Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prohibition and the 13th Amendment

Remember the 13th Amendment? The one that goes something like this:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
According to my dictionary, a slave is
a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
Putting two and two together (and getting 5), I’m going to go way out on a limb, a limb out past left field, and suggest that prohibition is a violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Before you write this off as crazy talk, let me explain my reasoning, circuitous as it may be.

If the government controls what we can and can’t put into our own bodies, and forces us to obey their restrictions with the threat of arrest and imprisonment, doesn't that make us slaves, at least according to the dictionary definition? If I own my own body, then I have the right to decide what to do with it and what to put into it. If I don’t have that right, then someone else must own my body. No one can have that kind of absolute power over me (except maybe my wife or mother) unless they own me. And if someone owns me, that makes me a slave.

“Come on,” you’re probably thinking. “The government’s not beating or whipping you, or making you work the fields.” That’s true. (As far as you know.) But being physically abused or forced into hard labor are not what makes one a slave. You can be a slave and have a relatively easy life, or you can be a paid servant and be abused. We’re more like house slaves than field hands. We get to live in a nice house and wear nice clothes, but are never allowed to forget our place or who makes the rules.

What makes one a slave is that, unlike the free man, the slave does not own their own body. Someone else makes decisions for them, and they do as they are told. When the government decides what we can and can't put into our bodies, whether we abide by their rules or not, then they, for all intents and purposes, own us. Decisions are made by our master, who knows what’s best for us. We must do their bidding, or suffer the consequences. We are no longer the masters of our own domain.

Unlike many other arguments against prohibition, this one does not apply to victimless crimes in general. Things like gambling or prostitution involve others and the behaviors we engage in with them. Prohibition is different in that it seeks to control a behavior that we engage in entirely on our own. If the government tells me that I can’t drink and drive, that’s OK because they are protecting others from my potentially dangerous public behavior. But if they tell me I can't drink, period, then it would appear that they have absolute control over my body.

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Has our government turned us into slaves with their prohibitionist policy? Or do they just want to be my wife/mother? Who knows? But invalidating the Controlled Substances Act based on the 13th Amendment is no more insane than validating it with the Commerce Clause. So who’s more crazy, me or the government?

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