UK Liberty

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.


One Response

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  1. Horse-riding « UK Liberty said, on November 3, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    […] 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. […]

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