UK Liberty


Posted in law and order by ukliberty on November 3, 2009

A timely article from Auntie:

The sacked drugs adviser Prof David Nutt famously compared its risks with those of ecstasy. But just how dangerous is horse riding? …

In his paper earlier this year, Prof Nutt noted that riding in the UK was associated with 10 deaths and 100 traffic accidents a year. He coined the tongue-in-cheek “equine addiction syndrome” or “equasy” when suggesting it might be more harmful than ecstasy.

Dr John Silver, emeritus spinal injuries consultant, researched serious injuries in professional rugby union, gymnastics and trampolining, and horse riding, over a period of many years. …

In his paper Hazards of Horse-riding as a Popular Sport [abstract here], Dr Silver cited a study from 1985 that suggested motorcyclists suffered a serious accident once every 7,000 hours but a horse rider could expect a serious incident once in every 350 hours.

Now, I wouldn’t have expected the difference to be that much (but then I had no idea of the risks of either activity).

Dr Silver also cites a figure from 1992 of 12 equestrian-related fatalities from 2.87 million participants. …

More dangerous on the face of it than cannabis but less dangerous than alcohol and ecstasy.

It is not easy to gain a complete overview about the dangers of horse riding.  The British Horse Society says there are no centrally collated figures on horse riding injuries. There is no obligation to notify the society about any incident. …

Of course not – why would we want people to be informed of the risks of an activity we approve of / don’t feel inclined to interfere with?

And of course, to fans of the sport, many of whom regard it as as much of a way of life as it is a mere hobby, any recognition of the dangers must be tempered by the positives of the sport. …

Absolutely a reasonable point and I imagine it applies to any sport.  I suspect there are no benefits in taking Ecstasy… but one never knows. Well, facetious comments aside, some drugs (legal and illegal) are said to be of benefit in particular circumstances.

Mark Weston, director of Access, Safety and Welfare said: “The health benefits of horse riding are well known, how anyone can maintain that taking a class A drug has such benefits beggars belief.”

Um, no-one has claimed that taking a class A drug has such benefits as associated with horse-riding – the point was about the risks associated with each activity.  And really the decision should be ours after we weigh up the benefits and costs, not the government’s.

But none of this addresses the fundamental issue relating to interference with your freedom to do as you please so long as you do not harm others – you know, that ‘society’ asserts the right to interfere with you For Your Own Good.

The fundamental point about the drugs debate

Posted in everything, relates to ordinary people by ukliberty on November 3, 2009

It is not about the personal risks associated with legal and illegal drugs or various sports such as horse-riding although that is a reasonable means of showing up the inconsistency of the legality and illegality of particular substances and activities.

Rather, it is What gives ‘society’ the ‘right’ to dictate what I may not do to myself?

It has been seriously suggested that society has no such right.

For example:

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

William Humboldt, On the Sphere and Duties of Government:

In no case, then, should prohibitive laws be enacted, when the advantage or disadvantage refers solely to the proprietor. Again, it is not enough to justify such restrictions, that an action should imply damage to another person; it must, at the same time, encroach upon his rights.

(caveats apply in relation to mental faculties)

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (yet relevant to representative democracies):

The moral authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there is more intelligence and wisdom in a number of men united than in a single individual, and that the number of the legislators is more important than their quality. The theory of equality is thus applied to the intellects of men; and human pride is thus assailed in its last retreat by a doctrine which the minority hesitate to admit, and to which they will but slowly assent. Like all other powers, and perhaps more than any other, the authority of the many requires the sanction of time in order to appear legitimate. At first it enforces obedience by constraint; and its laws are not respected until they have been long maintained.