"Libertarians are no doubt dismayed by the FDA’s recent ban on Juul vaping products"


I'm dismayed by $5 gas, the inability to direct my own education dollars, or the threat of nuclear war.

I have a really hard time being dismayed by the fact that a product that targets kids with advertisements on Nickelodeon to turn them into lifelong smokers is being restricted. I don't think that would be at the top of the John Galt list of things to be DISMAYED about.

"By analogy, if it’s your car, it’s your choice to put sugar in the gas tank even if it’s harmful."

If you put something wrong into your gas tank you might have an accident on the highway and injure yourself, those in your car, and those in surrounding cars. This is actually a good analogy for reckless drug use.

"The claim that smokers are a fiscal burden on others isn’t supported by the evidence"

Is based on data that it kills them before they've been on Medicare for too long...

"but at most that would be a reason to restrict access to state-funded benefits rather than to restrict the right to control how you use your body."

Are there any real world examples of this we can draw on, because it seems like a total pipe dream to me.


My Dad smoked right up until his heart attack, and smoking played a role in that heart attack. I remember flushing his cigarettes down the toilet as a child because I didn't want him to die. I don't really see how an early death would have been what he wanted, nor that it would have had no effect on anyone else (obviously it would have affected my family, just as his heart attack did). My Dad knew better but got addicted young, when the heart attack forced him to go cold turkey he never went back.

He's a fairly libertarian guy, but I don't think he's dismayed about banning child cigarettes.

“never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce”

In Singapore they apply the death penalty to anyone caught with illicit drugs in quantities greater than a single person might use personally for one use. They fought a War on Drugs and won decisively. They have none of the supposedly impossible enforcement issues you claim are inevitable.

Look, I'm pretty flexible on what both drug laws should be and what enforcement should be. I think that trying to control things like alcohol and tabacco that are very entrenched in our society is very difficult. But that doesn't mean we can't tax it and provide some restrictions (you can't buy alcohol after the 7th inning because they want people to sober up before they drive home).

I can also buy that criminalizing the possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use isn't something the cops should be wasting their time on.

What's less important than this or that detail of the War on Drugs is the cultural acknowledgement that drugs are bad. They diminish the human person. John Galt would not be a stoner. The libertarian parties obsession with pot brings out the absolute worst in it. When I think about what more freedom would allow me to do, I imagine becoming a better person. Not dissipating myself.

I believe that libertarians obsess with drug laws because it allows them to align themselves with progressives and that makes them feel good and get a cheap rush, not because it represents the most pressing issues for a pro-freedom agenda.

If you want to get DISMAYED about something, there are a lot bigger fish to fry out there.

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I agree with much of this, but I think the best justification for paternalistic restrictions on addictive products is that it *isn’t* just the body of the person who makes the choice to smoke. The body is shared by the 20 year old, the 40 year old, and the 60 year old, but the 20 year old is the only one who currently makes decisions about it, that the 40 year old and 60 year old will have to live with. When we regularly see choices that 20 year olds make that go against the stated wishes of the 40 and 60 year olds that inherit that body, it makes sense to put in place regulations that help restore the balance of interests in this shared property. Co-owned property usually can’t be damaged without permission from all owners. In this case, some of the owners aren’t capable of speaking (yet) so we don’t want to insist on explicit consent from them, but it makes sense to at least raise the bar so that only unusually motivated 20 year olds can do the thing that 40 and 60 year olds usually regret.

This is why suicide prevention is usually a good thing - it doesn’t make sense to allow a momentary time slice to destroy everything that future time slices of the person could enjoy (there’s usually nothing to gain by *legally* restricting suicide, but there’s a lot to gain from talking people out of it and putting barriers at salient high points people might jump from and having extra safety around pills and firearms).

That said, it seems clear that the ban on Juul is a bad idea, and the restriction of nicotine content may be too. (Though there’s probably a case for mandating the availability of cigarettes of a variety of nicotine levels, particularly in combination with Mark Kleiman’s proposal that people be allowed to set regulations for *themself* that they can change with 30 days notice.)

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>For one, all liberals recognize a right of bodily autonomy: “my body, my choice.”

No party in existence actually believes that.

