Policy Is Not For The Good of the People

There is an article circulating on the internet from the New York Daily News.  In it, former Nixon aide John Erlichman says that they ramped up the war in Drugs to go after hippies and black people.  Economist Milton Friedman told Nixon he would lose the war on drugs.  He said Nixon would spend billions, and it would be better off making them legal.

The war on drugs has cost trillions.  The opportunity cost is billions in lost tax revenue, billions in costs for law enforcement, lost human life, and destruction of neighborhoods because of violence caused by trafficking.

Erlichman says,

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

As long as the news media is being candid about the core roots of public policy, it would be nice if they investigated a lot of other public policies to see the root cause of them.

In the book, Freedom From Fear, David Kennedy found that almost 100% of FDR’s New Deal government programs came from politics.  Farm supports weren’t there to help farmers.  They were put there to make sure farmers voted Democratic.  Labor policy wasn’t enacted to help people.  It was designed to make sure people voted Democratic.

Flash forward to 2016 and all of a sudden these programs are sacred.  They are only sacred because of their longevity.  They were designed by people who had no knowledge of economics.  They had no knowledge of economic incentives.  They were sold to a general public as a safety net.  The public bought it because it was so fearful at the time.  But, the reality is all of those policies could have been designed using positive economic models not normative ones and been a lot better for people.

It is time to end the war on drugs.  I bet you would see violence in neighborhoods drop.  It’s also time to get rid of a lot of the New Deal Programs that don’t do anything except favor one political party over another.  We have learned too much about economics over the years and should be smarter than that.

It’s also a good time to listen closely to the five remaining Presidential candidates and trace their policies.  Are they favoring one voting bloc over another?  Are they using positive economics to spur action?  Or are they using normative economics so the government can pick winners and losers and they can fence in a voting bloc?