I'm an SE addict, but haven't been on politics or law SE before. I posted this question about how effective regulations are over on law.se. It's soon to be closed as off-topic over there. Would it fit here in politics.se?

1 Answer 1


I think that questions asking about the effectiveness of a certain policies would be on-topic, but I don't think that they are very good questions in general.

The problem is that effectiveness is very hard to estimate, because there is no control group. You can not tell how any measureable numbers would have changed without the policy because there are just too many factors which influence them.

There are three kinds of answers one could give to such questions:

  • Personal opinions and "common knowledge" not backed up by any facts
  • Pseudoscientific statistics showing correlations which do not imply causation. This isn't helpful, but might still trick some people into upvoting, especially when they feel that it confirms their own bias.
  • Merely anecdotal evidence ("my third cousin stopped taking Adderall because of the policy", "my friends brothers training partner has started taking steroids despite of them").

Neither would be a good answer.

What might be more constructive would be to ask about some specific measureable factor and then leave the interpretation up to the reader ("How did the sales volume of controlled substances change in the US after this law was enacted?") but that's no longer a question about politics so I wouldn't consider it on-topic here.

  • It's certainly not an easy thing to ascertain, bu
    – Tom
    Jul 28, 2016 at 11:15
  • 1
    Certainly not an easy thing to ascertain, but that's the rub of all statistical analysis: how to design a study that removes the variables. This is the kind of thing that universities and such research all the time. Heaven knows how many times marijuana laws have been studied. But I can't seem to find any facts on whether the specific rules on sched II drugs help to stop abuse. I can speculate plenty on my own as to whether it seems like it should help but I can't imagine someone has not attempted to substantiate it. But I agree, it's really not a "politics" question.
    – Tom
    Jul 28, 2016 at 11:28

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