Our country was founded on the principals of liberty. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. In addition to our very lives, the other unalienable rights enumerated on that parchment are liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Liberty, freedom, means different things to different people. But from the birth of our nation to today, the government has done its very best to restrict individual freedoms, ostensibly to protect society from itself. The total opposite of freedom is slavery, and although the Declaration of Independence starts out by proclaiming that all men are created equal, we had slavery until 1862, almost a century after that document was penned.
We now live in, according to the song lyrics, the land of the free and the home of the brave. I won’t argue the bravery of the men and women who were forced into fighting our meaningless political wars. I will argue that we are not as free as we should be.
Liberty means to me what it meant to many of our Founding Fathers. To be free means that one has the right to do whatever one wishes, as long as it doesn’t limit the rights of others to do the same thing. In other words, we all should have the right to do whatever we want as long as it does not directly harm anybody else.
But how many laws do we have on the books that are meant to protect us from ourselves? Too many, is the answer to that question. Let me make this clear: I am not defending, nor have I ever participated in, drug use or prostitution. I don’t like the idea of a woman having an abortion because she was too shortsighted to use birth control. But I will stand up and defend anybody else’s right to participate in any of these activities, only one of which is currently legal, to the chagrin of most religious conservatives.
The problem in this country is that too many special interest groups want to draw their own moral line for everybody else. Prostitution steps over someone’s moral boundary and should therefore be illegal. In most states, it is illegal, but it wasn’t always so. Prostitution was perfectly legal until the early years of the twentieth century when religious fundamentalists started to assert their self-professed superior morality on the nation’s lawmakers.
If two consenting adults meet in a hotel lobby and decide to go up to a room and have sex, that’s legal. But if one of them pays the other for the sex, that is illegal. They are still two consenting adults doing what they have agreed to do. It is one person’s money and the other’s own body. Why is that any of the government’s business? Make it legal and you get rid of the seedy nature of the world’s oldest profession. Regulate it, tax it, and clean it up and there would be no need for pimps and little risk of spreading disease.
What about illicit drugs? We spend billions of dollars, taxpayer’s money, in this country fighting the war on drugs. This is a war that can never be won. Whether it is unlawful or not, those who want to take drugs are going to. I don’t know of anyone who has made the decision not to do marijuana just because it was against the law.
Legalize the recreational drugs, regulate their distribution, tax their sale, and we eliminate the crime syndicates that we’re wasting our tax money trying to fight. Kids are not going to start taking them all of a sudden because they are legal. Tobacco products and alcohol are two legal recreational drugs that kids are not legally allowed to use or buy. Marijuana should be in the same category, legal except to minors.
We could use those billions of dollars we save on the war on drugs we can’t win to create an education campaign on the harmful effects of drugs, including the now-legal ones. We would get rid of the drug cartels and the organized crime that surrounds the distribution of marijuana and cocaine.
But, again, prostitution and marijuana remain illegal, not because it makes logical sense, but because our government doesn’t want to look like it supports morally questionable activities. It all comes down to someone else’s moral line.
There is a clear boundary where that line should be drawn. If my actions harm another person, then those actions should be illegal. If they harm no one, or harm only myself, I should have the legal right to engage in that activity, period. It is my pursuit of happiness.