Bumper sticker seen on Rte. 29 just north of Washington, D.C.

Star Wars:

Insanity is No Defense

It took me a moment to parse it.

Update: Coincidentally, the Washington Post reports (*) that the American Physical Society issued a 400-page technical report (*) saying that intercepting solid-state rockets in boost phase is technically infeasible. Here’s the APS’s own one-paragraph summary of the report:

Intercepting missiles while their rockets are still burning would not be an effective approach for defending the U.S. against attacks by an important type of enemy missile. This conclusion comes from an independent study by the American Physical Society into the scientific and technical feasibility of boost-phase defense, focusing on potential missile threats from North Korea and Iran.

Does anyone think for a moment this is likely to matter? To an Administration committed to the idea that policies should dictate facts rather than the other way around, this is no more than a PR problem, and a pretty minor one at that. But it’s time for Democrats to start pointing out that spending money on defenses that don’t work means not being able to spend that same money on defenses that do work: for example, developing, producing, and mass-administering a low-side-effects smallpox vaccine.

In the context of the current budget and security situation, continuing to throw money down the Star Wars rathole isn’t just wasteful: it’s profoundly unpatriotic.

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