Saturday, August 8, 2009


Many (most?) of my posts betray a liberal/"progressive" ideological bent.
Nevetheless, I consider myself a pragmatist: do what works.
(... with a clear notion of exactly what it is the policy is supposed to achieve. Careful readers will note that I'm big on "strategic objectives": what is it we want the world to look like next year? In two years? In five years? - whether in Iraq or in our economy.)

As a liberal 'pragmatist', I'm generally willing to give just about anything a shot. Does it work? Great! Let's keep doing it.
If it doesn't work, let's honestly admit defeat and try something else.

My conservative colleagues don't see it this way.
They prefer ideology above all else - who cares if it doesn't work?

Stated goal: prevent teen preganancy and reduce incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Solution #1: "abstinence only" education.
Result: Teen pregnancy and syphilis up sharply during Bush years.

Stated goal: reduce Americans' use of bad drugs & reduce the illegal drug trade.
Solution #1: "War on Drugs". (The term was first used by President Richard Nixon in 1969)
Result: Drug use in America unchanged; Mexican & Colombian drug cartels run rampant.
[aside: Prohibition had a similar effect - Americans kept drinking while Organized Crime flourished.]

I'll concede: maybe it's best that teens abstain from sex.
Maybe it's best that no one snorts coke.
BUT: teens WILL have sex and folks WILL snort coke!

Let's find policies that accomplish the stated goals.
You want to reduce teen pregancy & control STDs?
Getting teens to stop having sex is not realistic.
How 'bout we teach 'em about contraception & prophylactics to reduce STDs?
[Even our esteemed Republican opposition seems to concede - by their actions - that prohibiting sex is not a realistic goal!]

Drug use? With absolutely NO corroborating data I assert that the cost to society of unconstrained drug use would be far less than the cost of interdiction, prosecution, and incarceration is today.
... AND: legalizing the trade would put drug cartels out of business! - automatically curtailing the trade in automatic weapons as a beneficial side-effect!
I have a more-or-less relevant analogy to hand: Prohibition.
Yes, alcoholism is bad - but the cost to society of lost productivity & treatment is FAR LESS than the cost incurred by interdiction, prosecution, and incarceration... AND - organized crime was crippled by Repeal! (till they discovered heroin...)

Conservatives oughta love this! - the Evil Government can't dictate what the proud, resourceful individual can or cannot ingest! - It's the proud, resourceful individual's body - let him use it as he pleases!

The neocon 'pre-emptive war' in Iraq? Maybe it was a great idea.
It didn't accomplish the stated goal of keeping us safer!
- If anything, it made us less safe - now we're truly despised by the Muslim world! (... as opposed to simply loathed... )

So, yeah - let's give policies a fair chance to succeed...
BUT: when they clearly fail, let's try something different!

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