Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Is There a Problem With Abolishing Nanny State "Protections"

 A Don Boudreaux  letter to a long-time correspondent:

Mr. L. ____

Mr. L. ____:

Thanks as always for your e-mail.

In response to my call to abolish nanny-state ‘protections,’ you write that “there is a practical problem: When individuals make poor decisions, the rest of us are compelled to bail them out.  When Smith ingests whatever substances he wishes and is near death, shall we let him die?”

I’ve a three-part answer:

First, who are “we”?  Individuals relate to each other in a rich variety of different voluntary associations such as families, friendships, clubs, and neighbors.  For their members, these associations offer privileges as well as carry responsibilities.  For example, I certainly would not let my son die even if he were irresponsibly overdosing on a drug, be it a legal one such as alcohol, or an illegal one such as heroin.  So, yes, of course we have responsibilities to each other – even to those among us who are foolish – but we have only those responsibilities that we voluntarily choose to have within the institutions of civil society.  “We” are not obliged to use the state to force each other to ‘care’ indiscriminately for each other.

Second, anyone, such as yourself, who values the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals should steadfastly resist the use of state power to protect individuals from the consequences of their own choices – especially when the exercise of that power restricts responsible-individuals’ freedom to pursue peaceful activities that are pursued also by a subset of irresponsible individuals.

Third, your question presumes that legalizing all drugs will make drug use more hazardous.  I dispute this presumption.  Not only will legalization encourage reputable, peaceful suppliers to displace the violent criminals who now supply prohibited drugs – not only will legalization diminish abusers’ reluctance to reveal their addictions to friends and physicians – not only will legalization permit legal recourse against those who supply drugs more dangerous or toxic than their buyers had reason to suspect – legalization will also, by ridding suppliers of the need to conceal their products from the authorities, reduce the potency of drugs, thus reducing the risks of accidental overdosing.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. It amazes me how the theorist never
    examines real life examples. It appears Real life again slaps the theorist in the face.

    Colorado for example. Crime in Colorado has dramatically increased over
    the past three years. Drugs, Marijuana in particular, Yes legalized
    marijuana, is a contributor to the increased crime. The OPPOSITE of
    Boudreaux's theory.

    Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler legalization of marijuana is partly to blame for the rise in crime.
    "It is easier for there to be black market in a legalized system than there was before," he said.
    "There is increased crime, sometimes violent crime, associated with legalization of marijuana," Brauchler said. "That's not what you'd expect. You'd expect the harder-core drugs." ... "If cash is the only way to acquire marijuana, crime follows cash," Brauchler said ...

    What do you say Boudreax ? " It is easier for there to be black market in a legalized system " What is your experience with crime and law enforcement ?


    Boudreax claims " “We” are not obliged to use the state to force each other to ‘care’ indiscriminately for each other. "

    Boudreaz ignores that we provide homeless shelter, unemployment and medical care to the drug user. Also use of police force and legal representation.
    We are obliged to.


    Boudreaux reports “ a society of free and responsible individuals should steadfastly resist the use of state power to protect individuals from the consequences of their own choices – “

    Boudreax again misses the mark. We Are not necessarily protecting the marijuana
    user from himself WE NEED TO PROTECT ME AND YOU from the marijuana user;
    my taxes pay for medical bills, not to mention unemployment of the drug user
    But that same user may be on the road and impaired or working in an industry.

    Or of course stealing from you and me to pay for the drugs.
    . As the Colorado facts have shown.

    1. Just like with crime for alcohol. STFU. Please.

    2. "It is easier for there to be a black market in a legalized system."


    3. The social contract theory was debunked years ago. Google it son.

    4. Blatant lies by alexaisback2.

      Property crime has dropped, and violent crime has increased 1%.

      None of that is due to legalization. You're an idiot.


    5. If you do not like the quotes from the Arapahoe County District Attorney

      .How about we take the opinion of Colorado Attorney General ?
      Marijuana legalization has delivered some surprises statewide to regulators, police, and citizens alike. For instance, many people thought legalization would quash the black market for the drug. “That’s been a fallacy,” says Coffman, Colorado’s attorney general.

      Legalization of cannabis stores and grow operations has drawn more drug-related crime, she says, including cartels that grow the plant in Colorado and then illegally move it and sell it out of state. “They use the law,” she says, “to break the law.”

      Since 2013, law officials say, they have busted 88 drug cartel operations across the state, and just last year law-enforcement made a bust that recovered $12 million in illegal marijuana. Adds Coffman: “That’s crime we hadn’t previously had in Colorado.”


    6. following the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries in January 2014. While larceny crimes — shoplifting, purse snatching, bicycle theft and pickpocketing — rose by 44 percent in 2014, it is unclear whether the legalization of marijuana was a factor. Similarly, crimes against society, which include prostitution, gambling and parole violations, rose by 47 percent in 2014, although the role of legalization, if any, is unclear.
      Race is a factor in perceptions about crime and livability following legalization. Most non-whites feel that crime has increased and are dissatisfied with their communities, while most white respondents feel crime has remained the same and are satisfied with their communities following legalization.
      Most of the homeless shelter representatives surveyed believe that legalization has resulted in an increase in clients using their shelters; those keeping records of this population, which is transient and difficult to track, claim to have seen a 15-30 percent increase in the number of clients they serve.

    7. They illegally re-sell marijuana out of state?!? Oh the horror!! Viva prohibition after all!

  2. We are neither obliged to, nor are we obliged to use the coercive powers of the state to. You may have been brainwashed into believing so.