Freedom does not exist without Discipline

Some thoughts, sparked by Stacy McCain’s posting of a funny and informative video by Steve Crowder: Crowder Finds Truth In Weeeeed

Here’s the thing: freedom is only good in that the people possessing freedom use it responsibly. Absolute freedom – to do whatever you like, whenever you would like to do it – simply cannot exist; anyone attempting to exercise that degree of freedom, without the self-discipline to conform to morality and social norms (which overlap, but not completely) would quickly find himself in an institution, or dead. Reality is as it is, and no one person can have absolute freedom to do as her whims demand without negatively impacting the freedom of others. The principle of limited freedom is rather plain when stated theoretically, but when it comes down to nuts and bolts it can get complicated rather quickly. No, you don’t have the right to punch me in the face – but do you have the right to smoke on your porch, when you live upwind of a non-smoker? Does the non-smoker have the right to open the windows of his house without having the air he breathes in his home smelling of your cigarettes? (Now that the Eeeeevils of tobacco have been pop-culturized, it’s pretty clear which way that debate would fall today – try having it in the ’50s, I suspect anyone promulgating it would have been laughed out of the room.)

We’re social critters, we humans. As a wise man once said, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.” Those who argue for legalization of marijuana – are they arguing for the freedom to do as they ought? Or only as they desire?

I can understand the libertarian arguments for legalizing recreational drug use. The problem with that is, the libertarian argument depends on society absorbing the costs of all those who use the drugs irresponsibly – employers having to test for drugs (or be sued when accidents happen due to stoned employees), medical professionals having to deal with addicts and overdoses, continued social¬†disintegration¬†as a population that lacks cultural training in responsible drug use (see: Native Americans and alcohol) is inundated by readily available behavior-altering substances. Libertarians seem to think that everyone will magically suddenly become far more personally responsible, and that society will allow individuals who fail to suffer the consequences of their mistakes. Uh, that’s not the society we live in; it resembles an Ayn Rand fantasy, but not the real world. There is a large segment of the population which is perfectly happy to rationalize their desired behavior with the argument “it’s not illegal, therefore it’s not wrong for me to do it.”

In fact, there is a large body of actions which, while not illegal, are most definitely immoral; however, I don’t think the populace possesses a reliable moral compass in the absence of legislation to be trusted with freedom. Too many will do what they want, not what they ought, to the detriment of themselves and of others. Of course, if we magically transformed the population into a large body of responsible adults, I’d be for legalization without reservation. As it is, I have a lot of reservations. Especially when those promulgating drug use are not being totally forthcoming about its effects.

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