Social Experiments That Didn’t Work

Social Experiments That Didn’t Work November 24, 2023

They had good intentions.  They won the arguments.  But the policies they put into place were colossal failures.  As even many of their former advocates are now admitting.

Legalizing Hard Drugs

The Wall Street Journal headline says it all:  Oregon Decriminalized Hard Drugs. It Isn’t Working, with the deck, “Majority of voters now want to undo a pioneering change as public drug use has become rampant.”

Three years ago, 58% of Oregon voters approved an initiative to replace criminal sanctions for possession of hard drugs with treatment for addiction.  Now cities are full of heroin and fentanyl users sprawled on the sidewalks.  Instead of arresting them, police give them a ticket to a help line.  Whereupon the addicts wad them up and throw them away.  Since the new law went into effect in 2021, some 6,000 rehab tickets have been issued, but only 92 addicts have called the helpline.  The police aren’t even bothering anymore.

“It was not a crazy thing to try at all, but I think they misunderstood addiction,” said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford professor who has studied the measure. “They really had the assumption that if you decriminalize, people would come rushing in saying, ‘Please, give me treatment,’ but addiction is not like cancer where people crawl through broken glass to get treatment.”

The victims of that optimistic view of human nature are the addicts themselves.  Last year deaths from overdoses have risen by 23%, to 1,500.

Now a new initiative is in the works that would recriminalize hard drugs.  Polls show it is likely to pass.

Police Reform

The death of George Floyd at the hands of cops led not only to nation-wide riots but to calls for police reform.  These included calls to “defund the police” and to replace them with community counselors.  Where this was implemented, crime surged.

In the name of compassion for the disadvantaged, many liberal District Attorneys stopped prosecuting crimes like shoplifting and petty theft.  As a result, shoplifters in some cities are looting shops with impunity.

Cities have backtracked on defunding, but there have been unintended consequences of the police reform movement that are making crime stopping even harder.

Police officers, who used to be considered and to consider themselves the “good guys” were villainized.  Morale sank.  Some cops, out of fear of prosecution, held back from tough enforcement.  Cops quit in droves.  And city officials are having trouble replacing them.  Recruiting police officers from minority groups is proving especially difficult, since the cultural climate depicts them as traitors to their race.  So, ironically, efforts to make police forces more sympathetic to black Americans has resulted in fewer black Americans in police forces.

And, of course, blacks, Hispanics, and other disadvantaged groups are the primary victims of the higher crime rates.

The Covid Shutdown

And the biggest social experiment of all, one which spanned the globe, was shutting down the economy and confining citizens to their homes as a way to stop the COVID pandemic.

Now an article in The Intelligencer, a section of the arch-liberal New York magazine has published a startling admission COVID Lockdowns Were a Giant Experiment. It Was a Failure.

They write,

One of the great mysteries of the pandemic is why so many countries followed China’s example. In the U.S. and the U.K. especially, lockdowns went from being regarded as something that only an authoritarian government would attempt to an example of “following the science.” But there was never any science behind lockdowns — not a single study had ever been undertaken to measure their efficacy in stopping a pandemic. When you got right down to it, lockdowns were little more than a giant experiment.

And, as they show in detail, the experiment didn’t work.  You should read the article, which is an excellent piece of investigative reporting.  I only wish it had been written in 2020, but I suppose it would not have been allowed to get into print.
The authors are still on the liberal side–they blame not only Donald Trump but George W. Bush–and they don’t deny the severity of the disease.  But the article documents everything that went wrong with the way governments handled the pandemic.

This article is drawn from their book, The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind.

Photo by  Chad Davis from Minneapolis, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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