Over the past week or so I have been reading the book “Lies the Government Told You” by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. Don’t worry, its not quit as nutty as it sounds. (No conspiracy theories, here.) Really it just talks about how the government has infringed on many of our rights and personal freedoms. The book has been fairly solid, but I haven’t really felt the “call to action” to write about it until today.
“Lie #7: Your Body Is Your Temple”
Basically the argument goes – you can do whatever you want with your own body as long as you don’t hurt anyone else in the process. I would say that this may be the single most important right according to people (myself included) who argue for personal responsibility and personal liberties. That is on the surface. There are a couple of discussion points that really made me think twice – and I believe are worth taking note.
So the question really is – should the government be able to legislate what you do with your own personal self? Should the government be able to outlaw certain substances? (Drugs, Trans Fat, Alternate Healthcare Options?) Where do we draw the line from what the government can “protect us from” and what we can do with/to ourselves?
“…there is a Natural Law argument that if Diane Monson and Angel Raich thought using marijuana would help their chronic pain, who is the government to stop them? Even if there may be certain personal health risks involved in smoking marijuana, there are certain pain-relief benefits that Monson and Raich value over any possible risks. These are decisions that for individuals and no the federal government to make.”
Quotes like this one are a no-brainer for me – because of course Marijuana should be legalized. (for a variety of reasons) However, following this same logic of personal rights – should we legalize heroin, LSD, or other more potent drugs? For me the answer is YES, but with a caveat.
I believe that all drugs should be legal (I’ll write about the failing drug war soon). (re: Walter Cronkite on the Failing Drug War) However, I do believe that drugs , especially highly addictive ones, should be carefully monitored – much like alcohol is today. Basically my reasoning is that a person should be able to do whatever they want as long as they aren’t infringing on the property rights of someone else. Of course, I do believe that with potentially harmful products a certain amount of education should be required. For example, who has access and the warning labels on a gallon of milk should be much different that how one would package, present, and vend a packet of Cocaine.
Also, it would be very easy for a person using drugs to infringe on the rights of their family. How can a person with an addiction support children or a spouse? Also, many people are violent or non-function when on drugs. We see this same affect on alcohol. My argument is rather than a ban on drugs being a legal issue, it should be a societal issue. Families should encourage each other not to do drugs, companies can refuse to employ individuals who take drugs, and using drugs inappropriately (i.e., driving while on drugs) should be illegal. However, the consequences, as we have seen in the prohibition era, of the war an drugs as well as the infringment on personal liberties are to grave to accept.
“If you were diagnosed with a rare disease and had only a few months to live, would you try an experimental drug that may save your life? Would you like the choice to do so? To Bad; your government won’t let you.
In addition to prohibiting people from easing their pin with medical marijuana and growing wheat for their own consumption , the federal government’s red tape often makes i difficult for people who are ding to access potentially lifesaving drugs. The FDA’s approval process is painfully long (the average time from lab to shelf is about twelve years), and in the meantime people are dying.”
Mentally, I have often found myself defending the FDA, because hey, we really don’t want people dying from blood pressure medicine and such. On the other hand, if a person understands the risks, and would like to take a risk to save their own life – who are we to stop them? I mean, three states will let people kill themselves if they so choose, so why not? A person has a right to do whatever they can to survive or end their pain with dignity if they so choose – right? (re: assisted suicide)
In addition, the vast majority of people do not have access to clinical drug trials, even when people are begging to take part, so what should we do? How do we balance the safety of the people, prevent the pharmacy companies from taking advantage of sick people, give people the right to try to survive, and help the most people?
I’m sure that I do not have an easy answer and I’m not sure that Judge Napolitano does either – he ends the chapter like this:
“As adults, our bodies belong to us. They don’t belong to anyone else, let alone the government. The purpose of the federal government is to protect our constitutional and natural rights, not to restrict them. As children, our mothers and fathers know better than the government does how to raise us, and it is their job as parents to educate and groom us to make important divisions in life. Some of us will make conservative decisions, and others will make risky ones. Some of us will lead healthy lives, while others will pollute their bodies. Contrary to the government’s belief, however, we have the right to make poor decisions and go against the “mainstream” ideas. We’re allowed to be individuals. We have the natural right to control our bodies. The government has not right to make decisions for us and thus infringe upon this sacred right”
In genreal, I agree. I think that while people are entitled to make decisions – even “poor decisions”, as Judge Napolitano said – there is a fine line we are walking here. To make decisions we have to have adequate information and really understand the risks. It’s all about obtaining the fact and interpreting them – baring we have that – I think the government should let people govern their own lives.
This is a very complex issue – I’d love to hear what everyone else things about the subject.