By Indri Schaelicke | United States
When our great founding fathers fought to create this great nation, they envisioned a land where every man, woman, and child would be free to pursue whatever path in life they wished. They had just rid themselves of a tyrant in King George III, and many settlers who emigrated out of Europe saw the beautiful young nation of America as a bastion of personal liberty.
People of all backgrounds traveled thousands of miles across open ocean to flee persecution of all sorts because they knew that the newly established country was a safe haven for the oppressed. The first settlers of the New World would be very disappointed to find out that less than 250 years after it was founded, America has become the same type of nation that they left those many years ago. We, much like the 18th Century Brits, are clear victims of victimless crime laws.
Countless people are convicted of victimless crimes each day, at the local, state, and federal level. Taxpayers spend millions of dollars each year to imprison those who have done something that the state has deemed wrong, yet has not directly violated anyone’s rights or harmed them in any way.
Beyond being simply not pragmatic, victimless crime laws are immoral. They suggest that the State has supreme knowledge and jurisdiction over our bodies. This is most clearly seen in laws regarding the personal, small scale possession and use of drugs. When the state controls what substances we are permitted to consume, it assumes the role of “nanny” and pretends to know what is best for us. The use of a harmful substance is a personal decision, and one that, unless it becomes an extreme addiction, is unlikely to affect others in the user’s life.
In fact, incarcerating someone for a non violent drug offence introduces them to a world of crime. Once incarcerated, new prisoners are encouraged to join gangs by other inmates and are often pushed to commit worse crimes upon their release. They are eventually caught and sentenced to even longer in prison, continuing the cycle on indefinitely. Between 2005-2010, about two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. Cutting down on the many victimless crime laws will ensure that those convicted on minor charges are not thrust into a cycle of incarceration.
Government only has three legitimate roles- to protect life, liberty, and property. Rather than restrict the actions of citizens via legislation, the State should prosecute people once they have infringed on any of the aforementioned three characteristics of our lives. Instead of posting a speed limit and preventing me from driving at whatever speed I feel that I possess the skill to drive at and be safe, government should prosecute those whose unsafe speed caused damage to someone’s property or resulted in the loss of life or liberty. This approach allows for the maximum amount of liberty to be ensured to each individual, while punishing those who cause harm to others and their livelihoods.
Although much more free than other countries, America and her citizens have not had a taste of true personal freedom in over 100 years. Victimless crime laws are a severe infringement upon liberty and in order for the US to be considered truly free once again, must be eliminated. Government must return to protecting only Life, Liberty, and Property, and letting its citizens live life as they please.
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