Back To the Bars

Yesterday's column by Steve Chapman, in which the Chicago Tribune scribe argued for keeping the drinking age where it is, drew a large amount of criticism and disagreement from reason regulars.

In a week where we discussed college presidents backing a lower drinking age and bizarre school theatrics aimed at scaring kids sober, let's close out the topic with a column from reason contributor and Denver Poster David Harsanyi:

It's regularly pointed out that young adults can volunteer to serve in Iraq but are prohibited from buying a beer. But young adults are also free to produce children (many children). A young adult can plan the entire course of his or her life by the age of 21. A young adult can serve on a jury and determine the fate a fellow citizen. If a young adult chooses, he or she can act in pornographic films, gamble nightly, smoke several packs of cigarettes or, in some places, even engage in the truly depraved act of becoming a politician.

Yet this same young adult is breaking the law when ordering an appletini?

Read "Let's chuck the drinking age" here.

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  • Nigel Watt||

    So can Chapman be run out of town on a rail yet?

  • ||

    I vote for pitchforks and torches, myself.

    But I'm old-fashioned like that...you kids these days got "rails" and such. Spoiled!

  • ||

    Nick, can you please tell us what deal with Satan requires you to print Chapman's dreck?

  • Nigel Watt||

    Also, the only law you're breaking when ordering an appletini is the law of good taste. Get a very dry and enjoy it.

  • ||

    Ditto
    Ditto
    Ditto

    You're still not getting it Nick. That Chapman article wasn't the first to draw criticism. It wasn't the second, or third or forth, this month even. Purt near everything he writes is crap. And his crap appears twice as often as anyone actually on the staff.

    Oust Steve Chapman AlReady

    OSCAR OSCAR OSCAR

  • ||

    Epi,

    Chapman's got pictures of him before the jacket.

  • ||

    Enough of this. Let's just lock up everyone in an institution until they are 18. Separate institutions for boys and girls, too. Under the guardianship of nannies who will keep them safe from harm and any evil thoughts like free will, liberty, etc. Then, at 18, turn them loose on society. I'm sure we could recruit tens of thousands of guardian nannies: busybodies, health freaks, safety nazis, God's ministers and priests.....oh, wait a minute.

  • ||

    I smell smoke.

  • ||

    I like Chapman on occasion. I say keep him. I give him credit for at least having some numbers to back his opinion, rather than most that share his opinion that solely rely on something subjective like morality.

  • ||

    Chapman's got pictures of him before the jacket.

    It can't be bad enough to allow Chapman's crap.

  • ||

    if i cant drink a beer at 18 iam not going to iraq to be killed send the ones that make the laws

  • ||

    A man's got to have his dignity, Epi.

  • ||

    Yeah it's a nice article, but there's nothing new there. I suspect this is just an attempt to placate us with the massive screw up that was Steve Chapman and his article yesterday.

    Feeling guilty much, Nick?

  • Abdul||

    Yesterday's column by Steve Chapman, in which the Chicago Tribune scribe argued for keeping the drinking age where it is, drew a large amount of criticism and disagreement from reason regulars.

    Resistance to Gengis Khan's occupation of the city drew a large amount of criticism and disagreement from Mongol hordes.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Wow. This crowd is hard to please. I think it's great that a guy like Harsanyi is writing columns like this in the Denver Post. I guarantee that his in-box is filling up with e-mail from outraged WATCers.

  • ||

    Steve Chapman's articles appear to have wider distribution than other Reason writers. He advances the brand. And it doesn't hurt that he gets people riled up every now and then.

  • Mad Max||

    "outraged WATCers"

    Witchita Area Technical College?

  • Nigel Watt||

    What About The Children

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Nigel's got it.

  • New World Dan||

    Let's compromise and just throw out the federal drinking age.

    Personally, like any good white person, I'm all for copying the Canadian model: a drinking age of 19. Keeps a lot of alcohol out of high schools, but keeps it in college. Really, I'm for a 19 age of majority in general.

