Via Mark Kleiman, comes this piece at Issues in Science and Technology Online: Reorienting U.S. DrugPolicy, by Jonathan P. Caulkins and Peter Reuter.
The article is packed with useful and/or interesting research and conjecture as the authors conclude that “money can be saved and justice improved by simply cutting in half the number of people locked up for drug offenses.” The problem with the piece is less with what they include (although there are some rather gross generalizations), as with what they completely ignore.
In a detailed 4,000+ word “academic” piece about drug policy, that dissects decades of policy and analyzes supply reduction, demand reduction and even coerced abstinence, what is pointedly left out is astonishing:
- The difference between use and abuse is completely ignored (the words are used as if they mean the same thing and no indication is given that responsible use of any illicit drugs is even possible)
- The negative consequences (other than incarceration and its financial costs) connected with prohibition are not mentioned at all (while negative consequences of drug use/abuse are mentioned often). The failure of drug policy to impact drug use/abuse is mentioned often. But black markets? Corruption? Fueling criminal enterprises? Nothing.
- There is no mention of legalization or any notion that an alternative to prohibition exists.
These are not trivial items. To ignore these elements in an “academic” essay is like writing a piece about mathematics and pretending that there are no odd numbers.
If this was a single example of such an approach used in the incestuous clique of self-proclaimed academic drug policy experts, I would call it shoddy scholarship. But it’s not. It’s typical. These folks know that they’re leaving out critical elements. (We’ve told them often enough.) And that, in my mind, makes it dishonest scholarship.