Friday, June 16, 2006

In defense of Kate Moss

Or, if you like, change that title to "In defense of Roy Marten". Roy and Kate are victims of society's misunderstanding of individual rights to self-destruction. And yes, governments' pathetic paternalism, as usual.

You know that caffeine is not very good for your health. Yet you drink coffee (or pops). Maybe because it tastes good. Imagine if based on "caffeine is not good for your health" the government bans the caffeine consumption. Suddenly drinking coffee is illegal. Cafés are closed. Would you like that? I guess no.

Now, think about cocaine. It too is deemed dangerous. But why is cocaine illegal and caffeine is not? After all, they both are "not good for your health". Yet, the decision to illegalize cocaine is based on that "scientific finding"; but caffeine escapes the verdict. If Law is to be consistent, drinking coffee should not be allowed. Or for that matter, everything that is "not good for your health" should be banned: cigarrette, late night work, road crossing, etc.

This problem is pervasive. So how about a simple solution.

You should not be punished if you hurt your own self. You should be punished if you hurt somebody else. I don't care if Roy is rotten by sabu-sabu, or Kate by amphetamine. But I care when Roy or Kate or any drunkard hurt me or my friend or my kid or anybody else. So, if somebody is proven by the court to have hurt somebody else -- regardless of whatever he or she ate -- he or she must be punished.

The solution sound simple but it has broader implication. For example: seatbelt regulation. Obligating the use of seatbelt when driving car is foolish. Every driver should be free to use or not to use sealtbelt. After all, he or she is the one who will get hurt when accident happens. (Think about this, too: when you use seatbelt, you tend to drive faster or, worse yet, reckless).

Some would say: but we have to prevent bad things while we can. Well, who can judge intention?

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  1. everyone has a mother. so in practice, everyone who hurt himself must be punished.

  2. I think cocaine has a better chance of instigating social as well as societal dysfunction (and destruction) than caffeine abuse would ever be.

    The thing about drug abuse is that in the end the people who suffer most are the parents, siblings, spouses, children, significant others, friends etc of the addict; akin to suicide cases, I suppose...those who hurt most are the ones left behind.

    So, I'm all for the intervention of the state in this regard, not necessarily for the sake of the perpetrators themselves (since they're lost cases anyway), but rather on behalf of those who are hurt by their irresponsible behavior.

  3. Daughter of Adam, thanks for the good comment. (Adam, you didn't tell me you had a daughter? I thought we're friends ...). Now:

    1). You think caffeine is more dangerous than coffee -- socially. Fine. How about alcohol, where does it stand? How much cocaine is worse than how much caffeine? How much for alcohol? Is the effect of cocaine the same to everybody and therefore to the society? How about coffee? Alcohol?

    2). Those who hurt most are the ones left behind. Say, a friend of mine is dating an ecstassy-pill junkie. She knew he is a "bad" man -- a junkie. Do I have the right to punish this guy, just because he might break my friend's heart? Does government? What I know is that this guy is not supposed to kill my friend. That's against the law, murder. He should be punished for murdering, not for consuming drugs. Drunk drivers should be punished for rear-ending your car (or for killing other street users), but not for drinking.

    3). I'm for the intervention of the State, too. But only to ensure that all the information needed are provided clearly in the package, i.e. side effect of drugs etc. Failed to deliver information will have legal implication (remember the hot styrofoam cup case?) The State should not decide who can or cannot use drugs.

    Finally, since "too much love will kill you" should we again turn to the State to handle this? Your argument says yes, no?

  4. It's good of you to touch this topic that very much close to my research interest.

    If all human are perfectly rational, consistent and self maximizing individual, all of individual action will be beneficial to her/him self in the long run.

    But as Gary Becker has wrote on rational addiction in JPE-1988, there could be inconsistency between short term and long term utility, thus dynamic inconsistencies.

    Numerous recent researches lead to strong findings that people discounting function overtime more as hyperbolic function, where recent future valued more than far future, than exponential.

    If government know that some people tend to make bad choices that will bring bad consequences to them, isn’t it natural to ask whether something could be done. Especially if small policy modification could induce large changes in behavior.

