Drug legalization and ‘victimless crimes’


Before I’m willing to sit down and discuss innovative ways we can reform the criminalization of drugs (and any related alcohol issues in Utah), I need to make clear a fundamental perspective about human action and free will that, I think, divides many of us on these issues of “victimless crimes.”

I simply don’t believe in “victimless crimes.” And here’s why.

There are both transitive and intransitive aspects to human action. If I punch you in the face, clearly there is a transitive result – you feel the pain of my hitting you in the face. There also is an intransitive aspect to that action – my choice to hit you in the face leaves a mark on me, on my character. 

If I spend my days walking around and randomly hitting people in the face, of my own free will, my choices begin to shape my moral consciousness and then my culture of conduct. At that point, hitting people in the face can become a habit. The only way for me to break that habit is to choose not to hit people in the face. But if it’s habitual, reasonable people could justifiably question my ability to freely choose a new direction, a new pattern of behavior.

By the way, the intransitive aspect of human action is precisely why any of us question the personal choices of any elected official or person in a position of trust. It’s also why so many people who don’t want to recognize the influences of intransitive actions blather on to insist that “a person’s personal life is his own business” – so what that he cheated on his wife, so what that he was caught soliciting sex in a men’s room, so what that he smokes marijuana, so what that he’s an alcoholic, etc. “That’s his business!”

Well, if you accept the idea of an intransitive aspect of human action, those choices become everyone’s business in short order.

Furthermore, the “victimless crime” mentality breeds a culture of anarchy, not freedom, by seeing people as objects and not human beings. Let me explain.

When I say, “I’d never use heroin because I know it is unhealthy and could kill me, but I don’t care if you choose to use it,” I’m actually seeing you as less than me. I’m really saying, “I don’t care about your health and I don’t care if you kill yourself.” I’ve just objectified you. I’ve just made a choice (conscious or otherwise) not to see you as a human being equal to me. And when I’ve done that, freedom is diminished.

Clearly it’s possible to see others as human beings and still not believe that laws ought to prohibit drug use even if we oppose drug use personally. But it’s difficult to do so. To do so a person would have to construct an argument that human autonomy, in the face of severe quality of life issues or even certain death, is more important than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – because, equally clearly, a heroin addict threatens her own life, has no real liberty of her own due to the addiction, and has reduced her idea of happiness down to her next fix.

Human autonomy is a powerful and important component of human freedom. But the whole idea of a “victimless crime” begs the question: Is a human free, in her ability to make reasonable choices, if she’s addicted to heroin or alcohol or sex or any other external substance? And if not free, why are we so self-righteous about protecting her autonomy? Better yet, what’s to protect?

The whole utilitarian/objectivist/libertarian axis of evil, in the name of a free society, has managed to separate the mind (and spirit) from the body, as if the body were a slave to the human conscience – a ridiculous notion that throttled American culture in the 1960s and hasn’t let go yet. If you separate mind from body, you’re objectifying yourself and others. Period.

In the matter of legalizing drugs (or liberalizing alcohol laws in Utah), it’s important to address these fundamental issues before you sit down to talk with me, if that’s your desire. At the very least, just know that as these issues arise before the state Legislature, this is where I’ll be coming from. I’m open to addressing “criminalization” issues regarding drugs, just as I’m open to addressing the liberalization of Utah’s liquor laws. But those discussions will be difficult to have if others at the table don’t first address the ideas presented here for themselves.

