What is the difference between consumer goods and services that are illegal and those that are legal? It’s not so clear cut as might be imagined. Is it because government has a duty of care to its citizens and thus wants to protect us from harmful goods and services? Or is it because those with well-paid careers in government — principally senior civil servants and politicians — want to maximise taxation income from the sales of legal products and services that should otherwise be illegal.
It’s a bit of both according to the particular goods and services and how widespread they already are. Thus, knowing what we know now about the health dangers of too much sugar and alcohol, both should be made illegal under the duty of care. But because they were both deeply addicted to by the vast majority of the population long before big government came along, it would be politically impossible to impose punishments for offenders now. As a result, both are on sale just as normal consumer goods are — as different brands with different quality and price levels so that everybody from the richest to the poorest in the population can imbibe them and be taxed accordingly.
Not so with regard to ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin or cocaine or some of the modern ‘legal highs’. We must all be protected from them, it would seem. However, in one or more countries where one or more hard drugs are not illegal and thus where the normal phenomenon of differential price setting occurs according to quality, the evidence is that only a small minority are in danger of over-addiction — with the result of nowhere near as much ill-health or crime engendered as by alcohol consumption in this country,
The normal market should be allowed to operate as with all other consumer goods and services.