Dear Wombat and Dingbat,
The president has suggested that the solution to the opioid epidemic is to institute the death penalty for drug dealers. I know what I think about this from a human perspective, but what would you say from a dog’s perspective?
This is a meaty problem, with lots to chew on.
Yes! Let’s chew on all the things—the meatier the better!
What I mean to say is that there is plenty going on here. For one thing, the president likes simple solutions. He wants things that work quickly, and without a whole lot of thinking or planning or attention to detail. Usually those kinds of solutions involve punishment. He, like a lot of people, believes that you can know who the bad people are, and that all you have to do is to make them stop, by whatever means necessary. Even if that means killing them.
We dogs really aren’t into killing as a solution to anything. Unless you’re a terrier, in which case killing rats is a solution to having a tingly feeling in your teeth. But that doesn’t really apply here. I don’t think.
No, as often as not, you don’t think, but that’s not the point. The point is that Trump thinks you can stop people from selling drugs by killing them, or by the threat of killing them. But for one thing, we know that punishment only works if the behavior is punished each and every time. If you get away with it some times, but not others, you’re likely to keep trying the behavior until you actually get caught—especially if the reward for the behavior is high.
Also if the people involved are high.
Possibly. But the point is that people believe that the harsher the punishment, the more effective it will be in preventing the behavior. But it doesn’t really work that way. People do things for a bunch of reasons, including desperation, that don’t really respond to a rational analysis of whether the behavior is worth the possible risk.
Basically, if you leave a sandwich on the counter in my presence, I’m not thinking about what kind of punishment I might get for taking it. I’m only thinking SANDWICH!!!! Even if I’ve been punished for, um, liberating food before, that sandwich is toast. Get it? Toast?
So, threatening people with the death penalty for dealing drugs won’t necessarily have much effect on whether they sell drugs. Which, if you think about it, is already a pretty risky thing to do.
But there’s another way of thinking about the issue. If you really want to solve a problem, it’s super important to figure out what exactly is the problem that you want to solve. The BEST you can hope for is a good answer to your question (which doesn’t always happen). If you start with a crappy question, you’re unlikely to get an answer that is much help.
The question that the president is responding to is “What should we do about drug dealers?” But that’s not a terribly useful question. It’s a question you come up with if you’re trying to identify the bad guys. But it would be much more useful to identify the problem, the thing that is causing suffering. So a more useful question would be “What should we do about drug addiction?”
That’s not a simple question to answer. It requires a whole lot of looking into why and how and where and when people get addicted, and how some of them manage to break that addiction and some of them don’t. It requires trying programs and seeing what works and then funding those things. Which is time consuming and expensive. But helps to solve the problem. Which, to a dog’s eye, seems like a better plan than investing in things that you pretty much know won’t help.
Hey! I have an idea!
No, it’s a really great idea. Listen. Everyone knows that climate change is dangerous, and is caused by fossil fuels.
So I think that we should write to the president and tell him that the solution to climate change is to kill the CEOs of all the gas companies. Problem solved.
Right. OK. Handing the keyboard over to you. You go on ahead and write that letter.
Wiggles and kisses,
Wombat and Dingbat