Zero Tolerance

In the article Zero Tolerance by Gary Bauslaugh, he asserts the claim that the policy of zero tolerance is a really bad idea and we should not be fooled by it.  I would like to support Mr. Bauslaugh, but the evidence which he presents does not allow me to fully support his point.  He reaches this conclusion based on the following ideas, one – the policy of zero tolerance promotes the abandonment of logic and reason, and two – zero tolerance is not about protecting the public (justice), but making politicians look good.  Based on these two reasons, the conclusion he reaches can be justified.  If a public policy lacks reason and does not protect the public, then it is a bad idea.

Mr. Bauslaugh asserts that the policy of zero tolerance is based on the emotional reaction of public officials to threats to public welfare.  He makes this claim in the following sentences: “The current trend for public officials to talk of “zero tolerance” has arisen because it seems to express public frustration with the lack of justice in the world. It seems to say “we are fed up and aren’t going to take it anymore.””   If indeed, the policy of zero tolerance is based on the emotional reaction of public officials, the claim directly supports the premise that logic and reason have been abandoned.

He presents the argument that there have been other cases of irrational behavior on the part of the public, to satisfy emotional responses.  Mr. Bauslaugh draws a comparison between the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries to the policy of zero tolerance.  He cries out “Are we immune, in modern times, to such superstitious extremism and zealous intolerance?”  This is not an argument he is making in support of any premise.  Rather, what he is doing in this passage is making an emotional appeal to the audience based on the collective memory of unfair persecutions and the taking of life, not based on logic.

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The second case of irrational public policy and behavior Mr. Bauslaugh sites is the war on drugs, which has resulted in the imprisonment of many young people.  Mr. Bauslaugh claims that this is an emotional response to a societal problem, not ruled by reason.  However, Mr. Bauslaugh does acknowledge that there is some reason in the policy on drugs, as acknowledges that some of the people in prison are drug addicts.

He takes this opportunity to insert his opinion as to the policy of the war on drugs.  He states that these people need rehabilitation care to recover from their addiction, not jail sentences.  However, these statements do not support his implied claim that the war on drugs is another example of an emotional response to a social problem.  Therefore, this example does not give another example of an irrational public policy.

Mr. Bauslaugh also uses the case of suggested sexual abuse cases, where women had suddenly “recovered memory” during counseling sessions.  Based on the communities emotional responses, the accused people were persecuted, some put in prison, and some committing suicide.  He states that the actions taken by the public were not based on substantiated facts.

In this case, most of these instances have been discredited.  This gives strength to his claim that the public can act out of emotional response, leaving logic and reason out of the decision-making.   At this point, in the article, Mr. Bauslaugh has presented 2 valid cases that show that the public has made policy in the past based on emotional response to a problem.

Now we will move to the real discussion Mr. Bauslaugh would like to make, that of the case of the destruction of a herd of water buffalo at Fairburn Farms.  He uses this example to support both claims – that the policy of zero tolerance is based on emotional response and that the policy is in place only to help politicians look good in front of difficult social problems.

He states that this case shows the policy of zero tolerance to be one of unmitigated justice, a device for thoughtless and indiscriminating application of the rules, and direct opposition to justice.  If this is true, he implies that the policy of zero tolerance is based on emotional response and not logic.  However, even when a public policy is shown to be unjust and applied indiscriminately, this does not mean the policy is based on emotional response.

Since Mr. Bauslaugh sets out to prove the injustice of the zero tolerance policy, and not the emotional basis of the policy, his implication that the policy is based on emotions is not supported.  The additional cases he has gathered which show a lack of logic and reasoning do not ultimately support his case, because there is no connection from emotionally created policies to that of zero tolerance.  Therefore, the only proof for Mr., Bauslaugh’s case is that the zero tolerance policy is unreasonable and does not promote justice.

Mr. Bauslaugh uses one case to depict the policy of zero tolerance.  In the case of Fairburn Farms and the Archers, Mr. Bauslaugh is able to prove that the application of the zero tolerance policy was unreasonable.  He shows the fault of the Inspection Agency’s logic on the following points.  One, the Archers imported water buffalo from Denmark.  There has never been a case of mad cow disease among any water buffalo population.  Two, one cow was found infected in Denmark with mad cow disease.

Three, mad cow disease cannot be transmitted via cheese, and that was the intention of use for the water buffalo.   And four, the Australians have been using water buffalo from the same region of Denmark for making cheese, with no adverse effects.  The effects of the decision on the Archers also exceeded the bounds of justice.  The Archers are setback in pursuing their livelihood and have to slaughter all of the original buffalo.

Mr. Bauslaugh is able to prove that in the case of Fairburn Farms, the policy of zero tolerance is unreasonable and unjust.  However, by using this one case he does not prove his overall points that the zero tolerance policy is based on emotional reaction and that in general, the zero tolerance policy is a bad policy.  If Mr. Bauslaugh were able to provide additional arguments to support his claim, I may be able to agree with him.  But, based only on the arguments he has presented to me, I do not see just cause to say the zero tolerance policy is bad public policy.

 

 

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