|Montreal, April 13, 2002 / No 102|
by Ralph Maddocks
One manifestation occurring in the twentieth century which rarely receives comment in the conventional media, is the growing number of laws passed against crimes which involve consensual acts. Laws which are creating societies full of intolerance, hatred, corruption and fear. Societies in which only the politically correct is acceptable. A blanket of oppression which is cloaking the so-called democratic parts of the world. A climate is being created in which individualism is considered unacceptable, a climate which nourishes opposition to diversity, freedom of choice and personal expression. Bigotry is on the increase and people are being ostracized for doing things which may not be illegal but which, in the opinion of the politically correct, ought to be.
A prime example of this is may be found in our neighbouring country, the
United States of America. This is one country which ought to be completely
free from this plague, it has a Constitution and a Bill of Rights which
would appear to guarantee its citizens freedom from such oppressive legislation.
Yet in spite of this, almost half of the arrests and prosecutions in the
USA each year involve consensual crimes. Crimes which are against the law
but which harm no one's property or person, except perhaps that of the
"criminals" themselves. Crimes such as taking drugs or employing the services
of a prostitute are the most obvious of these consensual crimes. It is
estimated that some three quarters of a million people in the USA are incarcerated
for consensual crimes at this very moment, and that some three millions
more are on parole. It has been estimated that in excess of four million
people are arrested each year for doing something which hurts no one, except
For these same crimes, people are losing their jobs, their homes, their credit, their property, their educational opportunities and their civil rights. In addition, they are having their lives destroyed simply because they are different. Ought being different be so unacceptable to society that our governments feel that it should lock us up? It used to be that we locked people up only when they physically harmed a person or stole the property of a non-consenting person. It used to be assumed too that, after a specific age – the age of consent – our bodies and property belonged to us. It is hard to understand the argument, put forth by the politically correct, that we should be imprisoned for causing harm to ourselves. True, it may scar someone close to us emotionally if we become addicted to cocaine or some other drug, but should it mean our imprisonment? The logic of this could mean that if you left your spouse or partner, and the result was emotional hurt, then you ought to be imprisoned. Should divorce mean imprisonment of the initiating party? If it did, then over half the adult population would be in prison, including
The British philosopher Alan Watts (1915-1973), wrote many books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, and the pursuit of happiness. He related his experience to scientific knowledge and to the teachings of Eastern and Western religions and philosophies. He offered his view that a legal system is being created which is largely composed of "clergymen with truncheons." He added, "The police have enough work to keep them busy regulating traffic, preventing robberies and crimes of violence and helping lost children and little old ladies find their way home. As long as the police confine themselves to such activities they are respected friends of the public. But as soon as they begin inquiring into people's private morals, they become nothing more than armed clergymen."
Whether you believe in religion or not, it is indisputable that it can be a guide for living one's own life, setting the boundaries within which one lives that life. But is someone else's religious belief a good foundation for deciding who does or does not go to prison? We ought to be able to persuade or educate people to behave in such a way as not to harm themselves or others without requiring laws to enforce their behaviour.
It cannot be repeated enough; freedom involves responsibility. If we take risks then sometimes the unforeseen happens which is why we use the term risk. Taking risks is part of life and when something we do not like much occurs, as a result of taking a risk, we should not be asking for a law against it immediately. Do we really expect the government to protect us from every possible negative experience? If, at the age of 90 – and for the very first time in my life – I snowboard down a mountain-side and break both legs should I insist that a law be passed to prevent the aged (and addle pated) from snowboarding? Surely, I must accept responsibility for my own actions however ill advised they may appear. Unless someone deceives me into performing such an act, surely
The USA's Declaration of Independence clearly and unambiguously speaks of ... certain unalienable rights ... of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The US Bill of Rights clearly gives its citizens the right to pursue their lives without the intervention of moralists and other busybodies. Yet, the US is afflicted by this mania for passing laws against what it considers to be consensual crimes, a mania which is truly astonishing. These laws would appear to violate not only their Constitution, they appear to violate the separation of church and state and they are opposed to the principles of private property, free enterprise, capitalism and the open market.
These laws create corruption on a scale that one can only dimly comprehend. They corrupt those who are sworn to uphold the law. They destroy lives. They encourage real crimes by making those who take part in consensual crimes into criminals in order to pay the artificially inflated prices resulting from enforcement of these laws. The lessons of the 18th Amendment, banning the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors, have long been forgotten in the rush to enact increasingly punitive laws about drugs. The 18th Amendment did not punish those who bought or consumed alcohol, as is the case with drugs, it punished those who trafficked in alcohol. These laws are creating a society characterised by conformity. Freedom of personal expression, diversity and freedom of choice are becoming dim relics in the memories of the aged.