    The Economist on its April edition dedicate a section on soft paternalism.

    Thaler & Sunstien from Chicago U explore relation between behavioral economics, public policy and paternalism in two excellent papers (click here and here). Benyamin and Laibson from Harvard explore the field of Behavioral Political Economy. Rabin from Berkeley and O.Donoghue from Cornell discussed the application of those concept in optimal sin tax .

    As for your drunk-driving argument, if it is proven that exist high and persistent correlation between drunk driving and accidence then it is acceptable to criminalize drunk driving by it self. Actually it already put into active laws (and a routine acts in TV shows) in many western countries.

    Of course soft paternalism required clean and effective government to implement. And there are issue of how much paternalism is too much.

  5. The government allowing caffeine and banning cocaine is not contradictory. The reason why cocaine was banned was not solely because it can be harmful to society. If it were the only reason, caffeine would be banned too. Governments all over the world have for decades allowed some things and disallowed other things based on, frankly speaking, arbitrary rule--or a.k.a what society deems "fit". Back in the days of prohibition in the US, alcohool was entirely illegal. As society's values shifted and people became more accepting of alcohol, the government allowed it (with some restrictions on age, blood alcohol content, etc.). The reason the US govt allowed alcohol is not because they suddenly believed it was no longer a threat to society. They made a conscious decision that they would allow people to consume alcohol even knowing its potential consequences.

  6. 1) Perhaps I'm missing out on something, but as yet, the lethality of caffeine or caffeine abuse in causing harm to folks other than the individual consumer himself isn't something that I've heard of. Throw in alcohol and drugs and you'll have yourself an extensive list on how both substances have in one way or another led to the detriment of others (physically, mentally, spiritually), i.e. drunk-driving, drug-related homicide and crimes.

    2) Your friend would be lucky if she ended up only with a broken heart! I bet the victims of drug-related domestic violence cringe upon reading what you had to say about the State penalizing drug users. If a direct correlation between substance abuse and its harmful effects on society at large has indeed been established, I don't see why drug users shouldn't be penalized for their risky behavior. Didn't Kate Moss herself physically suffered in the hands of her ex-user boyfriend?

    3) From what I understand, the State functions as the final arbiter between members of society. The State protects one individual against the other, particularly stepping in in the defence of those who are unable to speak out and protect themselves and/or those who lack sound judgment, i.e. the victims, potential victims, the underage. After all, isn't the State's intervention in the perennial question of substance abuse merely one of the many manifestations of the Social Contract?

    Please do enlighten me if I've missed a point.

  7. the thing about some drugs is that once one is under its influence, there's a large chance that you're gonna be a threat to society. dan one of my aunts was personally threatened by her son yang lagi sakau dan perlu duit untuk beli whatever it was he was taking...

    people like roy or kate are less likely to resort to crime, so probably question is should the law be discriminative, i.e. enforce it more stringently when other circumstances prevail (i.e poverty, high incidence of AIDs etc), dgn kata lain jangan patroli di hotel2 bintang lima tapi di kawasan2 kumuh, kantong2 kemiskinan etc...

  8. «You know that caffeine is not very good for your health.»

    caffeine in a moderate consumption does not prove to be harmful.

  9. You should not be punished if you hurt your own self. You should be punished if you hurt somebody else.

    Can't agree more. I couldn't care less if Roy Marten or Kate Moss drive themelves to death with drugs, but I do have a problem if they hurt/damage the lives of others, especially those I hold dear in my heart.

  10. Thak you all. I agree this issue is not as simple as I made it seemed. But let me point out the following:

    Berly is right that if government knows that some people tend to make bad choices that are self-destructing (and I wonder how), it's probably natural to ask if "something could be done". The problem is, the G almost always thinks that "something could be done". And many times what they do is simply ineffective, at best. There's a story in the recent issue of The Economist (subs required) of how the city of San Francisco wants to put "something additional" on the Golden Gate to "avoid suicide". But that would be at the cost of recreational value of the bridge, as some people oppose the idea. Well I think, if somebody wants to kill himself, he can always find another way when jumping off the bridge becomes unattractive. The SF govt can use the money for something more useful than "un-beautify" the bridge (speaking about SF, I miss Sausalito!).

