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There are days when my structured moral code and my absolutist perspective on the world gives way to what can mildly be termed an extreme laissez faire attitude. It seems to be the most common course that people want to do, and are going to do what they want to do anyway. They’re not going to rationale analysis interfere, nor are they going to consider the long term consequences. But that’s what respecting peoples choice is about. It is about just letting them get on with it without all this unnecessary interference by over-moralized tub thumpers who just want others to think their own way. To compel others to make their choices.

Two examples of this are in my current attitude to prostitution and drugs. Let us start with them in the order that they’re listed. I cannot help but think that it is the world’s oldest profession for a reason. People have been doing it since time immemorial, and if history is to serve as a guide, they’re going to be doing it for long after you and me are gone. So why not stop making it illegal, and bring it above ground. The people who are headed that way will find a way to end up in that position, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and adding societies moral stigma to that calculus really doesn’t make a difference. All it does is make it harder to reach out and help these people.

The same line of reasoning applies to drugs. People have been altering their mental state for thousands of years, and more often then not intentionally. People go out of their way, and they procure these goods and they enjoy their effects. If that’s what they want to do, then why should anyone be getting in their way

There are a variety of compelling arguments for this. I think they can be summarized pretty effectively as this.

1. Government regulation can exercise a protective and supervisory role over these activities if they are legal. We can check whether the street walker has had a health checkup, and officially get her one if she hasn’t. We can limit or remove the psychological risks by getting access to proper counseling and care services when we need them. We can ensure that the scum who go around beating them up can be dealt with by the police, and that the innocent party is not afraid of the police or other arms of the state.

2. The freedom of contract argument. You are the captain of your soul. You get to do what you want, with the understanding that you bare all the consequences of your actions. To fulfill the states part of that obligation fully, it first has to let you do what you want in so far as it causes no involuntary harm to another person. That means that the drug addict should be free to do what he wants, and the sex worker should be free to sell their body. To do so otherwise derogates from the prime principle that people are free to make their own choices, without any parental or intervening body deciding what they want them to do. Even the religious zealot has to fold to this argument, the same God has given them freedom to chose their religion, and this election depends critically on free choice. One cannot selectively apply a principle that only benefits themselves. Free choice is as valid an argument for the prostitute as it is for the drug user.

3. It extracts them from their seedy nature. These are areas of the black economy traditionally run by organized crime, and let them turn a large and easy profit that finances the large part of their less profitable ventures. This would let us undermine and destroy what is widely agreed to be the most insidious menace in most cities, and to lower the risk of mob rivalries and the other miscellany of dangerous things that they are associated with. It means less crime happens overall, and that the strong organized effective crime that can subvert the whole institution of law and order in a country cannot grow fully established.

4. This is a more marginal argument, but legalized professions contribute revenue to the people, these can pay for all the costs of regulating the profession, and the extra can be plowed back into creating a better society as a whole.

What do you think?

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One Comment

    • Domhttp://www.xanga.com/behappy168
    • Posted September 22, 2005 at 12:31 am
    • Permalink

    I agree with you in principle. However I cannot begin to imagine how we can enforce them if drugs and prostitution are legalized. Also can we make sure these activities don’t affect other people? Let’s face it, most druggies will run out of money and will resort to stealing or robbing to pay for the drugs. If we can find a way to overcome problems such as this then I’m all for it.


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