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How to Solve the Obesity Crisis!

By Sara Scarlett
January 9th, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Comments Off on How to Solve the Obesity Crisis! | Posted in drugs, health, Nannying, UK Politics

Replace sugar with cocaine.


My work here is done…

Seriously, though – the Government has been giving huge amounts of free money to the Sugar Industry and the Corn Industry, which produces High Fructose Corn syrup, for decades. Before any taxes are imposed on people who enjoy their sugar responsibly, perhaps it would be wise to cease subsidising these industries instead.


When Law-Makers are Law-Breakers

By Guest
August 8th, 2011 at 7:30 am | 4 Comments | Posted in Crime, drugs

What should happen to a policeman known to have committed a crime severe enough to warrant imprisonment? Or a sanctimonious priest known to be living in cardinal sin? What sentence would you recommend for a high court judge found guilty of a crime for which they had themselves harshly condemned others?

Well, what if it was a law-maker themselves? Shouldn’t it be all the worse? Apparently not, given the absence over a stir from Louise Mensch MP’s admittance of past drug abuse . The BBC website placed the story seventh in its UK Politics section on a fairly slow news day. Mail Online had nothing in its news or comments on Saturday, despite finding space for a story on a shoplifting seagull. The Telegraph posted the story on page five, complete with glamorous photo of the MP posing outside Westminster in an evening dress.

 None had quoted drug campaigners, former addicts or bereaved parents of teenage drug casualties as is typically done when a scientist or police commissioner calls for decriminalisation. None mentioned that 1,400 people were jailed in 2010 simply for possessing illegal drugs. The current maximum penalty for possessing mild drugs like ecstasy is seven years in prison; if the police suspect an individual intended to pass the substance to a friends, that individuals risks life imprisonment.  Those lucky enough to receive a mere caution can expect it to follow them around their entire life, hindering their life chances and effectively ruling out a career as a lawyer, teacher or police officer. While the press and police are happy to pursue Chris Huhne for a crime allegedly committed eight years ago, it seems no punishment will befall Mensch.

There are reasons not to care. Firstly, the exposé by an anonymous journalist at a time when the exposed is campaigning hard to bring down law-breaking journalists seems suspicious. Secondly, it is right that private debauchery should be kept in the private sphere unless clearly an issue in the public interest. Finally, despite widespread support to maintain prohibition, much of the public see drugs possession as the indiscretion that Mensch makes it out to be.

Within minutes of the news breaking, however, the public interest aspect became clear when the MP stated her support for criminalisation of drug users on Twitter. She then displayed gross misunderstanding of the science behind the drugs debate by responding to one follower that illegal drugs were more harmful than alcohol in moderation, though this is only true for specific drugs. For upstanding citizens like her, it is a mere misdemeanour, but woe betide those not in the nouveau aristocracy.

Unsurprisingly, she’s not the only one to have been in this position. When Ann Widdecombe announced a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis in 2000, eight Shadow Cabinet members admitted they had partaken. Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke presided over the system, despite a similar admittance, and Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron have suspiciously refused to comment on allegations of past drug-taking.

For English law to have any credibility, it must apply equally to all. Out of respect for all those currently behind bars, every MP for whom there exists evidence of former possession should be interviewed under caution to find the real villains – those involved in the destructive and bloody drugs trade. Mensch should at the very least amend her support for criminalisation.

The most important measure to introduce, however, is for every MP to state under legal oath any crime they have committed that carries severe penalties. This would not only tell us how fit our law-makers are to make judgements which can devastate the lives of those they claim to represent; it would also  inspire real debate as to which offences it is indeed right to criminalise. Yes, none of us are without sin, each of us breaking one of the innumerable trivial offences on the British statute book as often as we clean out teeth. But, unlike MPs,  who make the law, we do not cast stones at one another for it. What better way to protect the freedom of the powerless by tying it to the opportunities of the powerful?

David M Gibson is a classical liberal and a member of the Liberal Democrats. He has been an intern at the Freedom Association and writes at


Smoking, Freedom and all things (ob)noxiouxs

By Tom Papworth
June 28th, 2011 at 8:58 am | 39 Comments | Posted in Culture, drugs, freedom, health, Nannying, Personal Freedom

Last week, Angela kicked off a firestorm with her article about abuse of public money by Action on Smoking and Health, the anti-tobacco pressure-group.

Now, Liberal Vision does not need to dwell on tobacco regulation. There are countless infringements on individual liberty out there to discuss, and we don’t want to develop some single-issue hobby-horse. But tobacco regulation is a good proxy for plenty of other government interventions, and the activities of the anti-smoking lobby are echoed by paternalists in other parts of the public health establishment and beyond. It is therefore worth teasing out some of the issues that tobacco regulation raises so that we can better understand liberty in general.

It seems to make sense to begin with a comment from Martin: “Why on earth is [Angela’s] article listed under ‘Personal Freedom’?”. Martin argues that:

Smoking harms human health, as does secondary smoking… Poisoning other people irrespective of their wishes makes an absolute travesty of the term ‘personal freedom’. A more appropriate article tag would be ‘Blinkered Self-Interest’.

