Yesterday in my political economy class I was playing around with different examples to get students to think about the difficulties inherent in deciding when government should intervene in the economy or not. At one point I asked them to assume a very simple model–all transactions were either purely voluntary or they were purely involuntary (e.g., theft accompanied by a knock on the head). Everyone easily agreed that in the case of the purely involuntary exchanges government intervention was justified. When I asked whether government intervention was ever justified in the case of purely voluntary exchanges, there was a long pause, then one student–a fervent Republican–said, “No, never.” So I turned to him and said, “So the sale of heroin should be legal?” To which he unhesitatingly responded, “No!”
It was a perfect teaching moment. It was also fun to make him squirm a bit.