How rational can a state be if, as George Carlin said, we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. Irrationality may be something to poke fun at, but when practiced full tilt, we pay a very heavy price for acting out with a lack of common sense. So lets us enumerate some of the various ways our irrationality costs us big time.
Let’s start with the prohibition on using drugs. Interestingly during the 19th century there were no laws prohibiting the use of any kind of drug, and hence virtually no drug problem existed in America during that time. With the onset of the 20th century, a kind of religious fanaticism burst upon the scene, starting with the prohibition of alcohol around 1920. Religious fanatics called it the great experiment in trying to legislate morality. This resulted in denying lawful establishments the right to sell booze, but it didn’t stop people from drinking to their heart’s content. To fill the void, organized crime came into existence, such as the Mafia, and provided everyone who wanted it, with alcohol for a price. Of course their were a lot of gang killings, and streets running red with blood, as different gang lords strove for dominance in the sale of alcohol and the lucrative profits that went with it. We all know the stories about the Al Capones, and others like him that have now become legend. As we all know, prohibition became such a disaster from every aspect that it was finally repealed in 1933. The repeal, in part, was led by the very people who had promoted its existence in the first place, as they realized what a fiasco the “noble experiment” had turned into.
However, soon after the repeal of alcohol prohibition was achieved, a new prohibition came on the scene with the banning of marijuana, opium, heroin, cocaine and similar type drugs. A propaganda campaign against marijuana called reefer madness was started in the 1930s, which showed someone smoking a joint suddenly becoming a crazed axe murderer or something similar. Sadly, this type of drug prohibition exists to this day, and it’s costing us hundreds of billions of dollars as well as unnecessary deaths, not only here, but in Latin America. At least tens of thousands of people have been murdered in Mexico alone as rival drug gangs seek to cash in on the vast sums of money to be made supplying gringos with illicit substances. Half the populations in our prisons are from trafficing in illegal drugs, and whole Government state and federal bureaucracies exist to keep filling up these prisons with drug violators.
I have never used illegal drugs in my life so I don’t have an axe to grind over this. But criminalizing the use of any drug is beyond irrational, it’s just plain outright stupid. It not only costs us hundreds of billion a year, but far more deadly substances such as tobacco and yes, alcohol, are perfectly legal. Tobacco and abuse of alcohol kill far more people every year than marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth and all the other illegal drugs put together. But because the criminalization of these substance is such a huge business, especially among entrenched Government agencies like the DEA, local law enforcement, and prison bureaucracies, de-criminization of even mild substances like marijuana seems unattainable. Yes, most of these substances (outside of marijuana) can be deadly, but if a person is determined to destroy his or her life using these, that should be their decision, not the government’s. A small percent of the population always seems bent on self-destruction and will use this stuff whether it’s legal or not. And despite the illegality, there is always a readily available supply. For all those looking to cut significant government expenditures, a common sense approach would be to de-criminalize illicit drugs. If marijuana alone was made legal, it could be taxed similar to tobacco, which would bring significant additional billions of dollars in revenues as well.
Another exercise in irrationality is health care. A common complaint among both political parties is the dramatically rising costs of providing health care. Of course health care costs will significantly rise as the population increases, as people live longer, and as new and expensive drugs and therapies come onto the market. Any politician who says otherwise is blowing smoke. But there is one way to dramatically lower health care costs-and that’s simply by requiring people to lead a healthier life-style. And in that connection is it fair for me, who works out at the gym every day, doesn’t smoke, and eats lots of fruits and veggies as well as fish, to pay the same health insurance premiums as my slob of a neighbor down the block, who smokes, thinks exercise is a 4- letter word, and whose idea of eating healthy is to put a clover leaf on his double bacon cheeseburger with fries. If you want to dramatically lower health care costs, this is where government leadership is necessary, but unfortunately lacking. At a minimum people with unhealthy life-styles should be required to pay much higher health coverage premiums, but I don’t see that happening in our future either.
These are just 2 of the many irrationalities in our society that results in costly or deadly consequences and for which no relief appears in sight. There are many more of course, and perhaps I’ll expound on these in the future. But for now, all we can do is lead our own lives with a healthy dose of rational, common sense.