Mill’s ideas on freedom seem simple enough; as long as it’s not a nuisance or interfering with others’ lives, you are free to do as you please. Others can criticize you for what they see as wrong doings, but they have no right to actually stop you (Mill, 600-620). It simple terms, if its not directly bothering you, mind your own business and everyone gets along. But the question is, can Mill’s philosophy actually work, when put into practice? A prime example to look at is drugs and drug use.
Though the actual act of doing drugs only harms you, it remains illegal to even possess most drugs. Mill would undoubtedly argue that though drugs may not be positive, used responsibly they do not harm others substantially (Mill, 600-620). Opponents argue that drugs, even when used “safely”, affect those around you; from emotional pain to your family, to slacking on your responsibilities. But that argument can be applied to many things. Televisions for instance: much of today’s youth spends hours in front of the TV, possibly wasting their potential. Should we then outlaw televisions? Mill obviously would not.
But to think that drug use would remain totally responsible, is naïve. Just take a look at alcohol; we have drunk driving, and alcoholics. Mill would clearly classify these situations and acts as nuisances to those around us (Mill, 600). But does outlawing it even prevent it? I would argue quite the opposite. As we saw in the time of prohibition, making alcohol illegal only created a black market for it. Instead of regulation, the supply of alcohol was run by gun-toting gangs. Now does any of this sound familiar? It is the exact same situation we currently have with drugs. By implementing Mill’s idea of individual responsibility and freedom, the same principle applied to alcohol with the repeal of the prohibition, drugs could be regulated. Violence would decrease, and money through business and taxation would increase. Of course issues of drug addicts and impaired driving would be present. But those problems persist now, even with the outlawing of drugs. Just as some consider heavy drinking to be immoral, there will always be those who do not condone drug use either. But we are a world of unique individuals, and to apply the same morality to everyone is overbearing, especially if the actions of said “immorality” does not affect those around them.
The United States of America has an incarceration rate of 7 times the global average (National Council for Crime and Delinquency). And I would argue this is due to the immense about of drug related “crime”. Many of these crimes are victimless, and as Mill states, victimless crimes, should not be crimes at all. So would an application of Mill’s ideas of freedom, actually work in modern day? I would certainly think so, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion…assuming it isn’t a nuisance.
“Fact Sheet.” National Council for Crime and Delinquency . N.p., Nov. 2006. Web.
22 Nov. 2009. <http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/
Mill, J.S. “On Liberty.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Ed. David
Wooton. 2nd Edition ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008. 599-620. Print.