Things the Government Has No Business Prohibiting or Regulating

This blog lists four things the government has no business prohibiting or regulating. This list is not exhaustive.

1. The government has no business prohibiting or regulating speech and expression. You should be able to express, perform, say, and write—and hear, read, and see—anything you want to as long as it doesn’t violate the privacy of a person engaged in private activities (privacy is the only right that should be balanced with speech and expression). You may be wondering about this, so I will tell you that I am not particularly keen on the concepts of libel and slander. They are often tools of thought control. In European countries they have gotten way out of hand. (Imprisonment for denying the Holocaust? Are you kidding me?) I also did not include harassment and intimidation as exceptions because harassment and intimidation are not speech acts or forms of expression. Harassment and intimidation are forms of abuse by nonphysical means. This is tricky, as there is a subjective component here.

2. The government has no business prohibiting or regulating drugs that one can cultivate in his backyard, whether homegrown or obtained through trade with others. This includes not only cannabis, but coca, opium, psilocybin, and peyote. If people want to grow tobacco, that’s okay, too. You should be free to cultivate and consume mind-expanding substances and share or trade these with consenting adults.

3. The government has no business prohibiting or regulating sex between one or more consenting adults. This includes prostitution, sodomy, almost whatever. The state’s interests come into play in cases of child sexual maltreatment, which presumes a perpetrator. There is one other possible exception: sadomasochism. The problem here isn’t a person’s desire to be hurt, but the moral obligation of the other person not to hurt persons, especially vulnerable persons. Just because somebody is asking to be physically hurt does not release another person from their moral burden to not hurt others. I have always been surprised that those who oppose interpersonal violence and human degradation have carved out an unproblematic space where that type of sexual activity is legitimized. As with harassment, I recognize this is a tricky area.

4. The government has no business prohibiting or regulating marriage. Marriage should be defined however two or more consenting adults wish to define it and the government should not sanction such relations one way or the other. If you want to enter a contractual partnership with two or more persons, then the state can of course regulate that, and there should be no discrimination in contracts on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. For sure, no religious concept of marriage shall determine the granting or refusal to grant a partnership under the law. And the government shall be forbidden to promote marriage in any manner. Marriage should always be solely based the desire of those who wish to be married and never the result of government sanction or community pressure.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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