  • Junter Klops||

    What is this crap reason is allowing to be published on its blog?! Arguing against keeping the minimum drinking age at 21! That is something I would have expected to find in some lousy libertarian magazine, not in my favorite conservative nanny-state magazine!

    Nick should be fired for posting this garbage.

  • Nigel Watt||

    New World Dan, as a 19-year-old, I can tell you that's fucktarded. Nothing magical happens when you turn 19. Or 18. Or 17. Age of a majority is a broken concept.

  • ||

    In Germany they let kids drink but they don't let them drive until they are 18.

    Germans also designed the "Shamwow".

  • ||

    What ever happened to the notion that a law which is universally disobeyed is by definition a bad law? Am I the only person who ever believed that?

  • Nigel Watt||

    P Brooks, no, and the same goes for copyright.

  • ||

    NWD - there isn't a federal drinking age...that's the trap. The fed has pulled the purse strings to make the states dance in rhythm (to mix my metaphors a bit(.

    Anyway, I vote we boot off Chapman and bring some cranky paleo in to write. Maybe my good buddy D. Justin Raimondo :-D ?

  • ||

    What ever happened to the notion that a law which is universally disobeyed is by definition a bad law?

    What happened is that the government realized that universally disobeyed laws are a great source of fines for revenue. You also might want to look at speeding laws. If everyone breaks them, everyone can get nailed for it and pay up. If they could outlaw (or tax) "thingy", they would.

  • Elemenope||

    Junter is still clearly trapped in Bizarro Reason. And yet his comments made it to this plane.

    Sounds like something H.P. Lovecraft would write about. Which brings us to the thread below...

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Raimondo?
    You turnin' troll on us A.O.?

  • ||

    ...And murder.

  • ||

    Really, I'm for a 19 age of majority in general.

    Silly rabbit! Dissent is not allowed. You must be re-educated.

  • ktc2||

    No P Brooks.

    There can be no moral obligation to obey and immoral law.

  • Nietzsche||

    Dissent is not allowed.

    The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who think differently.

  • ||

    You turnin' troll on us A.O.?

    Nah, man...just trying to shake up the threads a little. Chapman's a mainstream col. with little depth (as demonstrated by yesterday). DJ Raimondo at least would mandate a permanent cosmo/paleo cage match.

    What happened is that the government realized that universally disobeyed laws are a great source of fines for revenue. You also might want to look at speeding laws. If everyone breaks them, everyone can get nailed for it and pay up. If they could outlaw (or tax) "thingy", they would.

    Hm, I'm reminded of a quote (which I throw up here enough that everyone's tired of it, but oh well):

    The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

  • ||

    Really guys, it wasn't that bad of an article. Whatever problems it had were problems of ideology, not technical or rhetorical skill, as some people are arguing. Are those of you complaining really that wedded to the idea of never having to read anything you disagree with in Reason?

  • ||

    Steve Chapman's articles appear to have wider distribution than other Reason writers. He advances the brand. And it doesn't hurt that he gets people riled up every now and then.

    As a long-time Tribune subscriber who's been reading Chapman for years, I think you're on the right track. Much like how pro-choice and pro-life advocates tend to shoot themselves in the foot by taking extreme positions, many libertarians make the same mistake in advocating their own positions. Chapman may not pass the litmus test of many libertarians, but he's appealing to the typical newspaper reader, not the typical H&R commenter. While I totally disagree with him on the drinking age issue, I think he's one of the most effective ambassadors of basic libertarian policy.

  • Junter Klops||

    I am OK with reading things I disagree with on Reason. In fact, I am secretly a utilitarian and found myself somewhat agreeing with Chapman until I read the comments and you guys forced me into being a their-heads-will-roll anarchist again. Thanks guys!

  • ktc2||

    Completely o/t: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/08/22/mf.campaign.slurs.slogans/index.html

    But a really FUN read on the dirty negative campaigns of Adams and Jefferson.

  • ||

    Are those of you complaining really that wedded to the idea of never having to read anything you disagree with in Reason?

