Sunday, 1 November 2009

Professor Nutt sacking proves policy is made by tabloid

What the sacking of Home Office drugs advisor Professor Nutt reveals is how policy is formed on the basis of certain powerful newspaper's editorials and headlines. A serious examination of the areas of drugs, immigration and prisons policy show this process at work.

The drugs policy is not working. Prohibion has grown the problem and now the prisons are full of addicts who have been stealing to feed their habits. The recommendations of experts like Professor Nutt target reducing demand and also point out the danger of other legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. The tabloids disagree, so expert advice is ignored.

On immigration, with a rapidly ageing population no serious economist advising government would advise putting blocks on migration. But what does government do but obey the tabloid witterings that migration must be cut if not stopped altogether. The result migration has been literally halted with the largely unworkable points system - already the CBI has warned on the serious impact this will have on business in the long term.

Similarly in the area of criminal justice, all credible evidence shows that locking more and more people up does not cut crime but makes for the creation of better criminals. It is expensive and two in three reoffend inside six months. But rather than follow expert advice about alternatives the government continues building more and more prisons.

The foremost objective of any newspaper is to sell copies and make profit. Sadly, this often amounts to pandering to the lowest common denominator. In the case of immigration that is racism and in criminal justice it is a collective desire for vengeance. This does not provide a basis to make effective policy. Governments are elected to make reasoned decisions on the basis of objective evidence not make policy on the hoof depending on what headline any particular newspaper editor decides will sell most papers on any given day

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