Two recent discussions crystalized the important point that social despair, not economic despair, is the leading driver of our latest wave of drug problems. The opioid crisis is complex, as all the speakers at a recent American Enterprise Institute discussion noted, and the causes are multifaceted. There’s no doubt that there is an economic element.
But the consensus is not that economic despair is leading to drug addiction and overdose, rather that we’re facing a terrible social breakdown, and many people are lonely and isolated. They feel they are not needed. Yuval Levin, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted during the panel that this epidemic “is connected at some level with a collapse of connectedness, a loss of meaning, a loss of fulfillment in people’s lives.” Levin says all of this can be described “as an exhaustion or collapse of social capital.”
During the discussion, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, vice chairman of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, introduced and discussed a recent report from the committee’s Social Capital Project, titled “The Numbers Behind the Opioid Crisis.” Two things stand out in the presentation and panel interview: the depletion of social capital, and the role of America’s prosperity in the drug epidemic. The two are connected, and although the panel did not elaborate on this point, a compelling argument can be made that as America’s economic capital increased, its social capital declined.
Please read the rest at The Federalist