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Violence and the U.S. Prohibition of Drugs and Alcohol

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  • Jeffrey A. Miron

Abstract

Among the many unresolved questions regarding the determinants of violence is the role of prohibitions against drugs and alcohol. Conventional wisdom holds that consumption of these goods encourages violence and that prohibitions discourage such consumption; thus, prohibitions reduce violence. An alternative view, however, is that prohibitions create black markets, and in black markets participants use violence to resolve commercial disputes. Thus, prohibitions potentially increase violence. This paper examines the relation between prohibitions and violence using the historical behavior of the homicide rate in the United States. The results document that increases in enforcement of drug and alcohol prohibition have been associated with increases in the homicide rate, and auxiliary evidence suggests this positive correlation reflects a causal effect of prohibition enforcement on homicide. Controlling for other potential determinants of the homicide rate -- the age composition of the population, the incarceration rate, economic conditions, gun availability, and the death penalty -- does not alter the conclusion that drug and alcohol prohibition have substantially raised the homicide rate in the United States over much of the past 100 years.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6950.

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Date of creation: Feb 1999
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Publication status: published as Miron, Jeffrey A, 1999. "Violence and the U.S. Prohibitions of Drug and Alcohol," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1-2), pages 78-114, Fall.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6950

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  1. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 396-418, June.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
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Cited by:
  1. Adam Jacobsson & Alberto Naranjo, 2009. "Counter-intuitive effects of domestic law enforcement policies in the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 323-343, November.
  2. World Bank, 2010. "Crime and Violence in Central America : A Development Challenge - Executive Summary," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2979, The World Bank.
  3. Ilyana Kuziemko & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of Imprisoning Drug Offenders," NBER Working Papers 8489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Caulkins, Jonathan P. & Reuter, Peter, 2006. "Illicit drug markets and economic irregularities," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-14, March.
  5. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," Research Papers 1828, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  6. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey K. Miron, 2003. "Alcohol Prohibition and Cirrhosis," NBER Working Papers 9681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mudambi, Ram & Paul, Chris, 2003. "Domestic drug prohibition as a source of foreign institutional instability: an analysis of the multinational extralegal enterprise," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 335-349.
  8. Carlos Dobkin & Nancy Nicosia, 2009. "The War on Drugs: Methamphetamine, Public Health, and Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 324-49, March.
  9. Bryan, Mark L. & Del Bono, Emilia & Pudney, Stephen, 2013. "Drug-related crime," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-08, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  10. Robert T. Burrus, Jr., 2006. "The Impact of Weight-Based Penalties on Drug Purity and Consumption: A Theoretical Analysis," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 629-646, Fall.

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