If a drug may produce violence in its users, is the government correctly banning its trade and consumption in order to prevent the degree of probability that the drug may lead to the use of force against another person--thus violating rights? I would think this is similar to the idea of banning the use of cellphones while driving, since they may distract a person from the road and hit somebody. Are these legitimate actions of government?
asked Jan 07 '14 at 13:40
Juan Diego dAnconia
Is it legitimate for a government to ban drugs that have been proven to induce violent behaviour?
There is an ambiguity in this formulation. Does "proven to induce" mean 100% certain to induce in every case, or does it mean proven to induce in some cases and/or proven to be one of multiple causal factors? The main text of the question refers to the latter, i.e., it's a question about probability, not certainty.
As for the "100% certain" interpretation, there is the dosage issue to consider. Actual drugs have a minimum dosage level needed for the harmful consequences to occur, and the level varies from person to person according to one's body weight and other factors. In addition, a "ban" generally means prohibiting possession and sale as well as consumption, and mere possession or sale do not "induce violent behavior"; only consumption can do that, so a "ban" would have to be limited to consumption if the criterion is "certain to induce."
If a drug may produce violence in its users, is the government correctly banning its trade and consumption in order to prevent the degree of probability that the drug may lead to the use of force against another person--thus violating rights?
No, mere probability of harm to others is only a potential harm, not an actual harm. A governmental ban in that case is a form of preventive law, which is discussed in CUI in "The Assault on Integrity":
..."protective" legislation falls in the category of preventive law. Businessmen are being subjected to governmental coercion prior to the commission of any crime. In a free economy, the government may step in only when a fraud has been perpetrated, or a demonstrable damage has been done to a consumer; in such cases the only protection required is that of criminal law.
An article in The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. 1 No. 5 (May 1962) titled, "Who Will Protect Us from Our Protectors," also expresses Objectivism's opposition to preventive law:
... the legal hallmark of a dictatorship [is]: preventive law -- the concept that a man is guilty until he is proved innocent by the permissive rubber stamp of a commissar or a Gauleiter.
The context of both articles is consumer protection from potential harm caused by businessmen. Both articles describe how businessmen are being presumed guilty until proven innocent, with government regarded as the "consumers' protector," protecting hapless consumers from fraud or misrepresentations from businesses, or from products requiring a degree of skill and rationality on the part of consumers which statists regard consumers as incapable of handling.
The case of potential harm to others from the actions of a private individual isn't exactly the same case considered in these articles, but the distinction between actual and potential seems just as applicable.
I would think this [drug use] is similar to the idea of banning the use of cellphones while driving, since they may distract a person from the road and hit somebody. Are these legitimate actions of government?
Generally no, I would not classify such cellphone use as a proper reason for a governmental ban (it is possible to use a cellphone responsibly while driving), nor laws against smoking based on "second-hand smoke," and so on. (Smoking laws violate property owners' rights, too.)
One can escalate the cases, however, to a point where the magnitude of the danger to others does seem to warrant governmental action to ban or regulate the activity, such as building nuclear bombs in one's garage in a populous suburban residential area. Similar cases might include producing explosive nitroglycerin in one's home or garage; maintaining a fully operational anti-aircraft gun in one's backyard; or possessing fully operational machine guns and perhaps even brandishing them visibly in public without actually pointing them at anyone. Ayn Rand didn't have a definitive philosophical answer when asked about gun control; see, for example, Ayn Rand Answers, p. 19. She regarded gun control as an issue for the philosophy of law to work out, recognizing that guns have a legitimate use for self-defense. (Some types of guns are also used in sports such as hunting animals or target shooting, and non-nuclear explosives have legitimate uses in construction work.) I have seen arguments from other leading Objectivists emphasizing guns for self-defense, including guns in private hands as a potential check on a government that is rapidly deteriorating into overt statism and dictatorship. Ayn Rand didn't see the defense-against-government possibility as practical, as of 1971. (Ibid.)
Gun control was also discussed previously on this website (link). For additional gun perspective from Leonard Peikoff, refer also to his podcast #255, 2/11/13.
answered Jan 12 '14 at 01:00
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