February 4, 2011

MEGAN MCARDLE: THE GOALS AND MEANS OF METH CONTROL:

So with meth, we made it illegal, and then it turned out you could make the stuff from cold medicine in a very dangerous and dirty home production process, so we made it hard to get cold medicine, so they switched to an even more dangerous process, so now we’re going to make it even harder to get cold medicine . . .

At every step, we don’t consider the whole cost of functionally prohibiting cold medicine; we consider only the marginal cost of the new prohibition. And we compare that marginal cost to the whole cost of drug addiction, nasty amateur meth labs, etc. This policy ratchet means we can easily end up in a situation where the sum of our drug laws are worse than the disease of drug addiction, even though no one particular prohibition is.

Are we in that place? Well, if you’re someone who needs a decongestant, particularly someone with chronic allergies or sinus or ear infections, then this is a pretty major cost–as anyone with recurring episodic problems can tell you, it’s getting harder and harder to get doctors to write you prophylactic prescriptions, because of dual pressure from healthinsurers and the government.

I want my goddamn Sudafed. What I’ve noticed is that they keep making it harder to get, but we keep getting more meth labs. Naturally, the political class’s answer is more of the same! And nobody’s held accountable, and nobody’s willing to relax changes that have proven ineffectual — they just accumulate like barnacles.