Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's Hard to Climb Up a Slippery Slope

When we talk about slippery slopes, we usually emphasize how they facilitate certain kinds of policy change: policy A increases the likelihood of passing policy B. But slippery slopes also inhibit policy changes: policy A decreases the likelihood of passing policy C. Slippery slopes are both easy to slide down and hard to climb up. I was reminded of this when I read the following passage from John Hawkins’s pathetically bad defense of the drug war:
But, some people may say, “so what if drug usage does explode? They're not hurting anyone but themselves.” That might be true in a purely capitalistic society, but in the sort of welfare state that we have in this country, the rest of us would end up paying a significant share of the bills of people who don't hold jobs or end up strung out in the hospital without jobs – and that's even if you forget about the thugs who'd end up robbing our houses to get things to pawn to buy more drugs.
On this blog, I’ve often (perhaps too often) argued that welfarism, particularly socialization of medical costs, encourages the regulation of lifestyle choices. But as Hawkins’s argument demonstrates, welfarism also discourages the deregulation of lifestyle choices. Welfare policy is thus partially to blame for the maintenance of the disastrous drug war, though it probably does not make the marginal difference between legality and prohibition.

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