Our culture seems to believe in simple moral solutions to complex social problems. Applied to the problem of increasing addiction to opioids, it looks like this:
- Identify the “bad thing” (opioid drugs),
- declare war on it (War on Drugs),
- initiate a media campaign of misinformation (propaganda),
- take enforcement action (DEA raids),
- over-prosecute a few high profile cases (CVS, Walgreen’s),
- scare everyone else (legal threats),
- and then spend millions of our tax dollars (enforcement)
- forever (war on drugs is still being fought after 30 years).
This creates a bureaucratic monster:
- Once funds are allocated (government appropriation),
- and positions are created (org structure),
- and a “war machine” has been assembled (DEA)
- for a bureaucracy to administrate (political appointments),
- and salaries are being paid (huge investment of time & money),
- the organization develops bureaucratic inertia (jobs)
- and becomes an unstoppable beast. (inefficient & ineffectual)
Success or failure becomes less relevant than the survival of the “war machine” itself, as it struggles to maintain the heroic American Myth:
The good guy (always us, of course) always wins, totally annihilates the bad guy (the declared enemy), and suffers no consequences.
Any adult in this country should be aware that the world is frighteningly complex, that actions often have unintended side-effects, and that absolute good and absolute evil don’t exist.
Thus, every action has wide-ranging, long-term ripple effects impossible to predict until they actually happen.
We should have learned by now that the imposition of absolutist moral solutions to social problems, like too much alcohol consumption (Prohibition) and teen-age pregnancy (abstinence), are doomed to fail.