June 13th, 2006

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Psychology and Policy

Heard a very interesting article on BBC World Service this morning, talking about the Swiss experiment with drug regulation. They've apparently taken a super-pragmatic approach to heroin addiction, focusing on crime reduction and harm mitigation, and it's reportedly working quite well.

Basically, they provide free heroin/methadone treatment and free needles to addicts, but manage it stringently. Addicts have to queue up at the pharmacy each morning to receive their fix, and they are closely monitored. The attitude is very professional, treating it as a health problem.

Results: new cases of heroin addiction have plummeted -- I believe they said that it's fallen five-fold since they started. The reason seems to be simple psychology: the sight of the addicts lining up to get their daily fix has made heroin totally uncool, with the result that the younger set are avoiding it like the plague. Early criticisms that a legalized approach would lead to more addiction have been pretty effectively refuted. And heroin-related crime has mostly gone away, since it's easier (if more humiliating) to get the legal fix.

Very nicely done, and instructive to the overall drug argument. It's a good illustration that legalization can work well, if you think the problem through carefully. Now if only the US could apply a similar degree of sense to its drug policies...
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Let me get this straight...

... we're supposedly trying to establish a sovreign and legitimate government in Iraq, right? Which is respected in the eyes of its people, right? Which means disabusing those people of the idea that it's simply a puppet of the US, right?

And having President Bush drop in on Iraq without telling the Iraqi government is supposed to help this how? Surely that has to be one of the most concise ways to make us look like the Arrogant Overlords -- it shows that we care, but it also shows a fundamental lack of respect. I'm sure that the decision was made on security grounds, but that's even more counterproductive: it says that we don't trust the Iraqi government. Not exactly the message we're supposedly trying to send here...