by Conor Friedersdorf
Megan McArdle has an excellent post up about efforts to fight meth production, and a proposal to make Sudafed a presciption only drug:
Let me start by saying two things: first, that meth addiction is very bad, and the world would be a better place without it; and second, that home meth synthesis is obviously very dangerous. But it is not actually so bad that we shouldn't count the costs of suppression. Which are considerable. After all, what we're effectively talking about is making it impossible for people to unplug a stuffy nose without going to a doctor.
Which in turn means either that we're going to spend $50 to $100 per cold (obviously, much more expensive than even a bunch of really terrible meth lab fires) or that people are going to go without treatment. I'm guessing that Keith Humphreys does not suffer from chronic ear or sinus infections, which are considerably worse than coughing up a little phlegm.
So there are the costs of making this category of cold medications prescription only. But look. Does anyone think meth or meth labs are going to disappear if we get rid of this ingredient? It's just implausible. A short term gambit that's only going to work until suppliers find a different method of manufacture, or else start smuggling it across the border.
There is no way to win the War on Drugs. There never has been. There never will be, short of becoming an authoritarian state. We can face up to that fact, or continue ceding liberties and conveniences one by one, for nothing.