In last Sunday’s Review-Journal, political consultant Tom Letizia heaped praise on local government officials for suing opioid-peddling drug companies, claiming 175 Americans die daily from opioid and heroin overdoses (“The county sues opioid makers”). This move is rich in hypocrisy coming from an area that constantly promotes the overconsumption of alcohol in its marketing.
Mr. Letizia mentions the “$100 million expended for 2015 opioid-related emergency room and impatient charges in Clark County. Yet “excessive drinking, mainly binge drinking, costs some $250 billion a year in lost productivity, health care and other expenses,” write the editors of Bloomberg View. “The toll in personal suffering and ruined lives is incalculable.”
Mr. Letizia also points out that, “There has been a 400 percent increase in opioid prescriptions since 1999.” Meanwhile, a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, finds that one in eight Americans abuses alcohol, a 50 percent increase since the start of the century.
While drug sellers are made out to be society’s current scourge, nobody is suing Diageo, Suntory or Bacardi despite the fact that “alcohol is responsible for one in 10 deaths among working-age Americans,” Bloomberg reports.
Nothing says Las Vegas like drinking. Just ask the former mayor: martinis and showgirls. At the same time, every other country song celebrates and encourages excess alcohol consumption.
What happens here, stays here, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority brags. All the while, an average of nearly 90,000 people died each year from alcohol consumption between the years 2006 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Prohibition of alcohol, the “noble experiment,” writes economist Mark Thornton, “was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses and improve health and hygiene in America.”
While he doesn’t advocate making opioids illegal, Mr. Letizia’s plea for government to seize the profits of drugmakers uses similar reasoning: opioid use is “overburdening” government budgets and “draining their resources.”
Alcohol prohibition led to an increase in the size of government and did not solve the social problems it was supposed to solve. Mr. Letizia’s proposed money grab would do the same. People will self-medicate and, in the case of alcohol abuse, be encouraged to do so in Las Vegas.
The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”
Taking money from private drug makers to put in government control will serve only to increase government power while making all of us poorer and less free.
Douglas French writes from Las Vegas.