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Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009
The Doctrine of Choice
The Doctrine of Choice is a pompous name that I've given to a very simple idea that guides my legal, moral and political philosophy more than anything else. At it's simplest it is this: People should be allowed to do whatever they provided that they're not harming anyone else.
A lot of people CLAIM that's what they believe, but I bet they'll fail the test on more than one thing, and on many things if they're a social conservative. Stated a little more specifically it goes like this:
1) Everything is legal, unless it victimizes someone else. To be a crime, something MUST have a victim. (And no, "Society," doesn't count. A tangible victim.)
2) The threshold for someone being a victim is for them have a choice they are otherwise entitled to usurped or taken form them by another.
Now... #2 may sound a bit odd, but it's actually a very low threshold for crime when you think about it. Does someone have to be killed, receive bodily harm, lose a certain amount of monetary valuables? Well, those WOULD qualify, but I set the bar pretty low. All they have to lose is their choice. Now you'd think that setting the bar for crime so low, that I'd end up outlawing many more things than the social conservatives would. But the opposite is true. So let's test this system, first against some easy ones...
When you and I woke up this morning, we had a clear choice to make. Face another day, or slit our own throats. Putting the drama aside, obviously, most of us, on most days will choose the first option. But if someone comes along and SHOOTS me? They are taking my LIFE, yes, but they really only need to be usurping MY CHOICE (to live) for this to be crime. (The ADDITIONAL loss of a LIFE is really only relevant to the SENTENCING portion!)
I can do whatever I want with MY [after-tax] MONEY. Buy stuff, lend it to a friend, invest it, put it in the bank, give it to a homeless guy, burn it... WHATEVER I WANT. But if someone, say the guy from the previous example, were to STEAL my money, well... That's tantamount to making the decision fore me: and the decsion was forced to give the money to him. Regardless of how much I've lost, it's all a crime because the choice was MINE, and he usurped it.
I can have sex with whomever* I* want*, and I can abstain as I wish as well. But someone who's raping me, say, again that slimeball from the last two examples, is saying, "No. It's not YOUR choice, it's MINE. And I SAY, you're going to have sex with ME!"
*Point of clarification: CHOICE in this case DOES imply CONSENT on the part of all parties involved. And CONSENT implies all parties are legal, [human] adults. All parties must be legally able to GIVE consent, which rules out both animals and the underaged. In each case, we do not recognize consent, and a choice is thus usurped still.
So... You get the idea. Here are some more knotty ones...
FRAUD is a crime because it means that the person's choice was not INFORMED. You have usurped the choice in this way by withholding information that otherwise may have resulted in a different choice. In anyway they've been cheated of their choice.
SOME DRUGS remain illegal, but not all. To qualify as a controlled substance something must be both synthetic (meaning that it is consumed in a form that has been chemically altered from it natural form) and addictive. Addictive is important, because addiction is what represents the usurpation of choice here. NOW... the CRIME is on the part of the DEALER. Why you ask, when the USER in fact CHOSE to use drugs? Very simple. It's a case of unbalanced information. Prior to becoming addicted the user has no REAL idea, no real information about how horrible addiction is, what it REALLY does to every aspect of your life and how likely he is to even become an addict. And most who are or have been addicted would have made different choices had they had the first hand knowledge of these things back when they started, but they didn't. How could they know? But the DEALER? HE's got a pretty shrewd idea what's in store for his customers. He peddling addiction via fraud. So anyone dealing addictive synthetic substances (crystal meth, crack, cocaine, heroin, opium, ecstasy, roofalin) is going down. But Tobacco, marijuana, coca leaves, betel nut, 'shrooms... it's all good, baby. They occur in nature, and you just can't outlaw something that's ALREADY THERE, on it's own. If we didn't invent it, how the hell can we outlaw it? REGULATE it? Sure. (18 and over only.) TAX it? You best your asterix. But why throw someone in jail who picked something up off the ground and chowed down or smoked it? No reason to. None at all.
The exception, and it should be obvious at this point, is Alcohol. I say: grandfather it in, and leave it legal. I have no justification for this in my model, other than the fact that it is consumed in moderation without issue (even some health and social benefits) buy almost everyone on the planet. So we'll draw the line HERE, and outlaw anything ELSE that fails the above tow tests.
Also... I say controlled, rather than illegal, becasue I still wouldn't outlaw those other thigns. Should we find that their is some medical use for them, in some small, safe dose? I won't let the law in the way of the medical research. And before you scoff, you should realize that most presciption anti-despreseant and pain-killers are checially very similar to many narcotics. Paxil is almost identical to cocaine in structure but also in the effect it has on the brain. It's just kept in a REALLY SMALL does - miligrams being swallowed insetad of grams being snorted. But you CAN get hooked if you abuse prescription medicinces. Just ask Rush Limabugh.
