an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
I recently listened to a chilling podcast on a book about methamphetamine use in a small town of 6,000 in Iowa. Timothy Egan's editorial describes the economic backdrop for rural meth abuse:
Journalist Nick Reding . . . spent nearly four years charting meth’s course in Oelwein, Iowa . . . There, the people who grow our food are agribusiness oligarchs, and the people who run our factories have cut their workers’ wages by two-thirds, dissolved the unions and shipped in illegals to work for a paycheck that would barely pay for dog food.
Meth is a symptom of this collapse, not a cause. . . . Reding says it is “the only example of a widely consumed illegal narcotic that might be called vocational, as opposed to recreational.” . . . [I]t’s a preferred stimulant for people working two jobs in low-wage purgatory.
Many have called for cognition-enhancing drugs to increase productivity in high status professions. We hear less about drug use to make low-wage, low-autonomy work bearable. But it's surely something we'll see more market demand for, as movies like Sleep Dealer suggest. According to Reding, the pharma industry also pushed hard against DEA proposals that would have made it harder to make meth.
Correlating the failure of US industrial policy with the need for increased policing due to meth abuse also helps vindicate Bernard Harcourt's theory of "neoliberal penality," as expressed by a blogger here:
The idea behind neoliberal penality is that as the norm against government intervention in the economy has increased, governmental energies have been channeled instead to an ever-increasing carceral sphere. Neoliberalism argues that the market is naturally ordered, and that government intrusion constitutes a distortion that generally should be avoided. By contrast, the penal arena is seen as an appropriate venue for government to flex its muscles. Consequently, the social forces which might press against increased penality are weakened, as crime and punishment are precisely the areas in which government is seen as having the greatest claim to authoritative legitimacy.
When work disappears, many of the natural impediments to addictions go with it. We should not be surprised if failure to invest in jobs programs leads to ever more spending on prisons, surveillance, and rehab. Thankfully, books like Reding's are helping us "connect the dots among America’s agribusinesses, drug companies and global trade and problems like unhealthy diets, the destruction of small farms and farming communities."