Consensual crime is not a term much loved in PC circles, they prefer to use the term "victimless." Crimes such as fraud, extortion or embezzlement are often alleged by their perpetrators to be "victimless." However, it is probably impossible to find any activity which does not have a victim. People who live in the southern USA are often the victims of hurricanes or twisters and people who drive cars often have serious accidents. Should we outlaw living in the 'ol South, or the use of automobiles?
Life is full of risks and as responsible adults we should be able to assess the risk of a particular action and give or withhold our consent to it. Consent is central to self-determination. We speak of the age of consent because it is at that time that we can consent to agreements and sign contracts. It also means that we must accept responsibility for giving that consent. From this comes the term consenting adults. Why, we should ask, are there laws forbidding certain acts between consenting adults?
Many of the activities prohibited by our caring governments are considerably less risky than some activities which they do not prohibit. We are forbidden from sniffing or injecting cocaine, yet we could go the supermarket and buy some Liquid-Plumer®; in fact you could send a child to buy it for you. Some prescription cough medicines contain the drug promethazine, which is often coupled with two derivatives of the narcotic opium, codeine or hydrocodone. If abused, cough syrup can be dangerous and even fatal. You could buy and ingest Lysol® (mainly ethyl alcohol), as many destitute alcoholics do, it would certainly give you a "high," although it might make you rather ill at the same time. Yet no one at the supermarket or pharmacy will refuse to serve you, and the Royal Lysol® Constabulary will not come to your house at 4:00a.m. in the morning!
According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC), more than 1,000 household products can be dangerous when huffed.
I referred earlier to religion since much of the foundation for this criminalisation of certain acts may be found in religion and its practitioners who would like to make you in their own image. Until the early 1870s, there were no anti-drug laws on the books in the USA. From the time the first Europeans landed until then the use of drugs does not seem to have been a major problem. The major problem was alcohol, not heroin, marijuana or crack cocaine. In 1875, San Francisco banned opium, a racist act directed at the Chinese population. All it succeeded in doing was to shut down the reputable opium smoking places and create many smaller, much less reputable, opium dens. Other places like Virginia City, Nevada, tried to do the same thing and they too failed. Then the State of Nevada passed an even more stringent law which did not work any more effectively than the city laws had. None of this stopped other cities and states from trying to do the same thing, but they all failed too. This left Big Brother, in the form of the US Congress, to abuse its power to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises." This they did, not as a way to raise money as provided for in the Constitution, but as a way to enforce morality.
From there it was essentially downhill with tax bills masquerading as prohibition acts. Ultimately, they banned the importation of certain kinds of opium completely, an act which in effect exchanged taxes for the right to regulate consensual personal behaviour. The taxes levied on opium ranged from $6 to $300 per pound and served only to expand the power of the Chinese underworld. Since it was mainly the Chinese who were prevented from smoking opium, the other Americans being injectors or eaters, the move was clearly racist in character. Over the next five years the smoking of opium increased ninefold. In 1888, the Secretary of the Treasury admitted, that "Although all possible efforts have been made by this Department to suppress the [opium] traffic, it has been practically impossible to do so." In spite of this admission that what they were trying to do was futile, Congress increased the number of laws and increased the number of officers to enforce them. Other forms of opium were legal and taxed modestly so that the average American was relatively unaffected. Just the "heathen Chinese" were to be deprived of opium.
Escalating the process, 1906 saw passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act which obliged labels on patent medicines to show the name of the drugs and the amounts they contained. A good thing one might think, but it soon led to the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1915. The latter was pushed by Senator William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist and prohibitionist. The act did not prohibit drugs it simply regulated and taxed the importation and distribution of "opium or coca leaves, their salts derivatives or preparations, and for other purposes." On the face of it one might conclude that regulation was much more reasonable than prohibition. In the National Report on Drugs, Crime, and the Justice System, published in 1992, the US government admitted, The Act was ostensibly a revenue measure that required persons who prescribe or distribute specific drugs to register and buy tax stamps.
So here is an admission by the US government that their law was deceptive. It deceived not only the legislators – a not uncommon occurrence – and the public, but it annoyed the medical profession. The doctors complained that by preventing them from treating addicts they obliged those addicts to get their drugs from unsavoury sources. Nothing that has happened since has changed matters and we all know that the War on Drugs is a farce which costs thousands of lives and wastes massive amounts of the taxpayer's money. Heroin, one of the most effective pain killers known, has been banned in the USA since 1924. Medical studies as early as 1925 showed that, "If there is any difference in the deteriorating effects of morphine and heroin on addicts, it is too slight to be determined clinically." A conclusion reiterated in 1967 when the President's Committee on Law Enforcement and Administration came to the same conclusion.
Law makers are seldom influenced by facts, so in spite of the above and other mounting evidence nothing has changed. Even where democratic referenda on the use of medical marijuana have been held and passed, the Federal government in its religious bigot mode is attempting to overturn the wishes of the people.
In the time it took you to read this article, perhaps twenty minutes, more than 300 people will have been arrested in the USA for one consensual crime or another. Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, your struggling masses yearning to be free indeed.
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