Bad Argument of the Day

Whenever somebody wants to argue for keeping or making something legal, but doesn’t want to be seen as liking that something (like abortion or drugs), you can be sure he’ll deploy the argument that, well, that might be all well and good theoretically, but it just wouldn’t work in the real world, because people would still find ways to do it anyway.

Of course, laws are rarely enacted with the expectation that they’ll reduce something’s occurrence to zero or near-zero. Legal prohibitions are meant to identify what society finds intolerable, prevent as much of it as can reasonably be expected in a free, imperfect society, and punish those who do it anyway. The argument against prohibiting abortion or drugs because people will still obtain abortions and drugs is no more logical than it would be to argue that it’s pointless to prohibit murder, rape or robbery because in 2008 we had 16,272 murders, 89,000 rapes, and 441,855 robberies, despite long-standing laws firmly punishing all three.

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9 thoughts on “Bad Argument of the Day

  1. What do you have against adults making free choices for themselves? I thought that's what America is all about. I immediately get suspicious of anyone's conservative credentials when they support legislating their version of morality upon someone else, let alone a “war” costing tens of billions of dollars that has undoubtedly failed. Do you honestly believe your government knows better than yourself what is best for you?

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  2. Spoken like someone who neither pays much attention to the arguments in either debate, nor thought much about this post before complaining…

    Abortion: It's not legislating morality, it's protecting natural rights.

    Drugs: I don't think liberty includes the right to chemically impair your mind and senses to such a degree that you make yourself a threat to the rights and well-being of others. And the “failed” line uses the very argument I describe above. Failed according to what goal?

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  3. Unfortunately I posted a response but I closed out of the browser before it was posted, because of the spam filter prompts you with another screen. But the gist of what I said was when talking about the war on drugs was: (cuz abortion is a different animal)

    Liberty includes even the right to commit suicide, no? It certainly would include the right to ingest substances. Do we not have a natural right to our own bodies? Virtually anything we do can be a threat to others, such as driving a car. Do you want to ban that too? Drugs are a victimless crime which do not directly harm anybody else. And their certainly is no constitutional argument for banning drugs. If you think there is then consider taking Constitution 101.

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  4. There may not be a constitutional argument for a federal role in drug laws, but it's certainly within the legal rights of individual states.

    With, say, a car, you're still in possession of your normal senses, judgment, and motor skills. It's still ultimately up to you to behave dangerously with it. But with many drugs, the very act of taking them makes you a threat.

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  5. Agreed, at the state level states can choose what they want.

    So based on your definition of liberty you would ban alcohol? You do not believe people have the right to get drunk?

    And what about driving a car sleep-deprived like millions of Americans do every day? Studies show that can be worse than drunk-driving. Do you want some kind of ignition lock that a person has to prove they've slept 8 hours a night before they can start a car?

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  6. I have no desire to ban alcohol, but honestly I don't feel any philosophical obligation to it's legality, either. And sleep deprivation is just getting into impractical ridiculousness.

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  7. I'm not convinced of it, no, for reasons stated the last time we hashed this one out. As I told Walter, his gun comparison was a good one, and worth further theorizing and study into. But the answer is not at all an obvious one to me.

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