Monday, August 22, 2011

Doomed To Fail

In today's Globe and Mail,  Eddie Greenspan and Anthony Doob take on the Harper government's new legislation, which proposes harsher rules for growing and selling marijuana. It enumerates things nicely.. Six plants can get you six months; and selling it to people under 18 gets you a minimum sentence of two years. Greenspan and Doob ask:

Six months for six plants! Why not seven, like the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Unfortunately, sentencing isn’t a musical. Two years in jail for giving marijuana to a friend near a school? What does “near” mean? Anything less than far? If the marijuana is given or sold “near any other public place, usually frequented by persons under the age of 18,” it’s also a mandatory sentence of two years. What public place in urban areas isn’t “usually frequented by persons under the age of 18”? Does the government really think that an 18-year-old giving or selling marijuana to his friend near a school constitutes organized crime?

The point Greenspan and Doob make is that the legislation is poorly drawn. And the penalties are equally wrong-headed. There are two problems with the government's attempt to make society "safer:"

First, many studies demonstrate that increases in penalties will not affect crime. This has been known for years. Eighteen years ago, a Progressive Conservative Party of Canada election platform noted that the answer to offending “does not lie in simply building more prisons and getting more police. If that were true, then the United States would be the safest place on Earth.” Similarly, that same year (1993), the Reform Party urged “greater certainty in sentencing” rather than increased imprisonment.

Second, this isn’t the best way to deal with Canada’s illicit drug problem. Imprisonment is very costly and, if it’s being justified as a means to address drug problems or achieve public safety, the government needs to demonstrate that imprisonment is the most cost-effective way of achieving reduction in drug use, production and trafficking. It won’t be able to do this. Interestingly, it never tried.

The most telling sentence in the piece is, "Interestingly, it never tried." The Harper government doesn't work from evidence. It works from conviction. Stating a belief gives it legitimacy. It applies the same approach to economic and foreign policy.  If you don't like the word  "conviction," try "dogma."

Stephen Harper has confused the titles "Prime Minister" and  "Pope." Such confusion is a recipe for failure.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Conservatives act from "conviction"

Conviction is the wrong word. If one acts with conviction it is because they hold a view that there is evidence they have reasons to accept and defend.

The Harper Concervatives act out of ideology. They are not interested in evidence and reason.
They just defend their prjudices.

Owen Gray said...

Well said, Philip. They simply defend their prejudices. Prejudice is not the basis for sound public policy.

And it's not the basis for sound government, either.

kirbycairo said...

It is not just a recipe for failure but a plan for disaster. But at this point disaster is the only thing that will teach people the real depth of horror that is conservative ideology. Of course, if that were true every time, then the US would not only be the safest place on earth but the most left-wing as well. But I have to believe that this government's ridiculous economic stupidity will have such a terrible effect on this country that it will ruin the CPC for a long time.

Owen Gray said...

I would not wish disaster on anyone, Kirby. But we get the government we deserve. And you may, indeed, be right.

Jack Layton's final letter should remind us that there is a better alternative.