Since, objectively, government's sole purpose is to protect individuals from force started by others, its preventing individuals from, and punishing them for, self-inflicted harm is outside its proper function. The objectively moral, the rational, is that which enhances human life; the immoral, the irrational, is that which harms or destroys it. America was founded on the principle that each individual has the right to act for his life--or against it, i.e., to engage in certain irrational, immoral actions, as long as such actions are non-coercive.
Fraud, rape, and murder, for example, are immoral actions primarily because they are initiations of force against individuals, which violate their rights; and consequently because the violator's malicious defiance of respecting individual rights further harms his own ability to function in reality. In certain circumstances, actions such as drug use, late-term abortion, suicide and discrimination of others are immoral, but they are within an individual's rights, since, in each, force is absent. Nevertheless, whether they fail to or refuse to distinguish between the principles involved, many people believe that the state must outlaw these legitimate rights, which thereby restricts everybody's autonomy.
For example, a private employer's discrimination against a potential employee is immoral if he bases his discrimination on any factor irrelevant to the job's requirements, a factor which may be the individual's sex, race, height, etc. His refusal to hire any applicant, based on any reason, however, fails to violate their rights. Employment is not a right, it is not a claim on anyone's life; whereas forcing an employer to hire a person he discriminates against violates the employer's right to make his own choice, right or wrong, for his business, i.e., his property, his life.
Drug use, particularly if habitual, is immoral since it harms the user's life, but such self-inflicted harm violates nobody's rights, unless the user neglects his child(ren), (or physical harm to others is directly related to his use). Nevertheless, drug prohibition violates an individual's rights by usurping his self-responsibility in an attempt to protect him from the self-destructive life he chooses to practice. Some people preach that for you to end your God-given life is immoral and punishable under any circumstances: if you succeed, you will go to Hell; if you fail, you should receive some form of state punishment. But an individuals life is his own, and suicide is within his rights. It is an immoral option if one fails to enact the measures necessary to overcome certain hardships, like a terrible financial loss, or a career ending injury; but it is a moral option if one is trapped in nightmarish conditions, like a painful terminal illness, or a death camp.
Like an embryo, a nine month old fetus is still a potential--not an actual--human being, since human life begins when a fetus achieves individualization, i.e., separation from its mother. A late-term abortion, however, is immoral (unless the fetus threatens the woman's life), because the woman disregards that what she carries then is no longer a piece of protoplasm but rather a fully-formed potential human being. Nevertheless, abortion remains her right, and is not 'murder', as it is uninvolved with force started against an individual. To force an individual to give birth, particularly a life-threatening labor, is a gross violation of her right to her life.
"Surely one of the highest purposes of a democratic society," Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist once noted, "is to legislate against conduct that is regarded as evil and profoundly offensive to the majority of people...." This premise, which often underlies arguments for outlawing the aforementioned and other non-coercive actions, leads to totalitarianism. For if 'the majority' of Americans hold these actions, and, for example, flag burning, prostitution, gambling, as unworthy of Constitutional protection, even though they violate nobody's rights, what then will protect individuals if 'the majority' arbitrarily regard atheism, homosexuality, wealth, kissing in public, Jews, as immoral and therefore criminal?
The states adoption of the arbitrary standards of social consensus or mystical revelations causes it to abandon individual rights and act on the principle it is established to protect people from: the start of physical force. Instead, coercive and peaceful actions must be distinguished between by objectively demonstrable standards, from which laws are defined. And when an individual, living under objective laws, exercises reason and forms objective standards, which define the virtues and values he must hold and act on to achieve self-esteem, happiness and self-preservation, only then will irrationalities be virtually eliminated from his options and choices.
By Joel Scott _____________________________________ _____________________________________
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