John Meadowcroft - Prohibitions

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The ‘nanny state’ has expanded in recent years. Politicians and bureaucrats have increasingly sought to restrict what individuals are permitted to do with their own bodies or their own property. In this short talk John Meadowcroft discusses Prohibitions, his new book on this topic.

The book examines the outlawing of the manufacture, distribution, sale or provision of particular goods and services by consenting adults. It begins with an overview of the economics of prohibition and subsequently analyses particular prohibition issues including gambling, prostitution, recreational drugs and trade in body parts.

The authors find that in most cases prohibition imposes significant costs on individuals and society as a whole and produces few benefits in return. Prohibition places markets into the hands of criminal enterprises and criminalises people who would not otherwise come into conflict with the law. It makes risky behaviour even more risky, increases public ignorance and often encourages the behaviour it seeks to prevent. Given the substantial costs and minimal benefits, it is clear that prohibition is bad public policy.