Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Just one more law will fix it..."

Remember that C.S. Lewis quote from yesterday? Go ahead and read it again, refresh your memory of what it says.

Then read this story on the Cost of Meth Prohibition by Megan McCardle:
If you've been following drug laws at all, you'll know that you can no longer buy cold medicine with pseudoephedrine without getting a clerk to get it for you from behind the counter, and signing for it. That's because pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in the most popular amateur syntheses of methamphetamine. By making it hard to get, authorities hoped that they could fatally damage the meth trade.

It's long been an article of faith among libertarians that this was simply going to push manufacture to Mexican gangs, but now Keith Humphreys tells me that it hasn't even done that. Instead, armies of "smurfers" are getting around the sudafed purchase limits; a box of pseudoephedrine-laden pills purchased for $7 to $8 can bring $40 to $50 from meth dealers. So meth use is back up...

...what we're effectively talking about is making it impossible for people to unplug a stuffy nose without going to a doctor. Which in turn means either that we're going to spend $50 to $100 per cold (obviously, much more expensive than even a bunch of really terrible meth lab fires) or that people are going to go without treatment.
So I'm going to quote myself again.
This is a problem of utopianism. So many of the issues that we, as a country, face right now are the result of people who believe, really, truly believe, in the perfectability of the human condition. And the driving mindset is the delusional belief that if we could just, somehow, someway, pass the right laws, institute the right government programs, then everything would be perfect. The nonsensical belief that we can do away with violence, hunger, disease, thirst, war, accidents, illiteracy, animal attacks, dandruff, undercooked burritos, global warming, hemorrhoids and the heartbreak of psoriasis if only we could institute the right government programs. There are no inherent problems with humanity that lead to problems, at least none that can't be legislated away, and with enough of the right kind of laws, humanity can achieve perfection, where everyone is smart and educated, has equal wealth and no disputes with his neighbors, a Lake Wobegone world where everyone's above average.

It's public policy from the John Lennon ("imagine all the people living life in peace") school, and it requires government policies from the Vladimir Lenin school. Because you can't perfect human behavior in a free society. (You can't perfect it in a totalitarian society, either, but there are always going to be some who believe that, if they only had a little more control, if the could only institute a few more restrictions, they could make everything perfect.)

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