Across the United States voters have approved laws to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. While the original wave of such states largely approved referendums or passed legislation to legalize medicinal marijuana, recent election cycles have seen several states approve recreational marijuana. On November 8, 2016…the earth-shattering day that installed brash billionaire Donald Trump in the White House, voters in blue Nevada, Massachusetts, and California voted in favor of legal marijuana, joining Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia.
This brings to a total 7 states with recreational usage, and an impressive 28 states that permit medical usage. Yet, the inquiring libertarian might ask: if voters in blue states are so enthusiastic about letting people make their own choices when it comes to marijuana, why are they so favorable to state-controlled and statist policies in other areas of their lives?
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Unfortunately, many in America, particularly in blue states, have never considered the principle of self-ownership. It’s a theory that has long constituted one of the foundations of the libertarian movement; something that Ayn Rand made a pillar of her political philosophy…which had been so shaped by her experiences growing up under Soviet totalitarianism.
It’s easy to convince blue state America that the state does not have the right to use the lethal force of police departments and the threat of fines and imprisonment to prevent adults from smoking or consuming marijuana. Human beings are rationale actors who make their own choices…for better or worse…and suffer the consequences thereof. Provided that their interaction with marijuana does not infringe upon the rights or violate the liberties of others, then they should be allowed to make their own decisions.
Yet, with regard to numerous other issues, the American Left is enthusiastically allowing state and federal governments to make decisions for the individual…governing without the consent of the governed. Take healthcare: under the terms of ObamaCare the government imposes a “one size fits all” healthcare plan, obligating citizens to buy coverage through an individual mandate. There is no choice in the matter. Despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution to suggest that the government can obligate its citizens to buy a good or service, this is of little concern to the big government socialists in the Democratic Party.
Or take retirement planning: the government obligates workers to contribute to a horribly managed, government-mandated retirement fund called Social Security, which provides dismal returns on investment, far inferior to what the private sector would provide. Workers should be free to invest for retirement in the asset classes that they desire, free of government interference.
Or take education: parents who wish to homeschool or send their kids to private or parochial or charter or magnet schools are obligated to pay to fund public education, even when numerous studies have showed that public schools cost a fortune while producing inferior educational outcomes.
Americans, and indeed people all over the world, must teach their children the principle of self-ownership: the idea that you as the individual are responsible for your own life. Not your community, not your town, not your state, not the federal government…but you.
Many Americans, on both sides of the political aisle, seek to continue drug prohibition on the grounds that society and government must look out for the best interests of the individual. It’s a reasonable enough argument on face value, but one that has harmed more than it has helped.
Is the government responsible for caring for its people? Or are people responsible for caring for themselves?
There are many actions taken by individuals on a daily basis that are harmful, but that would be ridiculous to criminalize. Should the government prohibit unhealthy foods and sugary drinks? Should the government ban sappy soap operas and trashy reality TV devoid of any intellect or thought? Should the government ban tobacco and alcohol (which in many ways are far more harmful than illegal drugs)? Should the government ban people from saying mean things about their friends, family, and neighbors? Should the government mandate that its citizens exercise 3 times a week?
It is clear that eating McDonalds food, drinking sodas, watching The Real House Wives of Orange County, smoking cigarettes, drinking excessively, gossiping about your neighbors, and being a couch potato have the potential to be harmful to society. However, it is parents, not the government, who are responsible for teaching their children to avoid fast food, cut back on sodas, select quality TV programs, not smoke, drink in moderation, be discrete with their words, and hit the gym several times a week. And ultimately, it is the responsibility of the individual.
Blue state voters have begun to realize that it is a fool’s errand for the state to ban marijuana…the individual liberty of a human being…the “self-ownership”…if you will…informs us that smoking marijuana is a choice. These Democratic Party stalwarts, however, fail to realize all of the other ways in which the government abuses its authority, taking away individual liberties in the supposed name of the collective good.