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  • Larry Love

    I often wonder if the ill effects of legalization of illicit drugs would be less when legalized and looking at the overall picture it is hard to tell. I interviewed a Pharmacy Owner and he was very negative with even discussing the legalization of any illicit drugs. The general argument of assuming that crime would be reduced and illegal drug trafficking would all but cease to come from other countries into the US may have holes in it, although the studies done seem to indicate an overall positive effect after several years but also some negatives. In the first few years we would have people possibly trying drugs that otherwise might not if they remained illegal and your thoughts about us objectifying others and saying that those people will just be collateral damage is a concern. Would we be willing to weigh those negatives and positives with what the current situation is? The violence associated with current illegal drugs is so massive would legalization do away with this or just channel these people into another illegal industry? I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic. It is almost the same argument used to tell people that with legalized prostitution the women could be checked by doctors so there would be better control, the police would not waste time on busting prostitution or an ongoing illegal drug war that we have no way of winning so they would be freed up for other crime fighting projects. Am I so naive as to completely be missing something here? Obviously we would need controls just like the liquor sales have where the drugs were not sold to young people. It is easier for my 16 year old daughter to get MJ than it is for her to get a beer so would that open up another yet illegal industry of selling legal drugs to youth?

    • http://dpft.org Carl Veley past president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

      The first time I ever bought whiskey I was 17 years old. That was in 1956 and in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had completed my first year of college, left home, and was living on my own. At that time 3.2% beer was legal and sold in Oklahoma taverns, but none of them would sell it to me, and all my over-21 friends were extremely reluctant to buy it for me. Not a problem, I simply called a bootlegger who would appear at my door within an hour or so, hand over a bottle, collect his money and disappear. Then liquor Prohibition in Oklahoma was repealed in 1959 under Governor J. Howard Edmonson and I was stuck. The bootleggers disappeared instantly and I couldn’t buy beer or anything alcoholic until that fall when I turned 21.
      Your 16 year old daughter is in the same situation. She can’t buy beer because it is legal and regulated. She can buy MJ because it is not legal and therefore not regulated. Prohibited goods and services are regulated only by profit motives of criminals. Milk is heavily regulated by law and we can have confidence in its composition, packaging, preparation, processing, and quality, but we have no such assurances about anything that is prohibited. Milk is regulated, MJ is not.

      Carl Veley

      Carl Veley

  • Jeremy

    The primary philosophical basis for our current war on drugs is the argument you made in your post. Your argument in summary seems to be that government should use force to prevent people from being able to get high because they may lose control over their bodies and become addicted. Their bad behavior may not directly hurt someone else but our willingness to let them participate in that bad behavior is harmful to society.

    Those who make this argument are making the same mistake people on the left usually make when their first and primary solution to societal problems is governmental use of force. Of course drug use is a negative for society. Utilitarian/objectivist/libertarian supporters aren’t in favor of encouraging people to abuse drugs and alcohol. We just recognize the fact that the government hasn’t been a successful or even useful tool in correcting this bad behavior. The longer we keep trying to deal with the problem your way the longer the enormous costs of this government failure will continue to mount. http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

    While you self-righteously wait for us to explain to you why government’s guns aren’t the answer to America’s/Utah’s drug and alcohol problems more people are needlessly being killed and imprisoned in the drug war while taxpayers continue to be soaked for billions. It seems like you should be the one explaining why all this is worth it…not the other way around.

    • Paul Mero

      Respectfully, you address nothing I’ve pointed out. Then you assume I’m arguing something I’m not. Libertarianism has nothing constructive to add in this debate IF it begins its argument with legalization of drugs. We’re not talking about eating too many bananas resulting in a belly ache; we’re talking about narcotics that serve only to assault human agency…and, by extension, a free society.

