"Behavior expressed in the pursuit of happiness, which does not force others to participate against their will, is an unalienable right of the people."
You probably think you live in a free country, but what do you think would happen to your career and social experience if you dyed your hair green? Or what if you were a man who got breast implants or a woman who went around with her breasts clearly showing under a see-thru top? You can always tattoo a penis on your forehead. Some expressions of personal freedom are legal, yet most people are wise enough to naturally refrain from behaviors which will bring them more discomfort than pleasure. It isn't necessary to pass laws prohibiting people from being weird or stupid if such behavior harms only themselves. But we should remember times when it was immoral for a woman to show her bare ankle, when boys couldn't have hair below their shirt collar and all girls were required to wear a dress to school. Freedom to be true to oneself as an individual is a good thing, and can lead to more freedom of expression for everyone. The more weird people there are out there the less weird the rest of us seem to be.
Most Americans agree that people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm others, but a very vocal few believe it will result in the moral destruction of society and anyone engaging in such "sinful" behavior should be imprisoned. But just imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived according to this basic moral principle: "Be honest and fair, and do not force others to participate against their will". Because this morality provides freedom and fairness, far more people would choose to live by it. Those who live by this moral principle would not lie or cheat or steal from others. They would be fair in all their dealings and there would be no gang violence, suicide bombings or war. It would be a far better world than what we are experiencing with religious morality being forced upon everyone, because far more people would be willing to live by this simple, fair and just standard of moral behavior.
It is necessary to make a distinction between behavior which is wrong, and that which is merely "bad" for you. That which is unfair and harms others against their will is wrong and should be prohibited by law. That which leads to less overall happiness in life is simply bad behavior. It is the role of religious and other philosophies to help educate people regarding good and bad choices while individuals retain the freedom to choose how they want to live. The power of government should not be used to enforce compliance with subjective ideas of good and bad, but with the objective facts of right and wrong.
Perhaps the most inspiring phrase ever written in a political document comes from the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It essentially says this, "that man has certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The U.S. government does not provide these rights. Capital punishment takes away the right to ones life. Putting people in jail takes away their liberty, and using street drugs is obviously done in the pursuit of happiness yet acting on that right will land one in prison.
Americans have a choice. We can strike this phrase from the documents which form our constitutional rights, or we can do our best to live by the intent of this phrase by ending capital punishment, creating fair and just laws which deny liberty only when harm is done to others, and legalize freedom of choice in the pursuit of happiness.
Which do you choose?
Freedom, Justice and the War on Drugs
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