    Yes. You got a problem with that?

  • ||

    Really guys, it wasn't that bad of an article.

    Really, it was:

    Among the qualities that make 18-year-olds such good soldiers are their fearlessness and sense of immortality-traits that do not mix well with alcohol.

    Give me a break...that's about the most substance-free and ridiculous comment I've read all week.

  • Elemenope||

    Are those of you complaining really that wedded to the idea of never having to read anything you disagree with in Reason?

    I read things here that I disagree with all the time. There is a huge difference between provocative and stupid.

    That difference is Steve Chapman.

  • ||

    It's not a matter of disagreeing with it. It's the matter that it wasn't written from an ethical point of view, but rather a utilitarian point of view. I know other people don't get upset when certain writers here pretend there isn't a problem when there is, and prefer to take the "X isn't a problem" opposed to the "even though X is a problem, we still shouldn't do Y" route. It's ok to be utilitarian as long as you're up front about your motives. But don't then pretend like your opinion rises out of ethics.

  • Elemenope||

    Yet this same young adult is breaking the law when ordering an appletini?

    Yah! The laws of good taste. If you want a Jolly Rancher, go suck on one. If you want a drink, make it taste like a drink.

  • ||

    Age of a majority is a broken concept.

    Its an arbitrary line, sure, but arbitrary lines have the virtue of being very clear.

    If we go to a case-by-case age of majority based on the maturity (whatever that is) of each person, whether a person has the freedoms and responsibilities of an adult is never clear, either to themselves or (more importantly) to the people they deal with.

    In this case, I think an arbitrary line is the way to go.

  • ||

    If you want a drink, make it taste like a drink.

    As always, this is appropriate here.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Youtube's blocked here, but is that "My New Haircut", Episiarch?

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Yanno, I'm not a big fan of Chapman and I strongly disagree with that column. But, aside from the obvious "it's your publication, run whatever the hell you want" point, fergawdsakes never let Warren get the idea he has any influence around here. I'd probably have to subscribe just so I could cancel my subscription then.

  • Elemenope||

    As always, this is appropriate here.

    Kids in the Hall is as usual, brilliant. My personal fave was the "God is dead...and we have found his body!" skit.

    As far as drinks that taste like candy, the only one I can really get behind is Amaretto, and that stuff has an out: it smells like cyanide.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Oh, Girl Drink Drunk.

  • ||

    Epi,

    "Girl Drink Drunk" is my 2nd favorite Kid In the Hall sketch. We watched it in the office the other day because the students hadn't seen it before.

    This, though, is my favorite.

  • ||

    God Is Dead

    "No way! Prove it!"

  • ||

    Oust Steve Chapman AlReady
    OSCAR OSCAR OSCAR


    Warren, China called. They'd like to borrow your notes.

  • ||

    Youtube's blocked here, but is that "My New Haircut", Episiarch?

    No, Kids in the Hall, but "My New Haircut" is brilliant in its own right. "I'm gonna get swelled"--genius.

  • Rhywun||

    a drinking age of 19. Keeps a lot of alcohol out of high schools



    The drinking age in Germany is 16. I went to a German high school when I was 17 and dammit all there weren't rivers of alcohol flowing around everywhere like I expected.

  • Rhywun||

    bring some cranky paleo in to write



    Derb?

  • ||

    I'm partial to Bruce McCulloch's absurdist sketches myself, but honestly, when the Chicken Lady and the Bearded Lady go watch Rooster Boy strip and scream "we can drink anything we want--we're FREAKS!", I almost passed out from laughing.

  • Brian Defferding||

    I remember here in Wisconsin, when I was in high school, the issue of dropping the drinking age to 19 came to the table. During this time, a house party was broken up by police at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which caused students to riot up and down mainstreet causing tons of damage and vandalism. The bill was scrapped. >__

  • Rhywun||

    The bill was scrapped.



    ...thus ensuring more underground house parties and scare-stories of 20-year-old "children" choking on their own puke.

    God, people are fucking stupid.

