Prisoners of Policy


I read with dismay the refusal of the US and Canada to even discuss an end to the war on drugs and an end to the US embargo on Cuba and acceptance of their participation in the OAS summit. Both Obama and Biden have been quite brittle on the drugs topic, which seems singularly unfortunate since the whole process has been closely following the failure of Prohibition. The Noble Experiment, as it was dubbed, was a boon to organized crime and brought a widespread acceptance of drunkenness in public behavior that did not exist before. There appears to be two factors at play — the allure of the forbidden and the business bounty that comes from being willing to accept the risks and supply the forbidden substances.

But in my dismay there was one other thought that crossed my mind — whole industries have sprung up to facilitate the outsourcing of these policies. This must be an expression of the dark side of public-private partnerships — the businesses and (of course) lobbyists who have made their fortunes facilitating one of these (perhaps) misdirected policies will fight like made to keep the gravy train rolling. So countries like the US and Canada that like to outsource the real work of an unpleasant policy may find themselves prisoners of their own  outsourcing. But then, loss of control is precisely that, loss of control (and of course accountability).

So here we are, decades later, with the failure of multiple policies conspicuous for all to see — but they continue despite all rational thought to the contrary. Guess Rome had the same problems towards their end as well…

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