  • http://dpft.org Carl Veley past president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Paul, you miss the point completely. Those of us urging drug legalization fully, completely, and totally agree with you that drug abuse is a bad thing. We definitely realize that it is tragic when anyone gets hooked on heroin, cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamine, tobacco, or any other drug and we are focused on the best ways of reducing easy access to harmful drugs. We insist that making such drugs illegal does not make them go away, it just creates a network of criminals that will supply the never ending appetite for drugs. Prohibition makes harmful drugs easier to obtain, not more difficult.
    If someone were to offer you free heroin you would not take it. Neither would I, and neither would about 98% of all the American population. That other 2% or so, would try it, whether it is illegal or not and 0.46% of Americans would develop a dependency on it, according to data from the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science. Likewise, if someone offered you free marijuana my guess is you would turn it down, and so would I and 54% of all Americans, with about 4% of Americans over age 12 developing a marijuana dependency, primarily for pain relief. According to the same Government data, 92% of Americans age 12 or older have tried alcohol at some time, but only 15% developed a dependency on it, with ‘dependency’ being somewhat conservatively defined. The difference between that 2%, 46%, and 92% of Americans who are willing to try a given drug is the perceived difference in danger or harm, whether justified or not. Making any drug illegal has not, and we claim cannot, change people’s desire to use or avoid it.
    I often start my lectures on drug prohibition by holding up a large cardboard Marlboro box and asking the audience how many would like some free cigarettes. Without exception, people who do not smoke decline the gift. Never once have I known a person age 25 or more who would say, “Well, since they’re free, I’ll try tobacco for the first time.” With extremely rare exception, the only people who would accept free cigarettes are people who already smoke, or kids. On the other hand, people who do smoke will pay very high prices and go to extreme lengths to satisfy their habit.
    According to Government statistics, tobacco is more addictive than heroin, although there is a big difference in withdrawal symptoms. If we made tobacco illegal it would still be just as addictive, but smokers would soon be buying cigarettes from a network of criminal distributors who would make a profit from supplying an illegal commodity, a profit so high it would lead to all sorts of violence and corruption. Those illegal dealers would not have a license, a place of business, or insurance policies to protect and would be willing to sell to a kid, addict, pregnant woman, or anyone with money. Making tobacco illegal would soon make it easier, not more difficult, for kids to buy. As it is now, kids mostly steal cigarettes or beer from their parents or other adults but they can readily buy all the pot they want with no questions asked because they buy from an illegal and therefore unregulated dealer. We ‘legalizers’ agree with you that drugs are dangerous and bad for many reasons, and we want to make drugs less readily available, especially to kids. The only way to do that is to legalize and regulate the distribution system. What we are doing now is the least effective way possible to separate kids from drugs. Prohibition simply does not change appetites, either for drugs or profits, it only creates an illegal distribution system that does nothing to eliminate drug abuse and adds many problems that are even worse. Legalizing something to NOT mean to condone its use, it simply means to regulate and control the distribution.

    Carl Veley

    • Paul Mero

      Thanks Carl…although you (and others) take quite a few words to share arguments I’ve heard a million times. “You” might simply want to regulate bad things but the people leading the legalize movement hardly admit drug use is harmful.

      Again, I’m really interested in critics addressing my remarks in this blog, not simply avoiding my argument and regurgitating the party line about black markets and crime and so on. You either agree with my points above or you don’t: so what is it?

      America already regulates narcotics. What it hasn’t done is choose to add certain narcotics to the regulated list…in other words, those excluded narcotics are illegal…and I would say rightly so, even if I disagree with how an illegal narcotic is officially listed by the DEA according to perceived harmful impact (such as pot).

      The remaining policy questions for me are 1) should we be more attentive to see drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime issue? and, if a health issue, 2) are there effective ways to separate drug-addicts from the general criminal population?

      • http://dpft.org Carl Veley past president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

