Vice Squad
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Regulating Vice: The Introduction (part III)

After wading through Zero Tolerance versus Harm Reduction approaches to vice policy, the Introduction sashays towards a conclusion with two sections, one (provocatively?) entitled "Futility?" and the other "Toward a Thesis." (The original title of the final section was "Towards a Thesis" but my towards were deemed untoward by the copy editor.) "Futility?" points out that it is not uncommon to hear people make claims of complete vice policy ineffectiveness, along the lines of "Prohibition can't work, because market forces are too strong for mankind's meager regulations." As you might guess (and as the loyal Vice Squad reader knows), "Futility?" argues that this sort of claim generally is overstated. As for "Toward a Thesis," this section will not be news to the Vice Squad reader, either. In it, I foreground what becomes the organizing structure of my approach to vice policy, and to Regulating Vice. I...
...suggest that a type of “robustness principle” should govern the regulation of vice: public policy toward [sic!] addictive or vicious activities engaged in by adults should be robust with respect to departures from full rationality. That is, policies should work pretty well if everyone is fully informed and completely rational, and policies should work pretty well even if a substantial number of folks are occasionally (or frequently) irrational in their vice-related choices. “Working well” entails coming to grips with the 3⅓ standard vice concerns of kids, addicts, externalities, and harms to nonaddicted adult users.
(The word "nonaddicted" started out as non-addicted, but the copy editing involved some extreme hyphen cleansing along with the towards-shortening.)

I get the sense that these sort of lengthy summaries of Regulating Vice have found an unfortunate middle ground between a bare-bones recitation of the argument and an engaging presentation keeping with the spirit of the book. As is standard in the vice world, I have every intention of reforming.

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