David French of National Review Online pushes back against fellow conservatives who emphasize government’s role in addressing society’s ills.

What are the most effective means of addressing deaths of despair? If we know what is most effective, should we not concentrate our efforts in that sphere? Moreover, what are the lessons that we can learn from the past, including lessons about the role of government in addressing deep-seated social problems?

Applying this frame, I freely admit that I want to double down on God and not government. I freely admit that I see that while government can do some good, it also has immense, demonstrated ability to do harm even as it tries to help.

Let’s take the opioid crisis, for example. While the media has justifiably paid a great deal of attention to the role of Purdue Pharma in the widespread distribution of OxyContin, the story of the opioid crisis is also a story of well-meaning government blunder after well-meaning government blunder. From FDA approvals of OxyContin, to the adoption of “pain as a fifth vital sign,” to changes in policies of the Drug Enforcement Administration to reduce physician oversight, the government made decisions that ultimately cost lives.

Indeed, the history of well-intentioned top-down government intervention in complex economic and cultural structures is littered with at least as many failures as with successes. Conservatives are well versed in failures of welfare policy, including disability policy, but the history of economic interventions is checkered as well.