Political solutions rarely correct problems. Since these political solutions only address symptoms they inevitably fail. Treating symptoms only postpones problem resolution, and guarantees that problems will grow and multiply over time. This is a blind spot for many politicians, and most citizens. By watching the example of their peers, politicians have learned to pay attention to the symptoms, and so that is what they try to fix. This approach has both advantages and disadvantages, but is actually futile.
One advantage is that politicians appear to be doing something without actually addressing the problem. It also allows them to work on the same problem every election cycle, so that they can continue to “appear to us” to be doing something. They feel free to use the same tired tactics over and over. In a political sleight-of-hand, they divert the public’s attention to the effort they expend on the symptoms. I am not sure if politicians are aware of this, or if they just do not pay attention that the results of their intervention do not solve the problem.
This approach does not work. The problems they work on continue to exist while growing and multiplying over time. As politicians do not uncover a problem’s causes, they are unable to ever really fix it. These efforts create more problems because the so-called solutions always cost money. What’s worse, the taxpayer foots the bill each time. What follows is a good example of how politicians attempt to address crime. Every election cycle they apply different variations of the same solutions. One political solution is to increase the deterrent to crime by making the punishment more severe. However, let’s take a look at repeat offenders. In their case, punishment did not work to begin with, doing more of the same will not work any better. Also, when punishment is increased, inmates are incarcerated for a longer period of time. Again, the taxpayer foots the bill.
Another solution that does not address the problem is increasing the number of law enforcement officers. When there are more officers, they try to demonstrate that they are worth the expense, so they arrest more people for crimes. The results are predictable. The number of arrests and incarcerations increases exponentially, and more people are imprisoned. Add to this the War on Drugs, and we are also paying to incarcerate drug addicts and pot smokers too.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, which allows the police to stop and search anyone suspicious, has magnified the problem. Since officers are never vetted to make sure they are free of prejudices, the arrests they make reflect this, so there are a larger number of arrests of ethnic minorities. This is why the numbers of blacks in prison are disproportionate to the number of whites. Giving this kind of absolute power to police invites abuse. This increased number of prisoners has resulted in the increased need to build more prisons.
The Result: The US has reached first place in the number of prisoners incarcerated with 2,019,234 prisoners. Since our politicians have failed to address the causes of crime, the taxpayers continue to foot the bill for these 2 million plus inmates, the increased number of law enforcement officers, and the continued need for new prisons. It is easy to see the consequences when politicians address symptoms instead of causes. The taxpayer burden grows every year.
© 2012 Dan Amato