About a month ago I posted a YouTube video to my Facebook wall about how Glenn Beck referred to Ron Paul as “…closer to our founding fathers than probably anybody else out there right now….” A family member left a comment, saying, “Did Ron Paul really say he supports legalizing prostitution and heroin? I saw a quote and wondered if it was taken out of context.”

Rather than answer his question by analyzing everything Ron Paul ever said, what he meant, and what others thought he meant, I decided to respond with the principled approach. If I start with the fundamental principles of a free society, maybe his and others’ eyes would open a little to the root of the issue, rather than just the surface “controversy” at hand.

Like all other principles, the one pertaining to freedom starts with the scriptures. This scripture states plainly what the Lord wants us to know about the freedom.

In Doctrine and Covenants 98:5–8 it reads:

“5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.”

Read and re-read those verses to see just how much emphasis the Lord put on mankind’s rights, freedoms, and the constitutional law that supports them. So my response to the question above needed to be focused around this principle.

I replied with the following thought: “It sounds controversial until you really look at the heart of it, and realize that the principles of individual liberty apply to everything.”  I proceeded to explain the role of government, based in freedom, and how we can use a simple principle when determining what falls under government and what falls under the individual.

The US Constitution and the philosophy of liberty at its core is all about individual freedom and not infringing upon another’s. Moreover, an individual has the right to use force to protect their own freedoms and rights. For example, if someone is breaking into my house and attempts to do harm to me or my family, then I’m justified in using a gun or any other type of force in my defense. That is usually common acceptance among people.

It’s clear that I can use force in certain circumstances, but can I use a gun to physically threaten my neighbor because he is doing something immoral? If he is taking a drug I disapprove of, can I walk to his house, put a gun to his head and physically force him to my basement to detain him? Of course the answer is no, that’s unacceptable. However, most people wouldn’t hesitate to send the Government in their stead. Should this not also be considered unacceptable?

All other issues involving personal activities that do not harm others, regardless of how disgusting or degrading they are, should be left to the agency of the individual, without government intervention. If there’s no victim, there’s no crime.

When we allow the government to intervene in victimless crimes, we are essentially allowing the government to use unnecessary force. Not only that, but we allow them  to use double force: first, to force taxpayer’s participation; and second, the use of force to detain their targets. This is a huge problem because it sends a conflicting message to our generation such as “you are free except when you do things we disapprove of, even if it does no harm to another person.” How can this possibly represent the ideas of a truly free people?

Government authority is supposed to exist only on behalf of free individuals. The assumed authorities would have to convince “we the people” that their so-called “violators” are causing direct and imminent harm to someone else. We know that’s not the case in many of the drug related arrests in our day. Simple possession is enough for government to swoop in and use force. Does possession alone qualify as an infringement on someone else’s rights and liberties? No.

Then there’s the issue of prostitution. However abhorrent the act, at least it is done by consenting adults in a voluntary way. The only difference between the relatively tolerated act of fornication, and the utterly untolerated act of prostitution, is the exchange of currency.

As Latter-day Saints, we should not tolerate either of these two sins in addition to the more serious big brother sin of adultery. The question I want to ask here is why is it that we don’t usually call for forcible laws on fornication and adultery, but we call for them on prostitution? It seems so inconsistent when it’s broken down like that.

Government should have no place in regulating personal behavior unless it involves coercion or force by one party perpetrated upon another. Only then can government act on a someone’s behalf in order to keep the peace. Besides, history has shown that prohibition of bad behavior and bad habits doesn’t work. When the government attempts to criminalize certain behaviors, it only ends up creating unintended consequences that make matters worse.

The alcohol prohibition of the 20’s and 30’s gives us a clear example of the failure to regulate behavior. When they attempted to prohibit alcohol use, they drove the importation and sale of alcohol into the black market. Historians agree that the results of the Prohibition inadvertently created the “Al Capones” of the day and crime increased.

Another illustration, the more recent Nixon-era “drug war”, shows that no matter how much money we throw at it, we still see more drug use. This drives the drug market deeper and deeper underground in order to fill the demand. The underground aspect of the drug market creates more chaos and death than the drug habit itself.

From a constitutional, a moral, and a pragmatic standpoint, it is emphatically clear that government, especially the Federal Government, cannot fix or prevent these undesired behaviors. It just simply doesn’t work. No matter how much we want it to, it won’t. The attempts to manage others’ poor behaviors should never be sought through governmental force.

We cannot allow government to unconstitutionally do on our behalf, what we cannot morally do ourselves. This is one of the most important principles we need to live by, and expect of our government, if we are to truly live in a free society. Heavenly Father gave us our freedom, and our individual agency so who are we to take it away from others?

Image: David AmslerCC BY 2.0