Needle exchange is one of those weird areas where bourgeois morality is actually very expensive for the state to enforce.

Probably, needle exchange does lead to more drug use by lowering the cost of doing drugs. But most of us (all of us, I hope) recognize that no matter how screwed up you are, no one deserves to die of AIDS or hep C.

Okay, a conservative or libertarian might argue, but drug users bring this trouble on themselves; why should I a) pay for clean syringes and b) implicitly sanction their irresponsible and self-destructive behavior? Well, okay, leave aside the morality of forcing people to use dirty syringes (really forcing, since as I pointed out in the last post, junkies use dirty works partly because the government won't let them buy clean ones legally). The problem is, needles are cheap, and treating AIDS isn't. Given that we're not going to let them die, it makes much more fiscal sense just to give them the needles.

The libertarian answer is to eliminate both the restrictions on needle purchase, and the government program to distribute them, and I'd support that. But given that we are clearly not going to eliminate the syringe restrictions any time soon, we might as well save money by giving junkies some clean needles.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.