Much to the chagrin of some libertarians, it is a fair question and it deserves a response. It is also not enough to deny the effects of second hand smoke: whether or not you question the belief that evidence of the dangers of passive smoking is conclusive, it is clear that the evidence is not conclusive that it is not dangerous. Furthermore, it is smelly and unpleasant for many non-smokers and so some form of negative externality results even if the health one does not.

Having said that, I do believe that this is a matter of personal freedom, and I hope to explain why.

In a follow-up email to Angela, Martin explained why he felt that smoking was not a matter of personal freedom or one compatible with liberalism:

Liberalism has always been about personal freedoms that should only extend up to the point before they start to harm others…. you are bastardising the central plank of liberalism by linking the slow poisoning of others with some sort of human right.

The first point is clearly a reformulation of a sound principle, best captured by Oliver Wendell Holmes when he said that “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” However, this must surely be situational: if Holmes is already swinging his fists about when Martin walks up to him, and Holmes therefore breaks Martin’s nose, it is Martin who has invaded Holmes’s personal space and responsibility rests with Martin for the pain he has suffered. Similarly, if Angela is sitting on a bench enjoying a cigarette and Martin comes and sits alongside her, it is Martin, not Angela, who is responsible for any perceived aesthetic or medical consequence. The alternative would be either to ban Angela from smoking altogether (which is the response taken by ASH and the government in banning smoking in many areas) or to empower Martin to force her to stub out every time he approached her.

Of course, it is not simply enough to say “s/he who arrives first gets to decide” (though that is exactly the approach that has traditionally been taken to ownership of resources). Martin may not have to sit next to Angela on the bench, but he may have to sit next to her in a train or a pub. So who should arbitrate in this case?

ASH clearly believes that this is the role of government – which it has encouraged to ban smoking in just about any venue where two strangers might meet indoors. However, it is that which is at odd with liberalism; not the “slow poisoning of others.” This is my second point: that ultimately, the right to decide what takes place in any locale should be at the discretion of the owner of that property. (A unhelpful and circular argument results from adding “as long as the activity is legal” which encourages paternalists to point out that the government can make it illegal on private property, which is true but not liberal. It’s a long-winded diversion, however. Read The Constitution of Liberty if it is troubling you).

Imagine Angela, Martin and I are on Come Dine With Me. When we all go to Martin’s house, he is entitled to tell Angela that she cannot smoke anywhere on the premises. At my house, I might say that it’s up to them whether they smoke, or that they can smoke, but only in the garden. When we visit Angela, she is within her rights to say that we are only allowed in her house if we smoke. Martin will refuse to enter Angela’s house – and mine if I let Angela smoke at the dinner table – and similarly Angela may refuse to set foot in Martin’s. That’s fine. It’s their house; they make the rules.

Why is a restaurant different from a house? Why is a taxi different? Or a pub (which, despite it’s unfortunate name, is a private, and not a public, space)? The answer is that there is no difference. It should be up to the restaurateur, the taxi driver and the publican to set the rules.

Anti-smokers usually fear that this will result in a free-for-all with smoking everywhere. This is unlikely. Truly “public” (or quasi-public) spaces, those run or regulated by public bodies, would undoubtedly remain smoke free. As for the rest, it is unlikely that they would all now revert to allowing smoking: non-smokers like smoke-free spaces, and there are costs to cleaning up after smokers. However, if the balance tipped too far towards smoking establishments, this could be managed by a licensing system: taxi licences would either forbid smoking or regulate the number of smoking cabs; local authorities could license smoking as they do on- and off-licence sales of alcohol. This still undermines property rights, but it is a better solution than the current blanket provision. Why, after all, can the members of a private club that centres around the enjoyment of cigars not smoke in their clubhouse?

The third point, then, must address what is often portrayed as both the main argument and the one hardest to refute – though ASH admitted it was in fact merely a tactical ploy – which is that something must be done to protect the health of workers. This, again, is a property rights issue: every man has a property in his own person, and is able to make an informed decision as to the costs and benefits of any employment. The idea that no person should be allowed to take employment that carries a risk is absurd. Instead, the risks should be made clear and individuals should be free to determine the balance for themselves. If people are able to evaluate the risks of going to war or space, of running into burning buildings or driving 40 tonne trucks across a thin layer of ice above the Arctic Ocean, they are presumably able to evaluate the risks, and the potential rewards, in terms of wage premiums, higher overall levels of employment, and so forth.

Some might not mind working in a smoky bar; some might actively enjoy it; and some might value the extra income more than they fear the health risks. But it is their choice to make. They do not need ASH or the government taking decisions for them. It is that removal of individual choice, discretion and responsibility that is “bastardising the central plank of liberalism”.

Prohibition doesn’t work

By Andy Mayer
December 17th, 2010 at 1:16 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Crime, drugs

Who knew… Bob Ainsworth it would seem… and ever turning, never learning, cycle of recent political history

It is something of a sad irony that whilst the debate no one wants, bar a socialist former minister, is about undermining criminals through legalisation and regulation… the regulations our mostly liberal government are actually looking to introduce, in respect of an already legal narcotic, will do nothing other than help criminals by making legitimate products harder to reach and easier to clone.