Many people are under the impression that libertarians are for legalizing – or at least, decriminalizing – the use of certain arbitrarily illegal drugs. And they’re right.
But many do not understand why.
It is not fundamentally that some drugs have been arbitrarily criminalized – though that by itself raises fair questions about the rationality (and the legitimacy) of criminalizing some – but not other – drugs. How odd it is, when you stop to think about it, that a cop who “busts” someone for having in his possession a bag of pot – that is, places his victim in manacles and removes him to a jail cell – can lawfully have a case of beer in the trunk of his squad car and be free to go home and drink it in peace, without worrying about a gang of armed men storming his home to . . . “bust” him.
But that hypocrisy is not the main reason libertarians object to the so-called “war” on some – but not other – drugs. Including the legal ones that are actually pushed on people, such as the drugs concocted by billion-dollar pharmaceutical cartels. Who are also able to legally advertise their drugs on TV, where children routinely see it.
Never mind that.
The main reason libertarians oppose this business of arresting and caging people for possessing or using or even selling drugs – to people who freely choose to buy them – is because libertarians disagree with those who believe that there can be a crime without a victim; i.e., a person who was directly and provably harmed as a result of the actions of someone else.
It is why libertarians oppose the criminalization of many other actions that entail no harm to anyone else, such as the majority of traffic laws. No one else is necessarily harmed merely by your driving faster than the arbitrarily decreed speed limit. It is of course possible you may harm someone. But you might also harm someone by driving at – or below – the speed limit. It happens regularly. Just as people who are forced to buy insurance – on the assertion that if everyone weren’t forced to buy it, there would uninsured drivers out there – are routinely damaged by drivers who didn’t buy insurance.
There are many similar examples.
All of them are based on the paradoxical assertion that force must be used against people who’ve caused no harm – in order to prevent harm from being caused. The result of this Kafka-esque assertion is confusion and cynicism. Some things are legal to do while others are not, without a defining standard that makes moral sense of it. It is legal to wear shorts and sneakers while riding a motorcycle. But it is illegal to not wear a helmet. If the point underlying such laws is that motorcycle riding is dangerous, then motorcycle riding ought to be outlawed.
Libertarians say such laws are affronts – because no one else is harmed by a motorcycle rider’s decision to ride his bike without a helmet on. The same goes for seabtelt laws and the whole panoply of such laws, including regulations that have the force of laws – such as the ones requiring anyone who wants a new car to buy air bags, even if he does not want to pay for them. That make it illegal for him to even disable them.
These are examples of evil laws – to a libertarian – because they make “criminals” out of victims. Put more finely, the government becomes criminal – when it legalizes victimization.
And that is why libertarians oppose what the government – and those who defend its legalized criminality – style “taxes,” which is a word used by government to camouflage what is understood by almost everyone to mean robbery, when it is performed by someone not affiliated with the government. Libertarians oppose all forms of robbery because they do not see that anyone has a right to take anyone else’s money. They do not argue over the supposed merit of what is done with the money taken from other people . . . because the money was taken from other people. It does not matter – to the person from whom the money was taken – that it was used to fund something considered by those who took it to be meritorious. What matters – to the person who was robbed – is that he was robbed.
The usual response here is that without such robbery, important works such as “national defense” (and of course, the schools) would go “unfunded.” Ordinary robbers never use such terminology.
They are too honest.
The rationalization put forward by the proponents of legalized robbery assumes people are unwilling to pay for the things they deem worth paying for. This is absurd, of course. And – off course – it does not actually assume that. The true assumption behind the disingenuous assertion is that the things some people think are worth paying for must be paid for by everyone else, most especially those who do not want to be forced to pay for it.
Libertarians point out not merely the immorality of this – no small thing – but also the dangerousness of the thing, in that if it is accepted that forcing Smith to pay for the things Jones thinks are worth spending money on, then Smith has an equal “right” to wheel around and use the same system of legalized coercion to force Jones to pay for the things Smith, in his turn, considers important.
This is how elections in a “democracy” devolve into what H.L. Mencken styled them: A kind of advance auction of stolen goods. And the inevitable result of such auctions is that – eventually – there is nothing left to “sell” because no one has anything left to be taken.
Here is another way to understand libertarian thought – because it something that almost everyone already agrees with yet almost no one seems to understand:
Few people – other than bullies – like bullying. Or bullies. Yet almost everyone votes for one at each election. People who – on their own – would never threaten other people with force to get them to hand over money or to make them “buckle up” (or wear a “mask”) or take drugs – enthusiastically vote for a politician who promises to do just that.
If you would not do something to someone else that you would rather not be done to you, perhaps reconsider voting for someone else to do it on your behalf – so that you can pretend to yourself that you didn’t do it.
It’s an old rule that used to be considered golden. Libertarians didn’t invent it.
But they do agree with it.
. . .
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