Time for something completely different


The black economy exists in almost every country. In the UK it is now estimated to be worth about £40 billion a year and run by 27 "Mr Bigs", many of whom are actually in prison!

Imagine, that this was actually a single company, operating legitimately within Britain and making a massive profit. The calls for windfall taxes would be increasing daily. But as it's illegal all we ask is that the state try those tired and tested methods of the past – tougher law enforcement and harsher penalties. Whether re-branded or re-tweaked, so as to seem new, they remain ineffectual.

Even though they are operating outside the law, criminals still pursue a natural human ambition: profit. As Deputy Chief Constable Jon Murphy, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), put it: "They will form loose coalitions, sharing their specialist skills in pursuit of the highest profit with the least risk."

The mainstay of all operations within this part of the economy is violence, partly because the returns are so high (due to the illegality and risk of their operations), but mostly because the rule of law has been supplanted by the rule of brute force. It is time for a new approach, one that could bring both revenue to the government and less violence to communities; there is a need to bring this world into the light.

The authoritarian drug legislation of the past 100 years has achieved little, except for criminalising many and driving others into a life of violence. We should be able to approach drugs in a mature and rational way – free from tabloid hysteria – and allow people to make their own informed choices. Unfortunately, it is far easier to pander to an historic, outdated view and perpetuate a drug war that criminalises millions and plunges thousands into a life of misery each year.