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Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places (RAND Studies in Policy Analysis) 1st Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521799973
ISBN-10: 052179997X
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

MacCoun and Reuter, former staff members at the RAND who study drug policy and behavior, have produced one of the largest, most sweeping comparative investigations of the contemporary use, regulation, and policing of various drugs and addictive behaviors, all with an eye to suggesting how the United States might decriminalize certain drugs and rethink public policy toward addictive substances generally. The sheer weight and variety of the authors' evidence, the especially instructive comparisons of addictive behaviors and policies in Western European societies most akin to the United States, and the linking of American policy to punitive antidrug practices in the Third World give the authors' arguments an intellectual heft and force no public discussion on the subject can hereafter ignore. Some readers will not be persuaded by the authors' pointing to the subjective, and even inconclusive, nature of "drug studies." So, too, the comparison of gambling, prostitution, and alcohol consumption with heroin, cocaine, and marijuana use sometimes strains the analysis. But the authors preach common sense rooted in evidence rather than dogma; their temperate tone throughout and their command of the subject make their book anything but a "heresy." Recommended for most collections. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


" enormously important book. This is especially true because drug policy is a field where tendentiousness prevails, with the exception of a very few other works...for anybody seriously and earnestly concerned about drug policy, it is likely to become indispensible." The Nation

"MacCoun and Reuter's book turns out to be first-rate scholarship. It is an incredibly carefully researched, thoughtful book--far and away the best scholarship I have ever encountered on the subject. This is a book I would recommend to economists interested in researching the area, to those just generally interested in the topic, and to cocktail party bores who mindlessly preach either the necessity of legalization or the inevitability of social ruin if legalization were to occur." Journal of Economic Literature

"...the largest, most sweeping comparative investigations of the contemporary use, regulation, and policing of various drugs and addictive behaviors..."

"MacCoun and Reuter offer a refreshing, even unique, overview based more on data than preconceptions, and paying attention to aspects of this important issue that are generaly ignored.... Although no easy answers are offered, there are good and welcome guidelines on how to address the unavoidable difficult questions." Choice

"The book is well written, and it provides a fresh perspective on several options for drug policy. It certainly gives a valuable perspective on these enduring issues." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

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Product Details

  • Series: RAND Studies in Policy Analysis
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (August 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052179997X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521799973
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By From The Independent Review on September 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
"In Drug War Heresies, Robert J. MacCoun and Peter Reuter ask whether drug prohibition makes sense and whether legalization might achieve a better balancing of the costs and benefits associated with drugs and drug policy. They draw on a broad range of social science literature, and they emphasize the lessons provided both by drug prohibition in other places and by prohibitions of other goods, such as alcohol and prostitution. In discussing this evidence, they raise most of the key issues that should be considered in evaluating drug policy. Their book is an excellent starting point for anyone who wishes to understand the debates about prohibition versus legalization.
MacCoun and Reuter make a compelling case that many evils typically attributed to drugs result instead from drug prohibition and its enforcement. According to their analysis, prohibition causes increases in property crime because users face elevated prices; increases in violent crime because traffickers cannot resolve disputes using the courts; diminishments of civil liberties owing to the difficulty of detecting crimes without natural complainants; increases in corruption of police and politicians; disruption of countries that produce coca and opium; diminishments of users' health because of poor quality control; increases in the spread of HIV because of prohibition-induced restrictions on clean needles; excessive restrictions on medical uses of drugs; and reductions in respect for the law bred by widespread violation of prohibition-among other consequences.
And yet the authors do not endorse legalization. They find great fault with the heavy emphasis on criminal sanctions in current U.S.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David W. Rasmussen on January 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Drug War Heresies may be the best book ever written about modern U.S. drug policy. Written by a psychologist and an economist, the authors draw on attempts to control other substances (such as alcohol prohibition in the U.S.) and exhaustively examine the alternative and experimental European drug policies that most American readers will find particularly useful. The authors are careful to not impose their values and beliefs into their work, instead focusing on the consequences of alternative drug policies. The result is a persuasive case for policy reform in America that is not doctrinaire. Required reading for all who are interested in illicit drug policy in America.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ray O'Keefe Cruitt on July 2, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most comprehensive, objective or "bi-partisan," and current studies available to the general public. Although it is indeed an academic study and is written to influence policymakers, the educated public can easily follow most of the arguments posited by MacCoun and Reuter. Both thinkers have extensive experience in the area of drug policy, both are senior consultants with RAND (Drug Policy Research Center) and have published a considerable amount of literature on the nature of drugs and drug laws. This dynamic text attempts a comparative analysis of vices, such as gambling and prostitution, with that of recreational drug use, including alcohol and tobacco. The purpose of this study is to research whether or not there are any correlations between vices and, if so - can they assist in our understanding of how to regulate drugs and the desires of individuals for drugs. For example, of the kind of comparisons made, is that of prostitution and gambling. Both are legal in Las Vegas, NV - both are thought to be harmful vices, nevertheless, the law has provided a place for them in a legal context - can the same be done for drugs? The text also evaluates extensively, the European models of drug law enforcement and treatment and compares them to America's own models of law and treatment. The authors do not offer any solutions to the drug problem, but what they have done is contribute a comprehensive study with an extensive and diverse amount of data on the subject, something of which has not been achieved as thoroughly as it has been done in this study.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Kindle on May 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'll admit that any book with the work heresies in the title has an automatic advantage in peaking my interest, but this volume does so much more than merely entice. MacCoun and Reuter have done an amazing job of looking that drug prohibition from a new point of view. Frankly, despite the passage of a few years, I believe that this book is absolute essential if one hopes to really understand the controversy over the War on Drugs.

Rather than attempt a summary of the contents, let me simply point to three specifics as representative of the wealth of insight the reader will encounter. First, MacCoun and Reuter have expanded the typical dichotomous legalization v criminalization perspectives to include depenalization and commercialization. Counter the arguments of drug prohibitionists, depenalization does not seem to be inextricably intertwined with massive increases in the prevalence of drug use as is anticipated with legalization. Also, legalization may have less negative increases in prevalence without the accompaniment of commercialization. By adding these two considerations, MacCoun and Reuter enable expansion of the debate into potentially fertile areas for improving the consequences of prohibition.

Secondly, the careful analysis of the 48 negative consequences of prohibition and the related causal linkage to enforcement, illegal status, and use should be the focus of careful reflection by every reader. In many respects, the damage caused by the War on Drugs is a kind of collateral damage - unintentionally caused by the implementation of US prohibition efforts.

Thirdly, MacCoun & Reuter reconceptualize the total harmfulness of illicit drugs as the interaction of three factors: prevalence, intensity, and micro harm (i.e., user self-damage).
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