the impairment produced by the drug use leads to further use and increased impairment, is the drug use still harmless and blameless? No, it's the drug use itself and not the rationalized decision to use it that is ultimately to blame for any consequences.

(R) To put it another way:
    1) if I, a 175 pound man, drink three beers (which would not materially affect my judgment, and could qualify as "social drinking"), that's okay, right?

(MB) Over what period of time would you consume that much beer? If you chugged three 12-ounce beers in a few minutes, it would certainly have a much greater effect than if you spaced them out over a couple of hours. Of course, if one drinks that much beer very quickly, it's difficult to claim that he is drinking it "socially". I can't think of any beverage that I'd wish to consume 36 ounces of in a few minutes no matter how good it might taste.

(R) 2) if my friend, a 95 pound woman with a very low tolerance for alcohol, drinks three beers (which would profoundly affect her judgment), that's not okay, correct?
(MB) Again, I'd have to know the time period over which that much beer was consumed. In any case, the important factor here is gender and body mass -- each of which will result in a much different BAC given the same amount of alcohol consumption over the same period of time.

(R) 3)Our two actions were exactly the same (hey, we split a six-pack ).
(MB) No, the actions are not exactly the same. Superficially, you have each consumed three beers. However, the effect on your respective BAC levels would most certainly not be exactly the same. For you, it might be responsible drinking. For her, it most likely would not. So, the actions are not the same.

(R) 4) Yet, if you agree with 1) and 2) that I'm okay and she's'd have to agree that the reason for your agreement is that I am drinking moderately, whereas she is not. There is no other difference between our actions.
(MB) It's not clear (since the time period involved was not stated) that either or both of you are drinking responsibly given the amount of beer involved.

(R) 5) Thus whether the drug use (drinking is drug use, as I've said before) was within personal limits - "in moderation" - is the only consideration relevant to whether either of us deserve blame for impairing our respective faculties. The negative effects of my drug use do NOT outweigh the positive ones, whereas with my friend, they do.
(MB) In this case you would be correct if we assume that your BAC did not reach the legal limit while your friend's did. Since your BAC was not high enough for you to be "impaired", your judgment should still be as good as always while your friend likely risks getting busted (or worse) if she attempts to drive shortly after you part company. In the eyes of the law, the BAC level establishes the point beyond which risks start to outweigh rewards.

(R) 6) Each person must establish for themselves what those limits are with regard to each substance. Now that my friend has become aware of the negative net consequences of her drinking, the right decision would be for her to not drink as much next time, or, if she wants to get blitzed like that, to be sure to do it in circumstances where her being drunk will not cause harm to anyone else. Three beers was well within my limit, though, so I am not obligated to change my behavior with regards to drinking three beers.
(MB) Agreed. But, I'm sure you both already know the laws concerning BAC levels. Also, any responsible drinker should be familiar with the guidelines for how much alcohol can be safely consumed over what period of time given their gender and body mass. If you abide by the laws and guidelines, you should be OK. If not....well, you pays your money and you takes your chances and, if you lose, you've got no right to complain about the rules of the game.

(R) 7) The fault of the immoderate user (lawbreaking aside, which only pertains to how things are right now, which is not ideal) lies in and only in his failure to exercise moderation, not in the act of using the substance at all.
(MB) If there is any doubt about how much is "too much", any responsible person would be better advised not to use any at all or to be extremely conservative with how much he uses. Of course, if "any at all" is also "too much", any indulging at all is irresponsible.

(R) 8) The question now becomes: Do we believe that most users will exercise good judgment with regards to moderation and appropriate places and times for use? The largest body of evidence we have is the experience of the majority of our adult population who drink. There are alcoholics, yes, many of them. However, most - over 85 percent, I would think - of our population who drink do so responsibly as a rule, and have no addictive problems or repeated acting-out behaviors resulting from their (moderate) consumption of alcohol.
(MB) As I've said before, it only takes once. If you slip up one night and drive while over the legal BAC limit, the cop is unlikely to sympathize with a protest that you have always used alcohol responsibly in the past or that you don't feel impaired. If you're not drinking responsibly at all times, you're not drinking responsibly.

(R) As I believe I've successfully debunked the whole "social drinking" or "drink for the taste" line separating alcohol users from users of other drugs, we can now compare alcohol and (at least) marijuana with much greater ease.
(MB) You might want to reconsider your evaluation for a moment, but let's move on...

