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Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results Paperback – July, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this witty and comprehensive treatise we follow Kleiman, lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, as he makes his way through ancient opium dens, Colombian coca fields, liquor stores, house parties and DEA offices. An urbane, informed observer, the author takes note of drug-trade economics, inconsistencies of government eradication efforts and frailties of human psychology and physiology in a surprisingly entertaining yet lucid analysis of drug addiction and its consequences for individuals and society. Kleiman makes a case for a middle road between prohibition and permissiveness, i.e., for taxes, regulations and personal-use licenses that might avoid the pitfalls of criminalization. He has many interesting suggestions: the deterrent value of a $1 tax on drinks and fining juveniles for smoking. And we hear from experts like Sholom Aleichem, who quips, "An innkeeper loves a drunkard, but not for a son-in-law."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046500086X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465000869
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,671,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark A. R. Kleiman

Mark A.R. Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His teaching and research cover drug policy, crime control policy, and methods of policy analysis. His books include *Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control* and *Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results*, and *When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment* (one of The Economist's "Books of the Year" for 2009).

Most recently, he has joined Jonathan Caulkins, Angela, Hawken, and Beau Kilmer in writing two books in Oxford's "What Everyone Needs to Know" series, one on *Drug Policy* and, most recently, one on *Marijuana Legalization*. He edits the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis and blogs at The Reality-Based Community ( His essay in Foreign Affairs, "Surgical Strikes in the Drug Wars: Smarter Strategies for Both Sides of the Border," presents an innovative approach to reducing drug-trafficking violence.

Mr. Kleiman studied political science, philosophy, and economics at Haverford College and received his Master of Public Policy degree and his Ph.D. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he also taught before coming to UCLA. His governmental experience includes stints on Capitol Hill (working for Les Aspin), in Boston City Hall, and at the Justice Department. His firm, BOTEC Analysis Corporation, advises local, state, and national governments on drug policy and crime control.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Mark A.R. Kleiman's Against Excess is a pretty splendid little bit of work, by someone who has clearly been thinking for a long time about how to combat the various drug problems. As with a lot of what's been making me happy recently, Kleiman's book is good less for the solutions it advances -- though it does advance a lot of those -- and more for the habits of thought that it shakes loose. For instance, Kleiman objects to our calling the drug problem "the drug problem." He would insist that there are separate drug problems for alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and heroin. Each has its own modes of acting on addicts. Heroin, for instance, leaves addicts docile; hence the problem with heroin is not the drug itself, and more what happens when the drug is made illegal. Alcohol, on the other hand, is dangerous because it makes people more violent (toward spouses especially) and when it's combined with automobiles.

So Kleiman has a number of different policies to suggest for a number of different drugs. One recurring theme throughout is that there ought to be drug licenses, just as there are driver's licenses. Your drinking license could be revoked permanently if you've ever driven drunk. Likewise, you could choose to get a non-drinker's license if you worried about your own ability to control your habit, or if your religion forbade you from indulging. One advantage to getting such a license is that insurance companies would presumably give you lower rates.

A number of little suggestions like this add up to a book that strikes a highly nuanced pose between strict prohibition and strict legalization. One such spot in the middle is decriminalization, which makes dealing a drug illegal -- and more-strictly punished -- but leaves consumers alone.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Professor Mark Kleiman has long frustrated partisans in the drug debate because he takes a middle ground between the criminalizers and the commercial legalizers. There are a range of options in between the two extremes, he frequently points out. During this era of rapid change in marijuana laws, it is useful to consult one of the most authoritative books on drug policy, written by one of the nation’s experts on the subject. Against Excess, Kleiman’s magnum opus, first came out in 1992. He also wrote Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (1989), and co-authored Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (2012), which I also reviewed on Amazon. He is regularly sought for his analysis of new state marijuana laws. A professor at UCLA for 19 years, Kleiman just announced his new appointment to NYU’s Marron Institute on Urban Management.

The main obstacle to effective drug policy, writes Kleiman, is the black-and-white mentality of most Americans, who consider drugs as either illegal and dangerous, or as legal and acceptable. This mentality leads to both too much prohibition, and to too little regulation of drugs that aren’t prohibited. Once drugs are legal, opposition arises from conservatives to “nanny state” regulations trying to coerce people for their own good.

It is better to recognize that recreational psychoactive drugs, when used to excess, create huge social costs. Rejecting the either-or fallacy of criminalization or commercial legalization, Kleiman proposes a third category of “grudgingly tolerated vices” (GTVs), in which he includes alcohol and tobacco. He argues that GTVS need to be properly regulated, though not necessarily criminalized, to reduce the harm to public health and safety.
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Most balanced explanation I've read of how to keep our communities safe in a responsible manner while also honoring civil rights.
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