Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

A Misreading of History

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From our Swindon Correpondent:

Al Capone: You can get so much farther with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.
From The Times
Boris Johnson is planning a public information campaign to crack down on middle-class drug use by making snorting cocaine as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, The Times has learnt.

A government PR blitz will use billboards, posters and television and radio adverts in an attempt to change people’s attitudes to recreational drugs. They will carry graphic details to highlight how wealthy cocaine users are helping to fuel Britain’s growing epidemic of violent crime and gang warfare.

The story of the decline of drink driving has been a faulty one for many years. Everyone has this narrative about how the government made it socially unacceptable by advertising and so forth. I think it’s a common mistake that people think that the act of preaching makes much difference.

The decline in drink driving was because of the introduction of the The Lion Intoximeter 3000 breathalyser in 1983, which was so much more accurate and reliable than previous versions, to the level where it could be used as evidence in a court of law. That made it good enough to arrest people and take them to a station for a test. What had happened before was that the police would generally not arrest. A few words with a driver, unless they were clearly steaming drunk.

What started to happen is that people found themselves unable to get to work so easily, or losing their jobs, or a curtailed social life. Over time, their families, friends and colleagues noticed people getting nicked for it.

And yes, there was also a government PR campaign reminding people, suggesting a designated driver etc. But it was the technology that shifted the incentives.
Now personally, I think people should be able to snort cocaine if they want, but I think Peter Hitchens is largely correct in his view on the law and its effects in this area: no-one gets much of a punishment for possessing drugs, so no-one cares. If the government wants to stop people snorting coke, they have to start imprisoning people for it. They won’t, so all of this will be a waste of time and money.
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Spike
Spike
4 months ago

In my country, citizens have a right to “petition government for redress of grievances.” Not the other way around. (In theory.) Define crimes by rule of law and fine or imprison violators? sure. But whence this power to nag?

The Mole
The Mole
4 months ago

I think it is more than just technology. Societal attitudes on a range of things have changed over the same time period – perceptions/actions around mental health, supporting not mocking disabled people, racism, sexism, smoking (particularly indoors) and generally what is ‘appropriate’ behaviour. Much of the force of law around these is generally a reflection of the changing of attitude more than the stick forcing it (other than perhaps smoking?). I agree though that it is unlikely that the advertising campaigns on their own which caused the shift, they too reflect that starting of a change of attitudes. To get… Read more »

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
4 months ago
Reply to  The Mole

Thanks. I don’t foresee any change in the law. No-one treats this as a proper crime. We have lots of MPs who snorted some coke at some time.

TD
TD
4 months ago

While tobacco is ever more heavily taxed, its use is not generally legally punished unless flagrently violating some particular no-smoking rule. In fact, some of the ever more stringent restrictions on where someone can smoke came after smokers became a relatively small minority. Didn’t the government nagging play a role?

Boganboy
Boganboy
4 months ago
Reply to  TD

You may be right about the nagging. But I think its main effect is on the naggers.

They get away with this continual vilification of a particular group. So this reinforces their convictions, and gives them the courage to make their persecution more vigorous and virulent.

TD
TD
4 months ago
Reply to  Boganboy

Politics is one group trying to impose their will upon others. I like to think I’m reasonably libertarian and live and let live, but I’ve come to realize that it annoys hell out of plenty of others who want me to do as I’m told and who figure that I’m imposing on them by ignorning them

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
4 months ago
Reply to  TD

Not really. The thing with smoking was people realising it was bad for them. And as that realisation set in (and some of that was promoted with government health warnings), smoking became more difficult. Smoking’s a lot about the “group”, and the democratic decision of all users. Non-smokers don’t like smoke. If smokers become small enough in the group, they get overruled. So, long before any law, as non-smoking grew, businesses like cinemas, bus companies and restaurants went non-smoking. Offices either sent people outside or created smoking rooms. All of this made life harder for smokers, so many of them… Read more »

damo
damo
4 months ago

What bout America, aren’t drug users severely punished over there?

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