(R) We have a problem here, in evaluating the group of users of currently illegal drugs for the above purpose of deciding whether they would be generally responsible in their use. Because drug use (and distribution) has been criminalized here, that population includes most of our career criminals, the dregs of society. For these people, the law means nothing; if a man is willing to rob a store at gunpoint or execute a drive-by shooting without fear of the law stopping him, he certainly won't deny himself the comparatively minor infraction of using drugs because they're illegal.
(MB) This is going to be a rather difficult generalization to justify. Are you saying that drug users are people who are already predisposed to criminal behavior in general? Or, are you saying that criminals do drugs because they are illegal? Does your statement imply that law-abiding people will not be drug users?

(R) These career criminals most often start acting out long before they're three times seven; they are usually very rebellious and delinquent as children. Since drug use has been so stigmatized by the larger culture, for these kids, getting involved with substance abuse is an ideal way to rebel more forcefully.
(MB) Drug use would seem to be rebellious behavior at any level since there are no users in this country who don't know that they are doing something illegal. Since there's no chance of their escaping the legal penalties of getting caught through pleas for "personal freedom" or "I didn't hurt anybody", they must not fear the penalties or they just don't acknowledge the possibility of getting caught.

(R) Scumbags of all ages like drugs, often the harder the better; they don't care a bit about any possible negative consequences resulting for others, or even themselves in many cases.
(MB) Agreed. However, these people are a small minority among the general public. No legal penalty can be so severe that it will deter every potential lawbreaker. The penalties are meant to deter most potential criminal behavior and to punish that which was not deterred.

(R) Thus, the behavior of the current crop of illegal drug users is not comparable to alcohol users' behavior until we adjust for the population skew towards delinquence created entirely by the illegality of drugs.
(MB) This is interesting. You admit to being a user of an illegal drug. Where would you place yourself among the "current crop" of users? Also, let's not forget that alcohol is legal and marijuana is not. That, by itself, will create some differences in the population of users of each.

(R) (Remember, we're talking about what would happen if drugs were legal.) The dregs of society have always been with us; if there weren't illegal drugs, or even alcohol, or even any psychoactive substances at all, they'd still be crappy human beings, without conscience, restraint, or reason. They would still commit criminal acts until they are eventually caught and placed in prison, where they belong. These sorts of people present a very difficult problem for society, but they aren't that way because of drugs; they use drugs as part of their portfolio of illegal and destructive behavior, which portfolio would still exist even if drugs did not exist.
(MB) This really means very little. Murder is certainly a heinous crime, but not everybody who commits murder belongs in the same group as the "dregs of society". Also, I'm sure that there are career criminals who don't use drugs as there are certainly drug users who aren't career criminals.

(R) Taking out the scumbag group, we're left to analyze the rest of us for which proper behavior does mean something. If we compared groups of alcohol and marijuana users in countries where marijuana is legal, I seriously doubt we would find any substantive difference in the rate of moderate use between the two groups.
(MB) You're on pretty shaky ground here. Even in countries where marijuana use is legal, it's still not as acceptable as alcohol use and users still use their respective substances for the same reasons.

(R) Likewise, throwing out the career criminals (the alcohol group gets a break here too, many career criminals are also alcoholics), I wouldn't think there to be any reason why the rates of responsible use would differ much.
(MB) It's still far from clear that there's actually any such thing as "responsible use" of marijuana. Also, different countries have different standards for what constitutes responsible use of alcohol. "Drunk" in the US might be OK in Upper Slobbovia (or vice-versa).

(R) If anything, the diminishing returns principle of marijuana intoxication would elevate the pot-smoking group to a much higher rate of responsible use, as there's no real incentive to smoke a ridiculous amount of pot...
(MB) How do you figure that? Just because marijuana might be legal in another country doesn't mean that one can smoke more pot in that country without impairing his judgment.

(R) ...and far fewer incidents of tort crime related to marijuana intoxication than alcohol intoxication (which is true even now; how many potheads have you ever heard of getting in bar fights, or beating their wives up, or destroying property? Heavy pot users are basically docile and lethargic much of the time; this has costs too, sure, but nothing nearly as severe as the level of violence and other personal or emotional offenses perpetrated on others by some people who can't handle their liquor right.)
(MB) It's hard to prefer heavy pot users to heavy alcohol users (or vice-versa). Nobody will dispute the fact that any intoxicating substance can be abused, nor should they dispute that people would be much better off without using such substances at all.
    In short, it makes little sense to support the use of one substance for a rationale that other substances might be worse.

(R) Concerning other drugs (like crack), the usage rates are lower, and contain a much higher complement of career criminal types. It is true that crack use has invaded the suburban upper-middle-lily-white culture by now, but not near to the degree that it exists among the criminal classes.
(MB) Crack also costs relatively more per use than marijuana and is unquestionably more potent. Certainly, nobody smokes it for the taste...*grin*

(R) (This is NOT a racist statement. Thank you for realizing that in advance.)
(MB) I agree with you.

