Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman passed away on November 16 at the age of 94. One of the world's foremost public intellectuals, Friedman was a longstanding drug war dissident and longtime supporter of Drug Policy Alliance.
Friedman didn't view America's drug war as an economic problem. For him, the drug war remained primarily an immoral government endeavor.
As he once told a reporter, "It's a moral problem that the government is making into criminals people [who] are doing something that hurts nobody else. Most of the arrests for drugs are for possession by casual users. Now here's somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he's caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it absolutely disgraceful that our government [should] be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail."
Friedman championed personal freedom throughout his distinguished career, including his book Free to Choose and the accompanying PBS series.
He lambasted America's drug war in the pages of Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. In the latter publication, he once wrote to then-Drug Czar Bill Bennett:
"The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.
"Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations."
Several of Friedman's drug policy articles and interviews may be found here.
Drug Policy Alliance mourns the passing of Milton Friedman and sends its heartfelt condolences to his wife Rose and their family.