Lord Acton on George W. Bush

Was the Medicare drug benefit misdesigned due to stupidity or venality?
Kevin Drum sides with Lord Acton: it was venality.

Kevin Drum, reflecting on a Robert Kuttner essay, wonders whether the terrible, awful, lousy, disgusting, not-good Medicare prescription drug plan resulted from stupidity or venality.

His verdcit: venality, not stupidity. I haven’t studied this particular question closely enough to judge, but in general I think Kevin is wise to resist the temptation to appear sophisticated and worldly by attributing all bad conduct to error rather than design. As Lord Acton wrote in his “Advice to Persons about to Write History”:

The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.

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