Now for some tricky ones:
As long as the game is fair, meaning not FIXED, and everyone understands the rules and the odds? (IOW no fraud involved) Why the hell not? Just regulate it to insure fairness, the way we do today in places that allow it, and keep it to certain ZONES in a given town or city. No one wants a Casino in their NEIGHBORHOOD, but downtown, or on the outskirts? Why not. Let each town decide for themselves. No reason for the STATE or FED to say no.
As the now immortal George Carlin once pointed out: Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Again I don't care WHAT goes on between consenting adults and neither does out current system of law enforcement... until money changes hands. WTF? Why should THAT matter?! You name me ONE OTHER THING that's it's legal to GIVE AWAY but illegal to SELL and I'll take it all back. But IMHO prostitution is NO CRIME. And thus should be LEGAL.
REGULATED, to be sure. And this is actually the BEST way to address the (faux) concerns that people, usually conservatives, express for the workers in the trade and use as justification for criminalizing it. Disease? Require (and have employers pay for) regular check-ups and condom use to keep your license. (Yes, you'd need a license! How else could you regulate it?!) Customer don't want to pay? Legal contract: Girl can SUE. Assault? Not likely if it all takes place inside the brothel, which has bouncers. This also addresses the next concern: We don't want hookers soliciting on the street, in the neighborhood, at the schools, etc... Well, just like with the casinos, this is merely a ZONING issue. Discreet advertising, discreet signage, and an off-the-beaten-path location, should satisfy any reasonable person involved. We'll never make it into an admirable profession, but there's just no rational justification for criminalizing it.
This includes ALL forms of intoxication, not just alcohol, so don't bother using DRIVING as an argument for criminalizing cannabis. That's just stupid. You can't drive drunk, high, low, or whatever. Stay home or call a cab. Why? Because everyone else on the roads made their choice to drive assuming it was safe. Or at least that weren't any reckless drunks out there, bombing around, which is as the law promises them. Plus you have no right to risk anyone ELSE'S life, other than your own. So it's simple. This fails the test.
HOMOSEXUALITY / GAY MARRIAGE
See 'prostitution.' As for the marriage part... again WHY THE HELL NOT? Show me any other legal contract ANYWHERE that I can enter with a member of the opposite sex, but not the same. There isn't one. And as far as the LAW is concerned with marriage that's all it is: a LEGAL CONTRACT. So if you have a problem with this one, all I can say is, "GROW UP."
RELIGION - The meaning of religious freedom should be obvious, and I'm stunned how many people try to say otherwise: (1) the separation of church and state. The above doctrine (as an interpretation of our Constitution) should drive our laws, not religion. PERIOD. (2) The prohibitions of any religion shall only apply to it's VOLUNTARY adherents. (So, "No" to these idiotic Catholic (etc...) pharmacists who won't dispense Birth Control. The church forbids YOU to use it. It has no authority over anyone else, and neither do YOU.) And anyone can leave any church at any time. (3) That also means no teacher-lead prayer in school. This violates YOUR choice to bring you child up in a given faith. Don't care about respecting OTHER PEOPLE'S faiths? Well what if the teacher was Muslim**? THEN would you want them preaching to your child or leading them in prayer? Didn't think so. Freedom for ANY ONE, necessarily means freedom for ALL, as well as the right to NOT believe or practice as well. It's pretty simple and, as far as I'm concerned, self-evident. I'll never get why so many people can't understand this. (And don't be an idiot an think this means that NO ONE can pray in school. THAT would be a obvious violation of their right to practice, which IS and WILL REMAIN 100% proteted. Only teacher-lead prayer in banned!)
**I ask it this way, because in THIS country, it's usually the CHRISTIAN funny-mentalists who don't get it. If we were having this discussion in IRAN, obviously I'd say "Christian" instead of "Muslim" in the above example.
Anyhow, THIS is how I interpret the spirit of the Constitution, and the Rights it grants. This is how I define FREEDOM and LIBERTY. The only laws that are needed would those that arbitrate situation in which one person choices would usurp another's. And it's usually pretty clear in these cases who's right and wrong. Except one.
There is one issue that this philosophy is USELESS to make any headway on.
Because abortion (arguably) involves two entities, both of whom may or may not be having a choice usurped. And one side clearly believes that the rights of one win out, while the other just a clearly believe it's the rights of the other. And you know what? I'm not sure there a "win" here either way. I just don't see this as anything other than lose-lose one way of the other.
So I'll cop-out on this one, but I promise to take up abortion at a later date. I might actually surprise some of you conservatives with my views on abortion, but I'm sure you'll come away disappointed anyway. LOL. The thing is... so will many liberals! You just can't WIN an argument over abortion!
If you are curious how I would interpret any other, just let me know. So far I've never been stumped. (Other than abortion, attmitedly.)