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Commissar Komisar

Summary:
I’m a therapist who deals with people who are anxious. Many of them are particularly anxious during this lockdown. One, John R., age 32, told me that in the late evening before bedtime he goes back and forth between the Fox News Channel and CNN, and each of them makes him angry. I suggested that he stop watching them in the late evening. He did so and now he tells me that he is less anxious and sleeps much better. Another patient, 42-year-old Amy J., told me that she was watching Ozark late every evening. The cold cruel murders weirded her out and she had trouble sleeping. I suggested that she quit watching Ozark late at night. She followed my advice and is now sleeping better. During this pandemic, it’s clear what the government should do. The government should

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I’m a therapist who deals with people who are anxious. Many of them are particularly anxious during this lockdown. One, John R., age 32, told me that in the late evening before bedtime he goes back and forth between the Fox News Channel and CNN, and each of them makes him angry. I suggested that he stop watching them in the late evening. He did so and now he tells me that he is less anxious and sleeps much better.

Another patient, 42-year-old Amy J., told me that she was watching Ozark late every evening. The cold cruel murders weirded her out and she had trouble sleeping. I suggested that she quit watching Ozark late at night. She followed my advice and is now sleeping better.

During this pandemic, it’s clear what the government should do. The government should ban the Fox News Channel, CNN, and showings of Ozark.

I made up the above. Does this policy proposal sound like a good idea? If not, then consider what psychoanalyst Erica Komisar wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal. In her op/ed, “In Lockdown, Pot and Booze Are Bad News,” May 13 (print), Ms. Komisar tells of two clients, one of whom drank every day with friends for “Zoomtails” and the other of whom smoked pot every day. Both had trouble sleeping and felt increasingly anxious. Ms. Komisar wisely suggested that they stop and they did. The results: both are doing much better. Good for her and good for them.

Then she writes:

States ought to curtail the sale of these substances during this stressful time. Instead, almost all have classified liquor stores as “essential,” and some have done the same with marijuana dispensaries. Some officials have argued that keeping liquor stores open keeps alcoholics from ending up at emergency rooms with withdrawal symptoms. But the added risks of alcohol use are far greater.

Pennsylvania closed its state liquor stores when it went into lockdown. Other states should follow its lead.

I’m not a fan of comments on WSJ articles. Even when the comments are on my own op/eds and are on my side of the issue, they are, with some brilliant exceptions, typically mediocre. But the comments on her piece were among the best I’ve ever seen on a WSJ op/ed. Here’s one:

Ms. Komisar’s first story actually argues against her prescription of state-mandated closures. Her patient voluntarily modified behavior without coercive action by state government.

The urge to control others for their own good is one of the strongest urges many people have. I see this a lot in areas where professionals have expertise. They see a problem in their area and they want to dictate to everyone so that this problem will be reduced.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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