Notes From Babel

A Query for Libertarians on Moral Legislation

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Here’s a puzzle for libertarians (or anyone else who wants to chime in): Assuming one takes a position against “moral” legislation against marijuana (i.e., that marijuana should not be unlawful merely on the grounds that it is “bad”), would it be much less wrong to legalize it while taxing the snot out of it?

For my part, I don’t tend to mind much that cigarettes are taxed to the hilt. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have much problem with criminalizing cigarettes altogether. I don’t think I’d vote for an initiative to do so, but it is a perfectly acceptable thing for us to vote about, at least from a constitutional point of view.

However, if you’re one to take the view that we may not, through criminalization, impose personal preferences on choices that are basically private and personal, then, to be consistent, mustn’t you also take the view that we may not do it through punitive taxation, either? The spectre of normative legislation is still present, only instead of prohibiting certain behavior, the state engages in something like selling indulgences, requiring outliers of the public sentiment to make penance for their willful deviations. Is this really any better?

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Written by Tim Kowal

July 19, 2009 at 7:51 am

Posted in Libertarianism

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