I've written before that although I'm generally sympathetic to drug legalization on civil liberties grounds, I'm skeptical that such a huge change would actually be beneficial to individuals or society as a whole. One of the reasons why I'm unsure is that I can see the effect that legal drugs -- such as cigarettes and alcohol -- have on people I know, and I can see the costs they impose on society in general.

I like the idea that everyone should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, but in most cases it's impossible to prevent hurting others, due to a confluence of harmful choices. For example, a person who smokes and also votes for public health care is trying to pass along the cost of smoking to me and other non-smokers. These two choices combined make for a very bad policy that restricts more liberty than either one would alone -- each alone may, in fact, be arguably good. (Not that I'm a fan of socialized medicine, but if everyone took care of their health and didn't engage in harmful activities, it could work.)

So when it comes to cases like this woman being sent to jail for smoking around her kids, I'm not very sympathetic. Even though it appears that the legal rationale for jailing her is that she's in violation of a custody agreement (she agreed not to smoke around her kids), the judge "upheld the order in January, citing medical evidence of the effects of secondhand smoke on children". Medical evidence would be unnecessary if the custody agreement were as well-defined as the article makes it sound. (Or maybe the judge is just throwing it in for free.)

The unintended externalities that could be caused by drug legalization are an example of the potential dangers of idealistic libertarianism (CC). I'd like to move in that direction -- from where we are now -- but I'm wary of moving too far, too quickly.

(This post feels like it's rambling, so I'm going to stop here.)



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