When non-libertarian people think of libertarianism, the first thought they tend to have, is usually the idea we want to let bad people do bad things as libertarians sit back and watch the world burn. You can probably blame Hollywood’s portrayal of anarchy for this, and the V for Vendetta fans with their creepy Guy Fawkes masks.
As the CDC recently reported here, an outbreak of lung injury is forming from the use of vaping products, the majority of which are related to products containing THC, which are presumably illegal, and not made under any regulated control.
It’s easy to believe that because libertarians are vehemently against laws recently passed in multiple states banning vaping, that libertarians are happy to watch people get injured or die—that is the impression we have after all. But this is a gross mischaracterization of libertarianism.
The problem lies at the heart of conflating a desire to not legislate away people’s right to do things, with the encouragement of people to do those things.
Libertarians know that vaping is bad for you. And we suffer like anyone else when a family member is injured or killed as a result of using such products. So how would we prevent it?
First, you must know with the failed alcohol prohibition nearly a century ago, and the continued rampant illegal drug use of today despite current prohibitions, that vice bans simply aren’t efficacious for preventing use. Yet, legislators continue going to the dry well of “banning,” hoping it will miraculously produce water this time.
So how do our ideas of removing legislation, and allowing free markets to do what they’ll do help?
- A free market quickly weeds out inferior quality products, and removes them from the marketplace. Companies go out of business all the time. It would be ridiculous to think that companies who are harming their customers, or selling bad products are thriving, while great companies with superior products are dying. The cream always rises to the top in a free market.
- A free market ensures investors will invest in the quality of the product, because they aren’t worried about government shutting them down and destroying their investment.
- A free market drives more people to enter the marketplace with the idea of building a better product in the first place.
How does allowing people to be free help?
- It removes the allure of doing something forbidden. Just like people all want Cuban cigars, despite the fact Dominicans which are equally good, and perfectly legal, removing bans takes away that excitement of doing something illegal.
- It removes the risk of an encounter with law enforcement that could end in death, a la Eric Garner, after police attempted to enforce a simple cigarette tax.
- It allows the usage to be done in a safer place. For instance, you have an issue at a bar that serves legal alcohol, the bar calls 911, an ambulance shows up, and you’re hopefully saved. But if a problem arises at an illegal crack house for instance, they’re probably not calling 911 to come get you from there, tipping police off to the location of the crack house in question.
- It allows for freer discussions when help is needed. I’m far less likely to ask for help from others, if I fear I’ll go to jail for the actions I’ve taken.
We libertarians do believe you own your own body, and should be free to care for it, or destroy it, however you see fit.
While we want all people to avoid things that may harm them, we don’t want to authorize police to shoot them, or courts to prosecute them, for doing it. Any issues surrounding your health should be between you, and the people you choose to share that information with, such as your doctor, your family, or your friends.
We should all know that freedom is in direct opposition from security. You could be locked up in a padded room, so you’re never able to be harmed or harm yourself. But it’s a miserable existence for any animal. So we choose freedom instead, and accept the risks that come with it. It may lead to more bad outcomes, but it also leads to many greater outcomes, too.