        Paul, you are mistaken if you think people who want to end drug prohibition as public policy hardly admit drug use is harmful. True, marijuana users insist, with justification, that pot is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, but never, never, never have I heard anyone claim that hard drugs are not harmful when abused.
        Second, I think you confuse “victimless crime” with crime where the criminal is the victim. Yes, suicide is against the law, so what should we do, flog all bodies with self-inflicted mortal wounds and jail those who are unsuccessful in slashing their own wrists? Drug abuse is a serious problem, but treating it as a crime has never been successful and never will be. It makes more sense to treat it as a health problem, probably a mental health problem, and offer help instead of punishment.
        Never once have I heard people say, “I don’t care if you use heroin,” but I have heard people say, “I do not approve of using heroin and strongly recommend against it, but if you choose to do so it’s not my responsibility, or the Government’s duty, to forcibly prevent you from doing so. I should make sure you are informed, but I should not force you to abide by my standards for what I consider moral behavior.” There is a huge difference between killing yourself and killing someone else.
        There are those who say the number one health problem in the United States is obesity. By your reasoning we should make excessive calorie intake a crime and jail people who fail to heed our dietary advice. After all, fat people clog our hospitals, work inefficiently, harm their families, strain the airlines, force more expensive designs for cars, and cause all sorts of public problems, not to mention the serious harm they do to themselves. In my opinion we have no right to declare overeating a moral problem qualifying for Government interference. I do think the Government has the right and duty to prevent obese people from causing harm to others, such as taking two seats on airplanes or utilizing public funding made necessary entirely by their dietary choices.
        As for an effective way to separate drug addicts from those who commit crime against other people, the first thing to do would be to give addicts confidence they could ask for help without being punished. That means ending the current prohibition mentality and its stultifying effects on public policy.

        Carl Veley

        • Paul Mero

          Carl, I just attended the International Drug Policy Forum in LA in November…1,600 people…best I could tell, I was the only person in attendance who thought open drug use was a moral problem that impinged on lasting freedom. To the contrary, the conference was full of people who think drug use = freedom.

          And please don’t compare human weaknesses (like over-eating) with heroin use. William Howard Taft was clearly obese and was POTUS…I’ve never heard of a POTUS who also was a heroin user.

          I appreciate your comments…I’d prefer you simply address the points in my blog post: does drug use reduce freedom or enhance it?

  • Larry Mulcock

    Children, and so many adults, do not have the experience or maturity to understand and implement rational arguments or exercise responsible freedom. This is a result of poor and abusive parenting, peer pressure, hormones, curiosity, misinformation, a dumbed-down education system that does not teach or require students to think or debate, misguided hero worship of high-profile sports, music, movie, theatrical and political and many other factors. So the questions becomes when is someone “free” or able to “responsibly” exercise their agency? Certainly, minors need to be protected while the hopefully gaining enough knowledge, understanding and experience to make good and healthy choices. Perhaps the biggest problem is that adults set a poor example of adulthood and we reinforce that by creating safety nets thereby eliminating the need for responsibility or accountability.

    As Steve Covey says, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other.” If you use drugs, you are responsible for the outcome and the solution. Who pays for drug treatment programs, jails and prisons, courts, child welfare, etc. Society does. I do. I am 62 and the surrogate father of a wonderful 5 year old granddaughter who’s mother used drugs during pregnancy, neglected her newborn and then went to jail for child endangerment after exposing her child to crack cocaine at 3 and a half. Victimless? Hardly. Is her mother contributing financial to her maintenance? No. Is she a positive role model? No. I she contributing in a positive way to society? No. She is a parasite praying on the compassion and goodwill of a our culture. Is she free? Clearly not. She had relapsed back to her heroin habits at least 4 times we know of. The prognosis for her recover is grim. The odds are overwhelming against her.

    How can we create accountability? My plan for addressing tobacco use is to deprive users of medical care and insurance (since they consume a massively disproportionate share of medical expenses) – the safety net. (We must also remove the tax on tobacco in order to sever the disfunctional relationship and conflict of interest between a voracious money starved federal government and their professed war on tobacco. Pardon the editorial) We will help you quit. We will compassionately provide hospice while you are dying of lung cancer. We will reinstate you health coverage after you are tobacco free for three years. But we will not be responsible for your poor choices. You are. When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other. You are free to choose to smoke, but along with that choice you also choose the consequences. You might say that providing a safety net is actually interfering with or depriving them of their agency, because they don’t get to enjoy the full impact of their choice. Perhaps the same should apply to drug use, although there are many facets to consider such as crime, family welfare, etc.
    One huge problem with any solution is always the children who are the true victims of most victimless crimes and poor choices of their caregivers and adult exemplars.

