You’re not a liberal… your grasp of the key issues is too good. Maybe you’re a liberaltarian. Personally, I’m a pragmatarian.
Sure, we need regulations… a regulation is basically a rule… and of course we need rules. But what’s the demand for rules? If we don’t know the demand for rules… then how can we ensure that society’s limited resources will be efficiently allocated?
Lots of people voted for prohibition. The majority wanted a rule that would make alcohol illegal… and that’s exactly what they got. The issue is how closely the supply of prohibition matched the demand for prohibition.
Do you agree that the issue is the disparity between the supply of and demand for prohibition? Would you agree that it would be problematic if the supply was far greater than the demand?
If you don’t agree that it would be problematic for the supply of prohibition to be far greater than the demand… then… well… hmmmm.
Would it be problematic for the supply of war to be far greater than the demand? Would it be problematic for the supply of cars to be far greater than the demand?
The problem with the supply of cars being far greater than the demand is that society would have derived far more benefit from the alternative uses of the limited resources that were used to produce the excess cars.
Of course it’s generally not the case that the supply of cars is far greater than the demand. This is simply because prices will communicate when there’s too many cars being produced. When there’s a surplus of cars… prices will drop accordingly and this will discourage producers from using more of society’s limited resources to produce additional cars.
The price is a value signal that is created by the decentralized decisions of the diverse participants in a market place. Everybody contributes to the creation of value signals and everybody responds to changes in value signals. It’s a feedback loop that’s based on people’s valuations of changes to their unique circumstances/conditions. The more accurate the feedback loop, the more efficiently that society’s limited resources will be allocated.
Prohibition used a massive amount of society’s limited resources. All these resources were not magically created out of thin air… they were taken from other uses. If you want to assume that they were taken from less valuable uses… then why also assume that a market is necessary? Why assume it’s necessary for unique individuals in unique circumstances to decide for themselves which uses of society’s limited resources are more or less valuable?
Determining the actual demand for prohibition would have been super simple. Taxpayers would simply have been given the freedom to choose where their taxes went (pragmatarianism). The more important prohibition was to taxpayers… the more willing that they would have been to sacrifice the alternative uses of their tax dollars (national defense, public education, public healthcare, etc). Then, and only then, would society’s limited resources have been put to their most valuable uses.
Really the most important resource is brainpower. All the brainpower that was used to solve the problem of enforcing prohibition was not used to solve any of society’s numerous other problems. If taxpayers can’t decide on their own which problems are truly greater….
X Problem > Y Problem
… then it’s a given that society’s limited brainpower will be inefficiently allocated. Nobody benefits when society’s limited, but substantial, brainpower is put to less valuable uses.
I’ve decided on my own that society’s greatest problem is its failure to understand the necessity of individual valuation of problems. So here I am allocating my own brainpower accordingly. It’s entirely up to you to decide on your own whether you allocate your own brainpower to helping me solve the same problem.