I’ve long held libertarian-leaning views on consumption. But supporting people’s right to choose and supporting their choices are different things.
Ultimately the relationship between individuals and government is an odd-one exacerbated by taxpayers picking up the bill for the consequences of people’s choices. But if you believe in the principle of a free society the centre is always the individual, not the government. Intellectually everything should also start legal and only be banned in exceptional circumstances. But there’s also a point where government has to draw a line.
Its immoral to discourage people from taking responsibility for their choices. People need to learn, provide an example to others and are never protected by government-issued cotton wool. However, it’s also immoral to ignore people willfully harming themselves. But the two can also be in conflict.
In that light Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, has made moves to ban synthetic cannabis and I’ve pondered whether doing so is warranted. It reminds me of is the adage that where there’s a regulation people find a way around it. Cannabis is banned, so people have sought to make a fake equivalent. I confess to not having looked at the health consequences of the product, but I doubt they are good.
On a societal level we regularly debate whether cannabis should continue to be banned. As someone who hates legal smoking I wonder why so many people seem prepared to legalise cannabis, as well as many other harmful drugs. Because I think smoking is a form of voluntary euthanasia I’ve never taken up the habit. But I actually think it’s more intellectually consistent to ban smoking than a lot of other measures designed to cut consumption. I suspect synthetic cannabis also falls into that category and have very little issue with it being banned, and would actually rather the government did the same for normal smoking rather than the measures they are taking on at the moment.
Continuing on the same theme, there are rare circumstances where the balanced relationship between the individual and government skews further in favour of the government than the individual, particularly when people are in jail. Being a prisoner is involuntary and its supposed to be punishment as well as rehabilitation. Which is why, it might surprise, I think banning smoking in New Zealand prisons is both practical and philosophically consistent.
I don’t think being pro-choice means being pro-choice everything. There’s always a line. Circumstances matter. But even with a bias toward individualism and small government doesn’t mean there aren’t circumstances where government have a legitimate right (in the latter example) or role (in the former example) to stop behaviour.