Monday, August 09, 2004

Mr. Monk and Federal Regulator Creep

Don't think I can link my book The Pure Investor to my watching too much television. Think again. Friday at 10:00 p.m. The Divine Mrs. M. likes to watch Monk on USA. From the official site:
Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) was once a rising star with the San Francisco Police Department, legendary for using unconventional means to solve the department's most baffling cases. But after the tragic (and still unsolved) murder of his wife, the devastated Monk became obsessive-compulsive. His psychological disorder has caused him to develop an abnormal fear of virtually everything: germs, heights, crowds... even milk. His condition eventually cost him his job, and continues to pose unique challenges in his daily life.

This translates into having a cute 20-minute mystery so Mr. Monk gets to act strangly for 40-minutes (i.e. he demands wipes after shaking hands, he cleans up crime scenes during the investigation, etc.)

I find the show innocuous and charming, but a thought crossed my mind this Friday past. Does society consider mental disorders disabilities? If so, isn't laughing at Mr. Monk fixing the knit on a murder's sweater cruel? Isn't laughing at him having a panic attack in a locked panic room mean? If, instead, Mr. Monk hadn't the use of his legs would it be funny watching him trying to go up a too steep ramp or getting his his wheels caught on a curb and falling into the street? I think not and I'm sure there is a site protesting this somewhere. Here's one article (the writer is an editor for a new journal of literature and disability culture; there's a job for everyone). I'm shocked I didn't find more quickly, but that dovetails into my next point.

The American's with Disabilities Act was passed 14 years ago and in effect said that we need to accomodate all those with disabilities - physical as well as mental. The ADA was one of the most expensive regulations imposed on the country and the costs are still being calculated. One of the wonders of human nature is that you can't legistlate the human brain. Just because you pass a voting rights act doesn't mean racism is ended. And just because you pass the ADA doesn't mean some poor man dealing with Obessive Compulsive Disorder isn't just plain funny while a cripple falling down a flight of stairs isn't.

In my book, I deal with the costs regulations impose on the market. I call them the fourth tax. Each additional regulation is an eroding of market returns. At times, regulations also give us a glimpse into ourselves. Does society think that extending protections to those with mental disorders is as valuable as extending them to physical handicaps? I think Monk's high ratings answers "no."