Of ‘Spice’ and Men: Shall we fix ourselves or others?

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.

OPINION –It’s interesting how so many conservatives will decry heavy-handed socialist policies as inconsistent with freedom, yet tend to possess the same unrelenting desire to change others through nanny state legislation.

A prime example of this tendency made headlines just a few days ago when the local drug task force seized a large amount of bath salts and synthetic cannabis. The official press release from law enforcement touted the success of the effort to, “remove these dangerous chemicals and the illegal activities associated with the production and distribution of Spice and Bath Salts to ensure the safety of the citizens of our County.”

This statement sparks a couple of questions that freedom-minded people should be asking themselves.

First of all, why would anyone resort to using bath salts and fake cannabis? Blogger Connor Boyack has a very likely answer: “Spice would never have been created, nor popularized, had the much more harmless cannabis not been the target of such bureaucratic ire.“

Indeed, spice, bath salts, huffing paint or gasoline and every other dangerous method of altering reality, only come into play as a method of circumventing prohibition. While the task force lauds the “safety of the citizens” as justification for its actions, the painful truth is that the war on drugs has made everyone’s life less safe and less free.

The second question that must be asked, is what exactly are the “illegal activities” associated with bath salts and spice? Is every illegality created equal? Our laws generally fall into one of two categories; mala en se laws are those that criminalize destructive acts that are recognized as substantively harming another such as murder, rape, robbery, etc.

Mala prohibita laws are administrative rules that make illegal even the most mundane acts that the state wishes to prohibit. These types of laws in regards to spice and bath salts, tend to treat everyone as a potential criminal, even if the only person harmed is the user himself.

A person, peaceably using alcohol or marijuana in the privacy of his or her own home, is not harming society individually or collectively in any objective way. But our laws have created a double standard that effectively makes one acceptable and the other a crime when there is no measurable difference.

Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England explains why these types of laws are at odds with good government: “Provided [a man] keeps his wickedness to himself, and does not offend against the rules of public decency, he is out of the reach of human laws.  But if he makes his vices public, though they be such as seem principally to affect himself (as drunkenness or the like), they then become by the bad example they set, of pernicious effects to society, and therefore it is then the business of human laws to correct them.”

The nanny state, in its zeal to exert control over others, makes no such distinction.

When the law prohibits certain naturally occurring substances, such as marijuana, a black market product like spice, is created to fill that niche. In a vain attempt to prevent people from seeking their high from anything but alcohol or prescription drugs, more laws are created and more freedoms are curtailed. No matter how noble the stated intentions of such legislation, at the root of these laws is the desire to change others by force of law.

Instead of trying to coerce others to do as we wish, we should consider following the advice of Albert Jay Nock who urged, “The only thing we can do to improve society is to present society with one improved unit. Let each person direct his efforts at himself or herself, not others.”

When we focus our efforts on improving ourselves rather than trying to legislatively impose improvements on others, we actually change society for the better by the power of attraction. Leonard Read explained it like this, “Influence of one on another in upgrading materialistically, intellectually, spiritually — is by attraction only.”

Allowing people to make their own peaceable choices while holding them accountable for their behavior is consistent with a free, healthy, and prosperous society. A well-intentioned nanny state that uses police power to force peaceful individuals to change is not.

email: thebryanhyde@gmail.com

twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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1 Comment

  • ryan April 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    It was nice talking to you on Saturday at the Kite Festival Bryan.

    I think Thomas Jefferson provided a guideline to follow when it comes to a person “peaceably using alcohol or marijuana in the privacy of his or her own home” –

    “Our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”.

    When a persons behavior becomes an addiction that “picks my pocket” then I have a problem with it.

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