The utility of different values frameworks for drug policy analysis
Values are embedded and largely taken for granted in drug policy itself, in research, and within policy analysis. Where values are discussed, such as human rights, or paternalism it is largely superficial and disconnected from relevant theoretical disciplines (political philosophy or psychology) and existing frameworks. Drawing across public policy theory, political science, psychology, and normative philosophy in this paper I will consider the available frameworks and their respective suitability for advancing drug policy analysis. Case examples will include welfare policy and drug checking. There are three ways in which values frameworks can play an important role in drug policy. Firstly, current policies can be evaluated based on their alignment with basic human values (applying Schwartz’s theory of human values). This kind of analysis surfaces the trade-offs between different values and has the potential to assess the value-alignment of drug policies against societal values. Secondly, as a policy process tool, examining how values surface in the developmental processes surrounding drug policies, including what is silenced and/or taken-for granted. Thirdly, applying normative philosophy offers a method for evaluating the ethical justifications (including utilitarianism, paternalism, social justice) for certain drug policies. In conclusion, I argue for a new research agenda: surfacing the usually implicit, unspoken values inherent within policy; engaging with normative philosophy to examine the ethical justifications for policies; and conducting analyses of the way values play out in policy development and debate.