Predatory Public Finance and the Evolution of the War on Drugs
Excerpt from Adam J. Hoffer and Todd Nesbit, eds., For Your Own Good: Taxes, Paternalism, and Fiscal Discrimination in the Twenty-First Century. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2018.
38 Pages Posted: 4 May 2018
Date Written: January 3, 2018
US drug policy has a long history of providing revenue for federal, state, and local governments. Before the War on Drugs, opium and cocaine were legal and medical professionals who prescribed these substances had to pay extra taxes to do so. This chapter explains how, as the federal government began enforcing outright bans on drugs, law enforcement agencies took advantage of their newly acquired authority to profit. Today, civil asset forfeiture related to drug crimes provides officers with incentives to use and abuse their authority and increase their revenue by making more drug arrests. Key takeaways: (1) Drug policy has a long history of providing law enforcement with increased revenues and authority over time. (2) Law enforcement agencies may be targeting the crimes that present the opportunity to raise revenue for their departments rather than the most serious public safety threats.
Keywords: war on drugs, tax policy, law enforcement, illegal drugs, civil asset forfeiture
JEL Classification: H2, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation