Friday, May 07, 2010

The power of ideas to change institutions and their culture -- and their limits

Drug policy reformers, especially members of L.E.A.P., struggle to change the minds of the nation. LEAP speakers speak to business and community leaders sharing a still-radical idea of the drug problem and its solution.

David Brooks, in The New York Times, wrote May 6 of how the U.S. military has been transformed in the past five years by new ideas about counterinsurgency. The ideas arose from the men and women in the field who were experiencing failure first hand. Sound familiar?

His column provides great hope that the nation will soon see the folly of drug prohibition and the wisdom of regulation, taxation and control.

But his column also carries an important warning for drug policy reformers. In the "new and improved" U.S. Army, the reform ideas have become such a dominant new paradigm that "it is actually stifling innovation." In drug policy reform, some of our leaders -- deeply committed to their paradigms of politics, social change, or post-prohibition architecture -- may also be stifling innovation. Five years ago, when I proposed to some of our established leaders the value of recruiting and organizing business leaders to end prohibition, the idea was ignored or dismissed.

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