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[The Economist] Markets in everything. User-friendly data. (15 Jul 2011)

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Earlier this month the Irish Times reported that the country’s illegal drug market had collapsed:

'After 15 years of market growth…[dealers] were finding it harder to sell drugs, as pay cuts, tax rises and job losses left recreational users with less money. The Irish gangs were unable to shift larger hauls and, in any case, lacked the resources to buy in bulk, so they were ordering smaller quantities. This liquidity crisis was an unfamiliar problem for criminals used to having a river of money at their disposal.'

User arrests are down by 20% in recent years and the value of drugs seized—used as a proxy for market size—has hit 15-year lows. This demand elasticity is evident in both hard and soft drug markets: the value of cocaine seized last year is less than half that of previous years, marijuana's a tenth of its 2006 peak. Even heroin junkies have economised; the value of seized heroin has fallen more than 85% since 2008.

While one can quibble with this analysis (for reasons described below), it suggests that most Irish drug users aren’t addicted automatons; with less disposable income, many seem to have quit or reduced their drug use. Even if the changes are only directionally correct, it highlights the "Reefer Madness" fallacy of treating drug users as mindless addicts.....

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