Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sullivan gives Michael Gerson an Yglesias Award Nomination for favoring needle exchange: "The availability of clean needles no more caused their addiction than the provision of clean shot glasses would cause alcoholism."

I completely agree, and this reminds me of the weakness of the conservative model of human behavior. Needle exchange is just the tip of the iceberg: for example, conservatives regularly oppose making the HPV vaccine mandatory because that would somehow encourage promiscuity, and they oppose easy access to condoms and birth control for that very reason. There are many other examples, of course. They oppose diplomacy with difficult nations because that somehow encourages them to act out to get our attention (among other things). It seems to me that a lot of this is based on an irrational escalation of market theory. Incentivizing things in this way cuts against how humans actually think and behave, which is complicated, driven by many things both known and unknown, and generally resists the deliberate (though sometimes useful) abstraction of the rational economic actor. It's a model that has its uses--I mean, you have to use something to model human behavior in economic terms--but humans aren't purely economic beings, and acting as though they are will--surprise!--lead to some crappy policy. This is my usual gripe about libertarianism, but I think that conservatives--and particularly movement conservatives--do this in such an asinine and ideological way that there isn't even a point to argue, most of the time. There is no real reason to oppose HPV vaccination, aside from a general dislike of sexuality and female sexuality in particular. And, even so, the disease can be acquired by nonsexual means, like sharing towels or underwear. But I guess some people have to believe it, right? Or is this one of those secrets known to all but agreed upon by some?

I sometimes think that I'd respect right-wingers more if they just said, "We don't want to negotiate with hostile countries solely because we don't like their policies," and the equivalent for the social issues. That would, at least, be honest, if terribly misguided. But instead, we have to get this two-bit, braindead distortion of market theory as The Explanation Of People. Considering how badly its most fervent devotees (like George W. Bush) judge character and qualifications, I think it's time to retire it.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.