    No free person would make irresponsible self-destructive choices. It is against our nature to self-destruct. We are only free to the extent we can choose wisely. Clearly, using drugs and tobacco is self-destructive. We cannot use the excuse that we did not know. Dah! There is too much information out there. Where there is not enough information or the outcome is not clear, we can choose passivity or we can take some risk. Life is full of risk, known, knowable and unknowable. We cannot create a risk-free world. But when outcomes are so predictable, known and knowable, to choose self-destructive behavior is irresponsible and anathema to the freedom of society and the chooser must be allowed to experience the natural consequences. Everyone makes mistakes, so a merciless inflexible approach is difficult to justify. What a dilemma!

    Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” To me that implies making informed choice and reaping the consequences. It means being able to consciously choose behaviors in both our public and personal lives that are in harmony with our best interest. It also means we must be continually learning and refining our belief systems – continual improvement. Choosing not to be vigilant is choosing something other than freedom.

  • Sue

    The statement that the only people who will try drugs or tobacco when offered are the ones who already use, or ‘kids’, is shocking. Since legalizing MJ for medicinal purposes in Colorado, there has been a major influx of applicants for Social Security Disability Benefits from youth, who get it from their ‘doctors’ for a variety of reasons, and who are now addicted, and who have little desire to be educated, work, or develop their natural talents.

    The University of Utah Substance Abuse Treatment Training program informs that marijuana is 7x more carcinogenic than tobacco. It does not make any sense to legalize and prescribe something that it obviously so antithetical to good health. The ‘U’ also teaches that only 3% of people who become addicted to street drugs are able to overcome their addiction, and that marijuana is the biggest ‘gateway’ drug. Legalizing harmful substances is extremely harmful to youth, and thus, OBVIOUSLY, harmful to society.

  • Brian

    This thread shows a complete misunderstanding of Libertarian thought process. What is completely missed is the multi-cultural and truly polytheistic nature of the US Government. The Separation of church and state is in reality a measure of fairly, justly treating Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, and many others equally protected under the law. The Crux of the matter here depends upon keeping one group from using the government to impose it’s perceptions of what is morally acceptable upon the others. Whether you support the principle of agency by classifying “victimless crimes” or in some other way is irrelevant. The moral pejorative is to leave the individual subject to their own spiritual/moral governance. Government has but one role- to safe guard that I do not impede another individuals’ agency.

    Consider the profundity of Joseph Smith’s statement “I teach the people correct principles and let them govern themselves.” Punishment is separation. Don’t live up to the commitments of your religious paradigm then you may be excommunicated. Interfere with another individuals’ agency to choose how they live then you may be imprisoned. One religious dogma doesn’t have right or governing power to subdue differing religion. It doesn’t matter if you favor laws that prohibit/limit polygamy, polyandry, hallucinogenic drug use, coffee, tea, prostitution, or marijuana. The fact is the LDS church has a Temple in Los Vegas Nevada- people have chosen to limit their behavior in spite of what the law allows because they have aligned themselves to a particular religious paradigm. When individuals violate the governing laws religious leaders judge the behavior considering punitive measures of dis-fellowship, excommunication, and provide a path of repentance leading back to full fellowship. It is a matter of individual responsibility/agency to abide by the prescribed conditions of repentance and not the strong arm state police that help the individual on that return path.

