Imagine my surprise on finding a cogent, well thought out and sensible article at the Guardian's Comment is Free site. But there it is, they've managed to do it.

It is perhaps tasteless to say so, but we are fortunate that we face a social plague very similar to that of gin – the illegal drug trade. And as in the mid-18th century, we see the failure of abolitionist policies to control the menace. The total value of this trade amounts to between £2bn and £6.5bn a year – all untaxed........The total benefit of such legalisation to the Exchequer is likely to be between £3.5bn and £6.3bn a year, including excise duty, VAT and income tax from the dealers and allowing for additional costs.

Quite, in these straitened times, while all are looking for new sources of tax revenue, why don't we legalise something which we know we cannot beat by prohibition? As we've shown by trying said prohibition for the past few decades?

The tax revenue would not be the only benefit, of course. There is the simple civil liberties aspect: my or your desire to ingest oddities carries no diminution of the rights of others, nor threat to their person or property, so it should not be something which is constricted by the law. Legalisation and the subsequent competition amongst legitimate suppliers would lower prices (even with the high tax rates we'd impose) and thus reduce the crime associated with addicts looking for the money with which to score.

Prisons could be filled with real criminals rather than those only damaging themselves, we'd save many billions in policing costs. The quality of the drugs on offer would rise, thus reducing the physical damage that they do and the associated costs to the NHS.

All in all, we reduce the costs to the Exchequer, increase the revenues and advance freedom and liberty in one fell swoop.

It's something of a pity that we've not done it already really, isn't it?

Perhaps this could be one of those Naomi Klein moments, from her book The Shock Doctrine? Where we neo-liberals use a shock, a crisis, to advance our agenda?