Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How looking at outcomes can give you useful information

Here's another example showing how thinking about outcome measures, and using information available, can spark a larger discussion about priorities and solutions. In today's print and on-line New York Times, reporter Eduardo Porter writes, in an article titled "Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War,"
If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26. That is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago. [Link in original.]
Porter goes on from there to discuss US and Mexican policies and identifies other numbers, such as the large numbers of people in US prisons, and how many are there for carrying small amounts of marijuana, and how much it costs. And there are uncountable numbers of people dead in Mexico. Porter uses the numbers to raise a number of possible policies the US could adopt. There are a lot of possible arguments among the alternatives, which Porter discusses. But one thing is clear: the decline in the street price of most drugs is a pretty good indicator - outcome measure - that the policies we have adopted are may not be working.

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