January 30, 2014


Let me free to make my own choices


By: David Coughlin (dscough@yahoo.com)


The United States of America was founded over 225 years ago on the principles of personal freedom and personal responsibility.  Individual freedom and liberty allows any personal action as long as it does not adversely impact any other person.  Actions are not dictated by any moral, racial, or religious creeds, but are legislated by our Congress for our “common good.”  These freedoms are not free since they come with associated personal responsibility for the consequences of these actions.  Over time our legal system has grown to regulate and restrict personal actions, personal consumption of legal and illegal products, and behaviors that affect our personal health.  Meanwhile a basic safety net has been created to protect those who are unable to care for themselves through no fault of their own.  The question is whether this country has gone too far trying to protect people from the consequences of their actions, thus relieving them of the personal responsibility and shifting that responsibility to the people? 


The federal government is trying to protect us from ourselves.  Our Constitution includes elements of libertarianism, allowing any actions as long as they don’t impact others. There is no reason that people cannot take personal risks, as long as they do not endanger anyone else.  Not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle or not wearing a seat belt in an automobile only endangers the individual, so personal freedom should prevail.  Eating, drinking, smoking, ingesting anything is a personal decision so should not be restricted since the consequence only falls on that individual.  As long as this “risky” behavior only impacts that individual, there is no reason for the government to get involved. 


Our Founding Fathers did not define a role in the Constitution to enforce personal behavior for our own good such as personal hygiene, what foods and where we can eat, and who with and where we can perform sexual acts.  Parents teach us about personal behavior in a civilized society.  The government has no role to replace this parental influence.  What foods, how much, with what ingredients are outside the scope of government control. Government may educate about the consequences but not regulate that individuals must behave a certain way.  Sex between consenting adults is a matter of preference and none of the government’s business.  Victimless crime refers to infractions of criminal law without any evidence of anyone suffering any damage.  Personal choice must allow individual freedom and acceptance of consequences.  As long as this personal behavior only impacts that individual, there is no reason for the government to get involved. 


Our Constitution does not regulate moral behavior concerning “sinful” acts such as consuming alcoholic beverages, smoking of tobacco products, and personal use of recreational drugs.  Over time there is no rhyme or reason for the criminalization of some but not all drugs.  Alcohol (ethanol) is a legal drug, tobacco (nicotine) is restricted drug, but recreational drugs are against the law.  In moderation these vices do little harm, but in excess the consequences can be dire or fatal to the individual.  Personal choice must include destructive choices and accepting the consequences of these “sinful” and risky actions.  Maybe it is time to decriminalize all drugs for anyone over 18 years of age.    


Personal freedom and choice always have personal responsibilities associated with the real consequence of those actions.  One of the most important responsibilities is to accept and live with the consequences of any actions.  Personal choice must include the option of doing stupid things and making bad decisions, as long as the consequences are accepted.  The legal profession should be restricted from retroactively suing to compensate for client’s stupidity when they suffer unforeseen consequences.  There is no reason for anyone to be required to subsidize others personal choices and their consequences.  Personal freedom has a cost and the cost of risky decisions should be the removal of eligibility from all government safety nets such as food stamps, welfare, insurance, and health care.  Ultimately returning to a principle of personal freedom and associated personal responsibility will make this a stronger country.


The best thing this country could do would be to repeal all the personal behavior crimes and let individuals be responsible for their actions and the impact of their actions: 

·    Define the age of 18 as the entry into adulthood with all the associated responsibilities that come with that milestone such as adult penalties for misbehaving; 

·    Repeal all laws on personal behavior for adults (smoking, helmets, seat belts, etc.); 

·    Legalize all drugs for anyone over 18 years of age;

·    Repeal all sin taxes (tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc.) as inefficient at influencing behavior, ineffective incenting desirable behavior, and discriminatory;

·    Only punish bad behavior if it impacts others. 

As long as taxpayers are not required to subsidize other’s personal choices and their consequences, Americans should be free to do whatever they want.  New Hampshire says it best, “Live Free, Or Die!”





David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site “Return to Common Sense,” and an active member of the Westchester County Tea Party. He retired from IBM after 31 years in 2009, after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 42 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Masters, Administrative Science, 1976).