Vice Squad
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Regulating Vice: Chapter 2, "Addiction: Rational and Otherwise" (part V)

OK, I simply refuse to have any more posts -- after this one -- about Chapter 2 of surprise bestseller Regulating Vice. Following a look at comparative addictiveness -- itself a slightly misguided concept, given that the addictiveness of a drug or activity varies among, well, everything: people, time, place, manner, and so on -- Chapter 2 notes how addiction is not, and should not be, an excuse for committing a non-victimless crime. (While behaviors such as simple possession should not be illegal in any case, if they are illegal, there's a decent argument that addicts should not be held responsible for breaking a drug possession law.) Then Chapter 2 offers a summary of a sort, suggesting that: (1) there is a case -- not airtight, but a significant case -- that some addictive-type behavior lies outside the bounds of standard notions of rationality or even dynamic inconsistency; (2) self-control problems and addiction lie on a continuum, and even in a world without addiction, there might be a role for public policy to help (adults) manage their self-control problems; and (3) that despite all the discussion of addiction and self-control when, for instance, drug policy is being discussed, actual public policies (and even private responses) to vice do not seem to be closely tied to changes in our scientific understanding of addiction. Following the conclusion is the first of many "Vice Verdicts" sections; this one looks at four court cases in which addiction and responsibility for behavior were central concerns.

The idea behind the opening chapters of Regulating Vice, just to recap, is to examine what we can learn from John Stuart Mill's harm principle, and then to look closely at addiction and self-control, to see if our 21st century understanding of addiction provides any (further?) reason to accept or amend or reject the harm principle. This is the point at which Chapter 3 picks up. Whew.

Regulating Vice Posts Roundup:
(1) Announcement
(2) Introduction (part I)
(3) Introduction (part II)
(4) Introduction (part III)
(5) Erratum, Page 2!!
(6) Chapter 1, The Harm Principle (part I)
(7) Chapter 1, The Harm Principle (part II)
(8) GMU Talk (part I)
(9) GMU Talk (part II)
(10) Chapter 2, Addiction (part I)
(11) Chapter 2, Addiction (part II)
(12) Chapter 2, Addiction (part III)
(13) Chapter 2, Addiction (part IV)

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