    As for my drunk-driving argument, I think I made it clear that I suggest the criminalization of drunk-driving, not drinking. But, again I'm too on the shaky ground here. Drunk-driving clearly endangers other street users. But so does sleepy-driving. It's easy to test the level of drunken-ness but how would you test the level of sleepy-ness?

    J.R. has interesting insight, too. The "what society deems fit" argument is selling. But sometimes can be tricky. Which group is representing the society? Today, Evo Morales legalizes cocaine in Bolivia (emmh, is he now Evo Immorales?). I wonder if he will criminalize it later on. What is the rule? In Jakarta, what if somehow FPI or FBR can claim that they are representative of the society? I guess the solution to this is, again, majority ruling. But that has numerous loopholes, as we know it. (A good candidate for another posting).

    Daughter of Adam, thanks again. I should have stated earlier: my caffeine story was just for the sake of illustration. Of course no law prohibits coffee drinking -- not that I'm aware of thus far. My point was "society" thinks cocaine is bad. And they also think caffeine is bad. So, if banning coca is based on this "scintific finding", then coffee should be banned too (see J.R.'s comment).

    I have no problem if Law penalizes risky behavior, provided that it is consistent, and on clear, strong ground. But I don't think that that even makes sense. Define risky behavior. Too much smoking is risky, too, or so I heard.

    I like your point # 3. I agree that social contract is there and we need the government just to make sure that the social contract is recognized and not abused. Not to create it. My problem is, G seems to think it is always more clever than people.

    And that leads us to the important point raised by Fantarara. This might need a whole new posting given its importance: the issue of affirmative action. I am fine with affirmative action, but I should underline that it is not only the government that can impose or implement affirmative action. Private can, too. My hunch is, the latter would yield more desirable outcome. But, with an apology to Fantara, allow me to postpone this one.

    Macchiato, don't worry, it was an example. Keep enjoying your coff... I mean macchiato :-) Care for a company?

    Finally, Morningdew I have full sympathy for you and for Roy's and Kate's families, too. Is Anna Maria happy with punishment to Roy? I don't know.

    Pheew, that was long. I need ... coca... no, coffee...

  11. Aco... wow... people do hate you, don't they? give it up man... you just give "economist" a bad name :D

    well, i get what you mean by saying government shouldn't take care people's private. For instance, i don't like the idea that there is a "human" law saying about you should not sleep with someoneelse's husband/wife. Hey, if that's the way their relationship works, let them be... If husband and wife are okay and the third (also fourth)doesn't mind, who are we to judge?

    your flaws is that you compare cocaine with coffee... it would be better if you stick with alcohol. Both are subtance abuse. both (can) lead to crimes, unhealty lifestyles. abusiveness, etc... but hey, if they consume those subtances alone and they don't hurt someone else physically as well as mentally why the hell not? but coffee and cocaine are totally a different case.

    ok, we're (aco and i) aboviously not discussing about morals here... we're just using logics. and those who opose our view, you better used logic. Try to use externalities case as your argument perhaps? externalities arise when you consume/produce something and there is a direct impact to your surrounding without them involving in the activity (of consuming/producing). such externalities for instance are the smoke you inhale while other people lit up their cigarette in front of you. or for having to live with alcoholics and drugs-user... and since externalities are market failure, market itself cannot adjust it. Then, there's the government's role here: adjusting the market, so that society welfare is maintained... =D

    guys, there is reason why the host asking whether we should put morals as consideration when discussing topics in the cafe... some of us don't take that as an argument... especially Aco... ;)

  12. «My point was "society" thinks cocaine is bad. And they also think caffeine is bad.»

    Aco: err ... which society? there are heaps.

    so when're we talkin booze?


    macchiato is part of the coffeedom, so no worries there eh! ^^

  13. Because, unlike coffee, using alcohol and cocaine, can put you under the terms 'under the influence of'. By law, this is pretty easy