Journalism by the Numbers

It’s terrific to see journalists doing investigative work to dig out interesting numbers. Two recent examples.

  • On the weekend, Michael Duffy (not, not that one) estimated for the SMH that Australian drug prohibition costs A$4.7 billion annually. Although it’s in line with Jeffrey Miron’s estimates for the US, my guess is that this is a tad high, since it doesn’t take into account the decline in participation and productivity that would be likely to accompany higher usage rates of hard drugs such as heroin.
  • In the NYT, Tara Bernard and Ron Lieber estimate the lifetime cost of being gay at US$41,196-$467,562 per couple. However, this omits the impact on earnings (from career choice and discrimination), which US studies find to be negative for gay men, and positive for lesbian women.

2 thoughts on “Journalism by the Numbers”

  1. You say the figure “doesn’t take into account the decline in participation and productivity that would be likely to accompany higher usage rates…”  without proving that there would be higher usage rates. Given for the moment that we’re talking decriminalisation rather than legalisation and that Altria isn’t allowed to add heroin to its cigarettes, there are arguments for saying that only when prohibition is out of the picture can we actually address the actual problem. This obviously sounds utopian and optimistic, but it is an undoubted  fact that the anti-tobacco struggle has worked many times better than the anti-drug struggle, and I think it is up to you to say why you think the precedent doesn’t apply.

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  2. The example of the various quit programs is probably the best one to exemplify.
    http://www.quit.org.au/article.asp?ContentID=7240
    All without cigarette prohibition.
    Take away the stigma and arrange clean supply and then there is likely to be a safer use pattern. Less people turning up to work bent, or taking days less productive, as they will have a safer outlet. Compare to the social change involving alcoholism – from ready acceptance that people at work would be drunk on occasion to immediate firing offence – treatment and safer use patterns then emerge.

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