People who live in a society in which there are drug laws are living in an unfree society, no matter how much they believe otherwise. That’s because in a genuinely free society people have the right to ingest whatever they want without being punished for it by the state.
It never ceases to amaze me how both conservatives and liberals are unable to grasp this fundamental point about freedom. Even progressives who are now, finally, calling for the legalization of marijuana insist on keeping drug laws in place with respect to heroin, cocaine, meth, opioids, and other illicit drugs. They just don’t get it.
For example, the New York Times today has an editorial calling on Congress to reform federal marijuana laws to match up with the marijuana legalization/decriminalization trend among the states. Yet, there was silence in the editorial regarding the legalization of all drugs.
Let’s assume that a person is sitting in his own living room. He snorts some cocaine. His friend sitting next to him injects some heroin into himself. They both sit there for a few hours all drugged up.
The issue isn’t whether this is a healthy activity or not. We can concede that it isn’t. These two people are engaged in an activity that is harmful and dangerous.
The issues are: Is what they are doing any business of the government? Why should government have the power to punish these two individuals for doing something that does not involve the violation of someone’s else’s rights? Why doesn’t freedom — genuine freedom — entail the right to ingest harmful and dangerous substances?
The answer to these questions revolves around how people perceive the relationship of government and the individual.
Conservatives and liberals believe that government is the master and the citizen is the servant. In their minds, government is sovereign over everyone, and the citizens are subordinate. Think of a beehive. Society is the hive and the government is in charge of running the hive. Everything revolves around the good of hive, and the citizens are the drones who serve the hive. Therefore under the conservative/liberal mindset, government has the legitimate authority to control and manage the drones who serve the hive. If a drone is ingesting harmful or dangerous drugs, he needs to be punished because he is damaging the well-being of hive.
We libertarians view the situation entirely differently. For us, the citizen is the master and the government is the servant. In a free society, the individual is sovereign and the government is subordinate. The individual is free to engage in any activity that is peaceful and non-fraudulent, and it is the role of government to protect that freedom, even if the activity is harmful and dangerous. Thus, we don’t view society as a beehive. We view it as a way of life in which each individual is free to live his life any way he chooses, so long as his conduct is peaceful.
Thus, a genuinely free society necessarily entails people making choices that other people disapprove of. That’s what genuine freedom is all about — the right to make one’s way from birth to death in his own way, so long as his conduct does not violate the rights of others. So long as a person refrains from violating the rights of others, it is no business of the state how he chooses to live his life.
If only more conservatives and progressives were to understand and embrace these fundamental principles of liberty, we would be on our way toward a genuinely free society, rather than an unfree society that conservatives and liberals are falsely convinced is free.