    I don’t want a Muslim instituting laws requiring genital mutilation (female circumcision) any more than I want to see my Bishop seeking the imprisonment of a marijuana smoking atheist. “…those whom torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” –CS Lewis

    The love of power and dominion over others is the most offensive and abused “gateway” drug of all. In spite of the laws of the land people will continue in their addictions until they feel a need to change. That which is legal is in fact more easily regulated and taxed. A nominal tax on legal substances (cigarettes) can then more appropriately be used to fund appropriate addiction treatment programs. As it is we maintain a war on drugs which operates based on taxes collected in other areas while the CIA continues to fund many covert operations through the illicit drug trade. Legalization then becomes a path for: reducing governmental corruption, increasing revenue for appropriately chosen addiction programs, & decreasing the demand for prison space. Preserve the employers right to terminate for drug use as prescribed in employee handbook and employer needs are appropriately addressed. For all the pontificating you may as well argue for making ice cream illegal.

  • Larry Mulcock

    “A nominal tax on legal substances (cigarettes) can then more appropriately be used to fund appropriate addiction treatment programs.” On the contrary. Taxing tobacco is exactly what the tobacco companies want. It put them in bed with the federal government. It creates a conflict of interest. The government will never make a serious attempt to curb tobacco use as long as it profits from its use. Providing government-funded safety nets also encourages poor choices because people know that they can demand treatment regardless of the cost. You also deprive individuals the opportunity to experience the natural consequences of the their choices. We the population sees that the consequences are mitigated, they will be more inclined to chose self-destructive behaviors. We are still generally uncomfortable and unwilling to let people make choices that may ultimately result in a premature death. We must give people the freedom to experience the consequences, even death, or we are limiting their freedom. We cannot continue to fund the safety net for people who engage in clearly known self-destructive behaviors like smoking because it deprives them of their freedom. That is not to say that there are not controversial choices, accidents, birth defects, diseases, circumstances which are not always the result of clear choices. Certainly our compassion compels us to action. However, with drugs and tobacco (and alcohol for that matter), they are clearly known destructive substances and we cannot afford to fund the safety net any longer and depriving users of their Constitutional right to the full impact of their free choices. Taxes and safety nets promote poor choices, place unsustainable burdens on society and fundamentally compromise the freedom of the chooser.

  • Duane

    Paul, the intransitive aspect also applies to those who habitually control or attempt to control the behavior of others.  It even appears to become addictive to be in Congress and exert power over the lives of your constituents.  Your argument is a two-edged sword that cuts on both sides of the discussion of the proper role of government.

    I don’t see the crime and black market issue as completely separate, as you seem to think it is.  The intransitive aspect of outlawing something is that the profit motive creates or facilitates a class of people whose choices to grow or supply the outlawed substance at any risk or cost, including murder.  And they also have a transitive effect on the rest of us.

    I don’t know your religious inclination, but as I understand LDS theology, God was willing to deny a large part of his family the chance to even enter mortality over the issue of agency and their desire to control the lives of others.  I can’t speak for others, but I can say “I won’t do that and I really don’t want you to do it either, but I will not use force to impose my will on you.”  I don’t think you can claim that I objectify people. 

    Death is a door, not annihilation.  Agency is more important than death and for that very reason is something that you actually can’t take away from someone else.  Read the stories of people who have been imprisoned and tortured who have chosen to react without hate or malice.  They couldn’t choose their circumstances, but they still chose their response.  I believe that the real damage in a situation where one person tries to take or control the agency of another is your intransitive effect on the control freak.  Next is the acceptance and proliferation of that attitude among the rest of society.

    I am afraid that intransitive effects on both sides of this issue, which is much broader than legal/illegal drugs, have brought us to a point where there is no solution.  There is serious dysfunctional thought and behavior on both sides.

    • Duane

      Sorry, I missed a case of bad construction in the second paragraph above.  It should read “who choose” instead of “whose choices.”

      I wish there were a way for a poster to edit his own post.

