The socialism of the mattress

Can someone show me the clause in the Constitution that allows the Federal government to spend your hard-earned money to study bedbugs?

Can someone show me the clause in the Constitution that allows the Federal government to spend your hard-earned money to study bedbugs?

Is it really worth enslaving our grandchildren with debt, just to avoid getting bitten? In any case, we know that inefficient government science is less productive than the private sector; if we just cut capital gains taxes, small business would have the incentive to come up with a real, American solution.

When the people who built this country got bitten by bedbugs, they didn’t go whining to the nanny state for a chemical fix. They scratched.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

24 thoughts on “The socialism of the mattress”

  1. That's easy: interstate commerce. If bedbugs run rampant in, say, New York hotels, fewer people will want to travel to New York and sleep in their hotels. This would affect interstate commerce.

    Oh, you were being sarcastic?

  2. You know, this seems like a repeat. Again, few sane people question whether the federal government's taxing and spending power — which courts have said is subject to the fewest constraints of all Congress's powers — includes spending for hard science and social science spending. If the feds would offer a universal, single-payer health care system for all, the inevitable lawsuits would be dismissed quickly.

    But the more relevant question for our times is whether the federal government has constitutional authority (in our federal form of government) to mandate that each American buy an insurance policy against bedbugs.

  3. I've heard it advised that if you get bed bugs you should move out of your home, burn all of your belongings and move on. I guess you need to fumigate yourself and walk naked to the nearest clothing store.

    All this considered, federal funds seem fine to me.

  4. The current interpretations of the commerce and general welfare clauses seems to empower the federal government to do anything it pleases.

  5. Not only do bedbugs affect interstate commerce, it's pretty obvious that unless all visitors fumigate their clothes or travel naked, the travel in interstate commerce as well. Still, it's obviously something the private sector should fix, becausthe private sector is much better at collective action problems than the government. Well, congress anyway.

  6. I swear, at times it becomes very difficult to tell who in this thread is being sincere. Is Nate really unable to tell (by the link) that Clambone was deliberately mocking Instahack, or was Nate engaging in meta-commentary by pretending to take Clambone's comment at face value? I'm pretty sure TGGP was joking, but was CharlesWT being sincere, or did he not realize that no regulation is under discussion whatsoever, that this is about federal grants to fund research whose findings might one day make our lives a little better?

    Federal research grants (of the sort that presumably pay the salaries of many friends and colleagues of Mark Kleiman) are perhaps not a concept wholly lacking in detractors (John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal have tried to make political points by denigrating some such grants in a truly disgraceful fashion), but this issue is unlikely to be the poster boy for federal overreach.

  7. Actually, when the people who built this country got bed bugs, they used all manner of remedies that today are causing people to nearly burn down their homes.

    You just learned about bed bugs today and have an instant opinion, though sadly not an instant education. The private sector doesn't know what to do with this problem. They have been futilely coping with bed bugs for years. There are residential buildings spending thousands of dollars to get rid of bed bugs (thousands as in 250K in one documented case). Or try 50K for "a 10,000-square-foot call center or store with lots of equipment or inventory" (Crain's, 7-25-10).

    Bed bugs, which infest everything, not just mattresses, not just homes, have been causing actual suffering in many elderly and vulnerable communities. People have been denied medical and social services until they get rid of the bed bugs, which clearly they can't afford to do, can they?

    What good is the federal government if they can't fund research to solve real problems? Oh, wait.

    Please get educated about bed bugs. They're in your town too.

  8. I wasn't so much joking as pointing out a third option. Kleiman is mocking a mythology of the past, and part of what that mythology overlooks was the extent to which people relied on their state/local governments even as they distrusted the federal government. David Hackett Fischer discussed how the Puritans had an ideal of "ordered liberty", and modern Tea Partiers like to cite their rhetoric (particularly from around the war of independence). But that rhetoric should not make us think that they were proto-Randians. Robert Bork said that the Ninth Amendment was about as meaningful as an "ink-blot" because modern liberal/libertarian thinking had taken up so much mind-share (even if it is only recognized as the paradigm which one rejects). According to Kurt Lash, that amendment which Randy Barnett wants to use to support a "presumption" of Lochner-libertarianism was actually intended (together with the Tenth) to ensure the collective right to act through state governments.

    Jonathan Adler discusses federalism & bedbugs here, though in the comments it leads to another DDT argument.

  9. When the people who built this country got infected with Polio, they didn’t go whining to the nanny state for a chemical fix. They died.

  10. As someone whose livelihood depends on federal funding of basic research, I'm here to tell you that it makes no difference what the government does. Current success rates at NIH and NSF hover at 5-9% give or take a point or two. Which means that who gets funded has become a lottery, since early in the reign of Bush the Lesser. But there is always "research" going on in that "private sector." That is if you need one more cholesterol drug that is pharmacologically indistinguishable from everything already on the market. Or one more "anti-depressant" that doesn't work. On one more boner pill. Bedbugs? As Mark says, just scratch and quit whining.

  11. I must quote Ogden Nash here:

    There was a young belle of old Natchez

    Whose garments were always in patchez.

    When comment arose

    On the state of her clothes,

    She drawled, "Where Ah itchez, Ah scratchez."

    Doubtless bedbugs were to blame.

  12. Killing bedbugs would deprive the Tea Party of some of its brightest intellects– just what you socialists want!

  13. And yes, in case the glibertarians haven't noticed, contemporary bedbugs are DDT-resistant. You know, if Sarah Palin were right about evolution, the pest problem would be much easier to solve.

  14. I've got an idea, why don't we tell teh EPA to get the h*ll out of the way, and let people use whatever insecticides they want to kill the bedbugs.

    You know, support science and technology over politics.

    Oh, I forgot, left wingers only support "science" when it's pretend science that supports their fantasies, not actual science that makes people's lives better. Because real science that makes people's lives better tends to lead to someone makign a profit, and we SURELY can't have THAT!

    It's much better just to tell the peasants to scratch.

  15. I can't believe it's taken two days for this weak pun to occur to me, but I suppose the edited slogan ahould be that Socialism Is The Opiate Of The Mattress?

  16. Apologies, I misplaced my sense of humor, I realized not long after writing my comment.

    Amends: Bed bug-induced insomnia will be good for the country, people will get more done.

  17. Downpuppy, I assure you that Megan got the joke, and enjoyed it. She's a libertarian, but not a fanatic.

  18. "was CharlesWT being sincere, or did he not realize that no regulation is under discussion whatsoever, that this is about federal grants to fund research whose findings might one day make our lives a little better?I"

    It's irrelevant as long as we have the current commerce clause reading. It's a two part question: A)is ____ anything or nothing? If yes, then it's constitutional. B) Is ____ a federal funding issue?

    You never get to B.

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