The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. – US Constitution 9th Amendment
Imagine a family of ten children. Nine of them are very good-looking but not all that bright; however, the average looking one is the brainiac of the family with a 150 IQ. All the others will get attention for their beauty and elegance even though the ugly duckling, that is often ignored, should be the star of the show because they bring the most value to the table. This is how I feel about our Ninth Amendment.
I always clarify that I have never used, nor have any desire to use, recreational drugs. But as a libertarian, I feel that many of them should be legal. I was debating this with someone and he asked me to make a case as to why they should be legal. There should never be a conservative among you that makes a constitutionally based argument against legalization because it is fundamentally wrong, based on the Ninth Amendment.
The generally accepted meaning behind the Ninth Amendment is extremely important. The framers wanted to ensure that the Constitution wasn’t a document that granted rights to the people, but instead a document that limited the powers of government over the people. We the people have the inalienable rights, and we the people decide how we wish to be governed. The Ninth Amendment is saying, in essence, that one should assume they have the right to do something unless there are laws specifically forbidding it.
So, when asked by my friend to defend legalization, my response was that it was not my burden to make such a case in a free country. It was his burden to explain how and why a specific drug’s use by one person infringes upon the rights of another and thus should be illegal.
I’m not trying to make a case here for drug legalization specifically—he might have made a good case, so we’ll save that argument for another day. Instead, what I implore of every legislator is to employ the paradigm the framers of our Constitution did when they envisioned this great nation—the idea that all actions should be legal by default and should only be outlawed once a proper case has been made to do so.
Our Declaration of Independence indicated we all should have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution replaced pursuit of happiness with property. So a proper argument for making something illegal should be restricted to actions which deny those rights accordingly.
For example, If I drink and get inebriated at home, it is not a crime since no one else is being harmed. If I drink and drive my car, however, I’m putting the lives of others at a scientifically demonstrable greater risk due to my impaired ability, which potentially infringes upon their right to life. Thus, it is rightfully illegal.
I think it’s easy to put any proposed law up to that light and realize that, if it is limiting someone’s right to life, liberty, happiness, and/or property, and it is not protecting one person from another person, then it has no place being a law and should be voted down no matter how well-meaning its intentions may be.
Morality is a relative term. For instance, I think facial cosmetic surgery is immoral for doctors to perform (accident victims excluded) and utterly stupid. One look at Mickey Rourke, Jerry Jones, Joan Rivers, and everyone else who has had it done that now looks like a side-show attraction should be a lesson to everyone to accept what nature gives you. If I had a loved one wanting to do it, I’d want to shake the stupid right out of them. Why would a doctor who has sworn first to do no harm, take a reasonably good-looking person and make them look like they’re skydiving horizontally 24/7?
However, proponents often feel there is improvement gained from these procedures and the victims, oops, I mean patients, are occasionally pleased with the results. So what I think is immoral, some think is perfectly fine and good. While I will vigorously encourage anyone I care about not to do it, do I think the government should make cosmetic surgery illegal? Of course not! I hope you wouldn’t either. Morality is best regulated through social and peer pressure, not government regulation.
So how are vices, which are almost always victimless crimes, any different? I’d sooner argue that one look at Mickey Rourke indicates he’s a victim before I’d argue that you or anyone else is a victim as a result of a pot smoker’s indulgence. I defy anyone to argue differently.
My argument was intended to be humorous, but the fact is that morality varies from person to person. Any time you try to legislate personal behavior for the sake of morality, you’re infringing on someone’s right to the pursuit of happiness. You’re saying that they have to be more like you BY LAW whether that makes them happy or not. It has little to do with public safety no matter how loud the left and some social conservatives say so. Does that really sound like freedom and liberty to anyone?
One of America’s greatest attributes is its diversity. Victimless crimes curb that diversity by trying to get everyone to conform to the majority. We have a republic, not a democracy, because our Constitution protects the minority from the majority. A victimless crime, by definition, should be unconstitutional. So please stop trying to make people exactly like you and, instead, just enjoy the freak show. It’s not hurting anyone, and you might have a little fun!