  • Duane

    Paul, I have to take issue with this statement:

    “When I say, “I’d never use heroin because I know it is unhealthy and
    could kill me, but I don’t care if you choose to use it,” I’m actually
    seeing you as less than me. I’m really saying, “I don’t care about your
    health and I don’t care if you kill yourself.” I’ve just objectified
    you. I’ve just made a choice (conscious or otherwise) not to see you as a
    human being equal to me. And when I’ve done that, freedom is

    Not only are you assuming that I can’t forego the temptation to try to force someone to behave the way I want without “objectifying” them, but even if I were, you can’t prevent me from “objectifying” them whether you make them a criminal or not.

    Furthermore, whose “freedom is diminished” when this “objectifying” happens?  The freedom of the “criminal”? or the freedom of the person “objectifying” the “criminal”?  Your argument about intransitive effects make the point that the only freedom lost is that of the person judging the “criminal”.  Thoughts don’t diminish freedom in anyone but the one who thinks them and you can’t prevent that.  Making the drug user a criminal has no positive effect on either one. 

    In fact, it has nothing but negative consequences.  The “criminal” is thrown into prison where his bad habits are reinforced by the company he keeps and his economic, social and familial circumstances are further damaged by his punishment and record.  The people who approve of treating him this way have the satisfaction of seeing their “objectification” of the “criminal” ratified by the legal system and society.

  • Duane

    Paul, I can give you two examples of victimless crimes, unless you accept that government has made the “offender” himself into a victim.

    I was returning home from a school board meeting, north-bound on 10th West in Logan.  That road, until major construction last year, was a fairly narrow two-lane road as it went past Icon Fitness, and the speed limit was 50 mph.  There are also several houses in that stretch with driveways that open right onto 10th West.

    About the time one passed the LDS church on the east side, the speed limit dropped to 30 mph, in spite of the fact that the road was wider from there to the light at LW’s on 2nd North and there is only one street with a stop sign to control access and one farm on the west. The elementary school entrance (the original reason for the 30 mph limit) that used to be on 10th West was moved around the corner onto 600 South several years ago.  Even without traffic speed records to determine the 85th percentile speed, a reasonable argument can be made that, especially in view of the speed limit past Icon, 30 mph was too low for the wider, more controlled road.

    Thinking about the issues at the meeting I had just left, I was going 45, five under the speed limit a couple blocks south where the road was narrower, when a Logan officer, who was parked with his lights out at the stop sign mentioned above, pulled me over.  I had no intention of speeding and so your intransitive effect does not apply to me.  There was virtually no vehicular traffic and there were no pedestrians.  I ask you, where was the victim?

    Another example:  A young man on our street offered to carry a girl’s backpack for her.  He says he did not know there was anything in the backpack besides school books, which is pretty likely true, since most young men don’t examine the girl’s backpack when they offer to be a gentleman.  He was busted for carrying drugs.  You can argue that the girl having drugs in her backpack created a victim somehow if only herself, but where is the victim for HIS crime?

    Paul, I really would like to read your response to my statements.  I agree with your opinion on many issues and respect your logical thinking.  You attempted to develop a rational argument and asked for responses to it.  I have specifically addressed your points. 

    The ball is in your court.

    • Paul Mero

       I think we have different meanings of “victimless.”  I’m referring to common references such as drug use and prostitution.  I get your point but I think we’re talking about two different things. You seem to be referring to a bad law and an unfortunate circumstance…as opposed to a “wrong” independent of law and circumstance.  My point about intransitive actions don’t reasonably apply to your scenarios…someone speeding and a mistaken “criminal.”

      I really appreciate your thoughts, though. Thanks.

      • Duane

        The ironic thing about the boy and the backpack is that the Drug War itself created the victim.  That is one of the arguments against the drug war.

  • Duane

    Paul, you missed my posts that addressed the intransitive effect.  They are further down the page.

    • http://twitter.com/paulmero Paul Mero


      Of course, all human actions have an intransitive effect, to
      one degree or another. I agree with you, wholeheartedly, about the human
      handling of power, especially in government. But that’s not my argument, nor do
      I think the truth that all human actions have an intransitive effect, to one
      degree or another, takes away from my initial point (or the need for believers
      in “victimless crimes” to address that point.)


