“Price” Controls on Drug Bust Sentencing

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Part of the thoroughly evil and stupid Drug War is the mandatory sentence. If justice were meted out on the basis of some sort of economic efficiency method, as in a free market for justice, or even if it were meted out by government via a system that in some way mimicked a free market, how would we look upon a mandatory sentence for drug offenses?

A mandated sentence makes no distinctions among those whom the legislators decide to punish. It is like having a minimum price that the unfortunate offender (victim) must pay, regardless of that person’s record, situation, or any other factors. The legislature is imposing a price control on the judiciary, making it impossible for the judiciary to match the punishment to the crime. Like preventing exchanges between wage-earners and employers below a minimum wage, the mandatory sentence prevents a sliding scale of exchanges between society or the judiciary and the unfortunate offender. Congressional mandate rules. The person must go to prison for X number of years.

If Congress regularly produces interventions in markets that do not accomplish their aims, should we be surprised that it intervenes in analogous ways in what passes for markets in justice, and likewise produces results that are dysfunctional? What else can we call it when Congress has created a gulag for prison inmates, heavily weighted toward minorities, under the guise of a war on drugs?

It’s the same kind of thinking that underlies price controls, which is the idea that power backing up a law can contravene the power of the market. By control of sentencing, Congress hoped to stifle the drug market. It hasn’t worked that way, has it?

11:17 am on December 3, 2013