  • Elemenope||

  • ||

    Damn, that argument must now and forever be referred to as the "Chapman Smackdown".

    Its nice to know that nanny state douches lurk even in the most libertarian of corners. Someone has to think of the kids.

  • dhex||

    DJ Raimondo

    "you know, i like some of his earlier tracks but the bassline always sounds like 'israel' being repeated over and over again."

  • ||

    I think the discussion of drinking age, and drunk driving laws in general, brings up an interesting libertarian debate. In almost every case, liberty trumps utility, because the amount of utility gained by restricting liberty is insignificant. However, the question stands: Is there an amount of possible danger caused by an activity that can warrant making it illegal? If 50% of people from 18-20 were running people down every time they got drunk (I know they aren't), would it then be reasonable to restrict their freedoms? I don't buy into the statistics in this case, and even so, the utility is minimal at best, so I agree any adult (whatever we determine adult to be) should have all the rights of adulthood. That still leaves me wondering, though, if there is a certain level of danger posed by an activity that would actually allow it to be regulated under libertarian standards. Anyone have an opinion on that?

    Also, in NJ the legal age to buy tobacco is 19. Fuck that.

  • Dave W.||

    Justin Raimondo

    seconded

  • ||

    Is there an amount of possible danger caused by an activity that can warrant making it illegal?

    I think so, yes. "Negligent" anything (discharge of a firearm, for example) is basically outlawing an activity not for the harm it just caused, but for the harm it is likely to cause.

  • Junter Klops||

    That still leaves me wondering, though, if there is a certain level of danger posed by an activity that would actually allow it to be regulated under libertarian standards. Anyone have an opinion on that?

    This is one of the reasons people want to outlaw child porn. It is too likely that the child would have been forced into it against their will, and also too hard to tell if they actually consented or not. Some people don't even think children can consent to anything.

  • robc||

    RC Dean,

    Ditto drunk driving. Some are in favor of only charging those who actually harm others, but I see value in the negligence aspect too. Its also why I think there needs to be a range of DUI charges. Something like:

    .08 - fine
    .12 - misdemeanor
    .16 - felony

    Im not arguing for those specific numbers, they are just an example. The break points should be based upon statistics, but it would be something like that. The point being that people driving with a .08 arent driving down the wrong side of the interstate into school buses. They are a slighly increased danger, just like someone going 15 over the limit or something.

  • ||

    RC Dean -

    Right, but what is the threshold of "negligent". Some states have cellphone bans while driving. Is the danger posed by driving on a cell phone enough to be considered being negligent while driving? I am trying to discern some meaningful line where danger trumps liberty. It is tough, especially because without such a line, it very easily becomes a slippery slope argument (as fluffy argued in the previous thread regarding Chapman's article). Libertarians, despite saying that liberty is paramount, have some sense that ridiculous amounts of possible danger caused by some activity could still be made illegal. They just seem to set the danger bar way higher than everyone else, and rightly so.

  • ||

    re: ClubMedSux
    "I think he's one of the most effective ambassadors of basic libertarian policy."

    The problem is when the masses start getting confused about whether Chapman represents "libertarian policy".

    Wasn't Mr Chapman #23 on reason's list of why Chicago is the worst city in America?

  • ||

    If 50% of people from 18-20 were running people down every time they got drunk (I know they aren't), would it then be reasonable to restrict their freedoms?

    If, by this, you mean, "Try them in court, and throw their stupid asses in jail" for the crime of Running People Down, yes; it would be reasonable to restrict their freedom.

    Drinking not same as "Running People Down". Similarly, shooting heroin not same as "Burglarizing Homes to Pay Heroin Bill".

  • kinnath||

    Is there an amount of possible danger caused by an activity that can warrant making it illegal?

    Getting drunk enough kill yourself -- darwin award and our thanks for cleaning up the gene pool.

    Getting drunk and killing someone else with a car -- a premeditated act of random violence.

    Getting drunk -- not a crime
    Driving drunk -- not a crime
    Hurting someone else (drunk or not) -- a crime

    Simple, no?