      Perhaps another clarification is on order. By “intransitive”
      I don’t mean unintended consequences. I’m not saying, for instance, that the
      “war on drugs” doesn’t create a black market or criminals.  I see how that happens.  By intransitive I mean what I said: human
      actions effect the actor as well as the recipient, and perhaps more so given
      the action.


      As far as agency goes (in an LDS context), agency is not the
      goal, happiness is.  Agency is necessary
      for happiness, but so is self-restraint and so is restraint imposed by others
      when our poor behavior negatively impacts them. 
      This is why we have government at all – yes, to protect our liberties
      but also to encourage our freedom (liberty and freedom being two unique
      attributes in a free society).


      And I do think the “do no harm” principle objectifies
      people.  I think it does say, “I care
      about myself, certainly, but I don’t really care about you if I’m willing to
      stand by and watch you shoot heroin in your arm.”  By the way, I think I actually objectify many
      people in this way.


      I do see your point however. 
      The need for people to experience failure to, in turn, experience human
      progress must hold sway. We can’t “save” everyone, even if we want to (the
      Liberal mistake).  Again, I’m not saying
      your points don’t have validity.  I am
      saying that your points don’t negate mine from this initial blog post about
      intransitive human actions.


      Lastly, I do think our thoughts can diminish freedom, if I
      also believe that my thoughts influence my words and actions.  But that is a finer point.


      As I’ve said several times, I agree that policy
      reforms are needed regarding how we address the assistance we give to people
      addicted to drugs. I’m just not willing to surrender the moral price of freedom
      in that process.

  • Duane

    Carl and Paul, it is irrelevant whether “most” drug users or proponents of legalization think drug use is a moral problem or not. There are really only two questions pertinent to the issue: What would be effective? and probably more important, what is consistent with the principle of agency?

    It seems to me hard to argue that there can ever be an effective way to control the illegal, unregulated black market or its utilization by anyone.

    I contend that considering intransitive effects on EVERYONE, including legislators, courts, law enforcement and society at large, argues for removing the stigma of crime from drug use because that would not only remove encroachments on the freedom of the largest number of people, but also reduce the intransitive effects on the largest number of people. That does NOT mean removing penalties for injuries they cause while under the influence.

    Paul, I did address your argument about transitive and intransitive effects, but those posts have been deleted from this site. Maybe I did not elucidate well what I was trying to say, but I did provide something to consider and it was removed. I agree that the intransitive effects of drug use are a problem, but you don’t appear to see that the intransitive effects on the rest of society of criminalizing drug users is a bigger problem.

    You claim that I objectify a person if I say “I won’t attempt to use force to make your choice for you.” At the same time, you seem unable to see that all of “law-abiding” society objectifies drug users when you criminalize them. And you seem to approve of massive violation of everyone’s privacy, rights and even agency in the attempt to eliminate the intransitive effects on the fraction of society who are drug users and sellers.

    There are intransitive effects everywhere, and we can’t avoid all of them. If I recall correctly, you have not addressed the intransitive effects
    on legislators, law enforcement and society at large of objectifying
    drug users as criminals. Instead of ignoring some intransitive effects, let’s talk about which ones are the bigger problem. I would really like to see your article where you balance ALL the intransitive effects and “pick your poison.”

    P.S. Please also explain how criminalizing drug use relieves the drug user of the intransitive effect you are concerned about. Arguably, throwing him/her in jail probably reinforces it.

  • Duane

    Paul, of course drug use reduces freedom. I’d like you to address the points I have made before and made again below: does the drug war reduce freedom more or less than the drug use?

  • Duane

    I guess this site puts later replies at the bottom of the chain, instead of at the top, as some other sites do. When I clicked on Reply, it looked like my entry was going to go right under Paul’s post.

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