Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Logic of Prohibition

Glenn Greenwald precisely delinates the logical postulates of all social authoritarianism:

* Sometimes, people get drunk and drive, or get drunk and abuse others. Therefore, we should outlaw all alcohol (rather than just outlaw drunk driving and assault).

* Sometimes, the media libels people and destroys their reputations. Therefore, we should outlaw all freedom of the press (rather than just proscribe libel).

* Sometimes, children get a hold of cigarettes or pornography. Therefore, we should outlaw all smoking and pornography (rather than just outlaw the act of selling cigarettes or porn to minors).

* Sometimes, men rape women or molest minors. Therefore, we should outlaw all sex (rather than just outlaw rape and child molestation).

* Sometimes, people use drugs (prescription or recreational), get addicted and then steal or act violently. Therefore, we should outlaw all drugs (rather than just outlaw theft and violence).

* Sometimes, people force women against their will to work as prostitutes. Therefore, we should outlaw all prostitution (rather than just outlaw forced prostitution and human trafficking).

* * * * *

Things I learned over the last 48 hours

* It's possible to eliminate recreational activities that people have engaged in privately for thousands of years simply by making it illegal and then imprisoning the people who do it. Thus, we criminalize prostitution and drugs to ensure that nobody does those things.

* People who work at an unpleasant job in order to support themselves, rather than because they enjoy it, are the functional equivalent of brutalized, exploited slaves and therefore should be barred by others from choosing that job -- when the job in question is prostitution, but not when it's factory work or fast food cashier or large corporate law firm associate or massage therapist or porn actor.

* Sometimes, adults make choices for their own lives that other adults perceive to be bad choices. When that happens, the adults who know better have the right to step in, pass laws to restrict the bad choices, and even make the bad choices criminal -- all for the good of the adults who don't know what's good for them.

* People who respect the judgments which adult women make about their own lives and believe in their right to choose for themselves how they live are sexist and even misogynistic. People who believe that adult women don't really know what's good for them and need to have choices made for them by others are the people who respect women.

* The way you protect someone who is doing things you don't like is to turn them into criminals and force them to do it underground.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Don't forget, prohibition has the benefit of lining the pockets of organized crime with profits after the scarcity drives prices up and removes non-violent dispute resolution mechanisms....

Oh, wait, those aren't benefits are they?

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