Idly surfing the internet, I came across the tidbit that a socially conservative party in Australia opposes “harm reduction.” Not being familiar with that is, I dug around and found that it is an entire theory of do-goodism.
Harm reduction (or harm minimisation) refers to a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with recreational drug use and other high risk activities. Harm reduction is put forward as a useful perspective alongside the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction.
Many advocates argue that prohibitionist laws criminalize people for suffering from a disease and cause harm, for example by obliging drug addicts to obtain drugs of unknown purity from unreliable criminal sources at high prices, increasing the risk of overdose and death. Its critics are concerned that tolerating risky or illegal behaviour sends a message to the community that these behaviours are acceptable.
The idea is, instead of getting people to stop dangerous behaviors, we should make those behaviors less dangers.
This is where we get the thinking behind needle-exchange programs, to prevent heroin addicts from getting AIDS. Some countries, such as England and Switzerland, actually give heroin addicts heroin, so that they won’t steal to support their habit. There is an outfit in this country called DanceSafe that goes to raves and offers free testing of drugs, so that kids can make sure they aren’t ingesting dangerous impurities in their drugs, so that they will have a positive experience with their Ecstasy or crystal meth.
Other examples would be condoms in the schools, free rides for potential drunk drivers, less harmful cigarettes, and the like.
What do you think of this philosophy? Can we draw a line between reducing harm and giving approval to bad behavior? If we take away the harm from bad behavior, does that stop it from being bad?