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Drugs have extreme negative externalities. Virtually anything (other than housing prices) that makes living in an urban area unpleasant is due to drug addiction (crime, bad public transport, homelessness, lack of viable public spaces).

Bryan lives in a high-end suburb where one of the prime benefits is lack of tolerance for drug abusers ruining the lives of others.

If libertarians really were sincere with regards to their views on drugs, they would live in San Francisco's Tenderloin, where drug dealing and abuse face no repercussions whatsoever.

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Completely unfamiliar with this topic, but wouldn’t reducing nicotine levels in a given cigarette cause addicted smokers to simply smoke more cigarettes?

That seems like it’d have at least a partially offsetting negative effect on health (plausibly outweighed by preventing future addiction, but I’m curious if research has been done on this).

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"And the problem of illegal sales to underage buyers can be solved without universal restrictions on nicotine—rather we can simply increase penalties on those who make the illegal sales."

What's the libertarian rationale for making distinctions between underage and non-underage buyers? I don't think I'm familiar enough with libertarian thinking to have a clear understanding of this. It seems like the author tacitly grants that selling to underage buyers is a problem, but I can't see how libertarian thinking would acknowledge that as a problem. After all, attaining adult status has something to do with increased powers of rationality and maturity, and the author of this post has already stated that rationality gaps aren't dispositive rationales for creating restrictions.

I'm almost definitely not thinking about this correctly, because like I said I'm unfamiliar with libertarian thinking. Can someone clear that up?

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"For one, all liberals recognize a right of bodily autonomy: “my body, my choice.” If it’s your body, it’s your choice to put nicotine in it even if it’s harmful. By analogy, if it’s your car, it’s your choice to put sugar in the gas tank even if it’s harmful."

I don't think that captures modern liberal notions at all, Chris. They typically have no problem at all with detailed California regulations as to what exactly the gasoline mix you're allowed to put in your tank. Your car, your choice would save California drivers well over $1/gallon regularly, but I never hear them complaining about that.

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Excellent article but I disagree with the suggestion that US liberals (ie corporate progressives) actually believe in “my body, my choice”. Strangely I see them invoke that phrase when they want to kill another body, that of a fetus. The more consistent ones also say it when they’re about to get high on weed, but that’s about the extent of things.

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From a consequentialist perspective banning cigarettes would be good. Cigarette smoking is a strange cultural phenomenon, as there are many ways to ingest nicotine and all of them are less harmful and annoying for the surroundings. I would predict almost all users would switch and save money if not for the normalization of cigarettes and fringe status of other means of ingestion. Banning Juul is very misguided. Nicotine by itself is an OK nootropic with little risk, see: https://www.gwern.net/Nicotine

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You write that “insofar as the restriction works, it will make high-nicotine cigarettes scarce—thereby driving up the price and creating an incentive to supply more.” I think this is a mistake, or, at least, an overstatement. There will be a heightened incentive for those who have a special talent for illegal activities, but there will be a reduced incentive for those not specially adept at and inclined to criminality: The higher price acts to spur supply, the legal enforcement acts to discourage it. On net, we should expect restriction to reduce the supply, not increase it.

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War on drugs is a war on human rights

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If the core right at issue here is bodily autonomy, are there any limits to that? Should I have the right to do absolutely anything I want with or to my body? Where are the intersections between bodily autonomy and other rights or duties if I choose to go to work or grocery shopping naked? Should my state of mind or mental health have any bearing on how the state feels about anything I may choose to do with or to my body? If so, how does the state (or even passersby) assess my mental state? If I am physically unable to perform a bodily autonomous action, such as suicide, is the state obligated to assist me? If I do something with or to my body that so impairs my mental state that I become incapable of self-regulation or forming memories of my actions, should I face any consequences if I do something while impaired that harms someone else?

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I agree about nixing the war on nicotine.

I am less agreeable to the state being tolerant of drugs that discernably destroy lives. While I loathe the militaristic efforts to chase down drug dealers, drug dealers deserve arrest and prosecution. Their activities are a plague on society. Private actions that produce a social cost can only be tolerated to a degree. I am all for tremendous latitude for personal choices. But there are limits and wise people figure out and apply a reasonable standard.

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