(R) Crack's addiction rate is much higher than alcohol or marijuana's, and its effects more damaging on body and judgment.
(MB) Unquestionably. Yet, I'm sure there are still those who will support its use.

(R) However, its prohibition has created much, much larger negatives than marijuana prohibition has. The black market for crack and other forms of cocaine is high-stakes, big-money...and glamorized, romanticized, and idolized (hey, sounds like Jesse Jackson!) among (especially) our inner-city youth. Big-time drug dealers, gangsters, are their older brothers, their fathers, their heroes, their leaders. Remember, black markets by their illegality attract and benefit the worst members of our society predominantly. They make huge sums of money, parade around in flashy cars with beautiful women; to a kid in Crackville, who isn't aware of too many other ways to get out of the hell he lives in, that must be so incredibly attractive. (Doesn't justify getting into the world of crack, just outlines why it happens.)
(MB) That didn't begin with the emergence of crack, nor would it go away if crack was legalized. Anything that people desire will create a black market if legal methods to obtain it are impossible. Black markets have existed throughout human history and will never go away unless nothing is illegal. The law of supply and demand combined with the risk factors involved in supplying the demand determine how much money is involved in the black market trade. Too bad kids only see the money that can be made and don't seem to be influenced by the dangers inherent in the business.

(R) If cocaine were legal, the black market would cease to exist, or at least 95 percent of it would. How big is bootleggin' whiskey among gang pastimes nowadays?
(MB) That goes without saying. However, would you really wish to legalize cocaine just to eliminate the black market for it?

(R) The gangs' raison d'etre is the profit motive; if a gang found that drug trafficking were no longer profitable, they'd try to move on to something else.
(MB) Why would the drug trade no longer be profitable if the drug was legalized? The demand would still be there. Perhaps the amount of money to be made would decrease, but I doubt that dealers would have to trade in their Cadillacs for Yugos.

(R) What else...prostitution? Well, we should legalize that too...again, no more black market, the pimps'n'ho's system utterly destroyed.
(MB) Legalizing prostitution is another question -- and one that I would support. It's basically an issue of morality anyway.

(R) Gambling? Well, in states where it's currently legal, it doesn't have an entirely clean record, but at least governments can regulate it - and most of the time they do alright. If Vegas was systemically crooked, it would collapse - the size of the conspiracy would be too large, and would collapse on itself in time.
(MB) I agree completely. Again, this is largely another moral issue.

(R) (Regardless of what conspiracy nut-cases preach, it is nearly impossible to get the entire federal government - or any large group of people of any stripe - to execute a conspiracy. It's like trying to ask 10,000 people to keep a personal secret - the truth will leak out eventually..the more people involved, the quicker the scheme unravels.)
(MB) You're absolutely correct and it astounds me how many people can't figure that out. It's probably because the real stories don't make for good movies or network "investigative" documentaries.

(R) The gang presence in gambling is not that large or problematic. Gangs as a rule don't commit violent crimes just for the hell of it. Violent crime is the cost of doing illegal business sometimes, though. The business must be kept secret, and if Mugsy has to have a good man fitted with cement shoes and dumped in the Hudson River to keep him from squealin', that's business. If your local order of Crips or Bloods has to knock someone off in a drive-by to send the utterly clear message that they will not be messed around with, that's the way it's gotta be - it's business. There are no rules, because it's a black market; law enforcement is at best a trifling adversary, and everyone else is just part of the jungle.
(MB) It's important to remember that there's a lot of business involved in the black market. Some of our most famous and wealthiest businessmen got their start in, shall we say, ventures of dubious legality. Since the drug business already has an established infrastructure, it's not likely that those already in the business would suddenly be out of a job if those drugs were legalized. I suspect that many would continue doing what they already have been doing successfully and would still make a pretty fair pile of cash.

(R) Mugsy (or the Crips) would rather keep making tons of money without having to do that, but the gang's "prime directive" is to make the big cash and keep making the big cash. Forced to turn only to tort crime as a means of making money (when drugs, prostitution, and gambling - the "major non-tort criminal acts" family - are legalized), gangs will not have the initiative to exist.
(MB) One shouldn't assume that legalization of the things you mentioned will suddenly stop the flow of cash. Nor should one assume that "legal" business doesn't have its share of gang-style businessmen.

(R) Think about it: how sustainable is the concept of a large gang of burglars? The odds of getting busted are exponentially higher (many more public and riskier criminal acts), and the profits from fifty average break-ins don't come close to the profit from turning just one single kilo of cocaine at street value. They don't call it "white gold" for nothing.
(MB) Sure. Maximizing cash flow while minimizing risk is a basic principle of any business -- legal or otherwise.

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