Monday, October 26, 2015

Quickies: A Posteriori Policy Rationalizations

     A policy that fails to achieve the goals stated for it at its inception must be regarded as a failure. But policy wonks and the politicians who listen to them are indisposed to admit to failure. That can have electoral consequences, don’t y’know. Thus, they frequently claim a posteriori justifications for a failed policy. Such justifications are often unfalsifiable. That is: they constitute acts of faith.

     Consider in this connection the War on Drugs. Vigorous prosecution of this “war” was supposed to reduce:

  • Drug use and dependency;
  • The non-drug crimes associated (by the Drug Warriors) with drug use and dependency;
  • The power and influence of organized crime;
  • Certain other social costs.
Yet every problem claimed to stem from the use of illegal recreational drugs has gotten worse since they were outlawed. Thus, the policy must be regarded as a failure. But wait: the Drug Warriors have a rationalization:

“It would have been worse had we not acted.”

     Note that this is exactly the rationalization employed by the Left about the exponential explosion of the welfare state. When the Left uses it, the Right scoffs at it – and justifiably so. How, then, shall men of good will, determined to rely upon facts and logic, permit the Drug Warriors, the vast majority of whom deem themselves conservatives, to get away with the same specious a posteriori argument?

     Needless to say – yet I must say it, owing to the tendency so many persons exhibit toward accusing their political adversaries of hidden motives – I agree wholeheartedly that the recreational drugs are bad for you. Moreover, they would be no better for you if legalized. But let’s not obscure the policy point: Why should we permit the Drug Warriors to rationalize, post hoc, a policy that failed to achieve its stated objectives by making a claim that cannot be tested without a time machine?

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