  • ||

    Everyone who automatically conflates "drinking" and "drinking and driving" begs for their opinion to be ignored. Smearing the two ideas together is just neo-prohibitionist clap-trap scare tactics.

  • Kolohe||

    What is really baffling for me is that Chapman had an article criticizing what he called libertanian paternalism not even three weeks ago. Where he takes pretty much the opposite side of every argument he made in yesterday's article.

  • ||

    However, the question stands: Is there an amount of possible danger caused by an activity that can warrant making it illegal? If 50% of people from 18-20 were running people down every time they got drunk (I know they aren't), would it then be reasonable to restrict their freedoms?

    Well, I don't think its just a question of what percentage of whatever age group drive drunk.

    One issue with that kind of thing is the availability (or lack there of) of other means of combating the problem - for example increased patrols near college bars to look for erratic drivers, or all-night public transit from redlight districts.

    Another thing is - if there are going to be regulations, can they come up with some that will be minimally burdensome. For example, they could have some special license for bars that serve 18-20 year olds - requiring them to check for car keys and hold them until the drunk person has a cab there for him/her or something. I'm not proposing that, but it would be an improvement over the current system.

    This is one of the reasons people want to outlaw child porn. It is too likely that the child would have been forced into it against their will, and also too hard to tell if they actually consented or not.

    Not exactly....

    Some people don't even think children can consent to anything.

    This is more precisely the argument. I don't know about "anything", but I don't think a child can give valid consent to having sex - gray areas with adolesents(sp?) aside.

  • ||

    Right, but what is the threshold of "negligent".

    Its kind of slippery, I admit, and does not really submit to any mathematical forumula (a 10% increase in the risk of death, etc.).

    In liability situations, negligence nearly always comes up after actual harm has occurred. Without harm, there just isn't a civil suit to determine whether negligence occurred.

    Criminal law, though, often crosses over to prevention of harm through crimes related to negligence, conspiracy, attempt, etc. Negligence in a criminal setting is something like engaging in an activity that any normal person would know posed unacceptable risks to others.

    Of course, that just pushes the question back to "whats an unacceptable risk to others", but nobody said this was going to be easy.

  • Adam||

    re: RC Dean
    "Of course, that just pushes the question back to "whats an unacceptable risk to others", but nobody said this was going to be easy."

    That's why we should only make actual harm, rather than potential harm, a crime.

    Negligence strays too often into the realm of prior restraint. Our legal system is built on retroactivity, for good reason.

  • ||

    Jeez, you fuckers are hard on Chapman.
    What do you want, a goddamn echo chamber around here? I say let him stay.
    NO OSCAR
    NO OSCAR
    NO OSCAR.

    I read his column on the drinking age yesterday, and he made several valid points.
    For me to poop on.

  • ||

    Driving drunk -- not a crime

    WTF?
    So, I suppose you think shooting a firearm off randomly in a public square is OK, provided no bullets actually hit anyone.

  • Naga Sadow||

    In theory, I support lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. As a bartender, I hate serving anyone under 24. Damn kids don't know how to tip, ask me stupid questions like "You know how to make a martini?", and "How are the Mai Tai's here?", and expect me to know all the hot spots around Biloxi(I do but I don't want losers following me when I get off work). But the worst group? Bachlorette parties! All want separate checks, worthless tippers, and half of em want me to make a "special" drink for em'.

  • Adam||

    re: Jaime

    Exactly. If you don't cause any injury, what is the crime?

    Now, if you do something stupid like that and someone gets hurt, then by all means, we should throw the book at you.

    No harm, no foul.

  • kinnath||

    WTF?
    So, I suppose you think shooting a firearm off randomly in a public square is OK, provided no bullets actually hit anyone.


    Always an interesting question.

  • ||

    That's why we should only make actual harm, rather than potential harm, a crime.

    So if your neighbor takes a shot at you, and misses, no crime?

  • Dagny T.||

    I didn't think I wanted to read another rehashing of the drinking age thing, but nobody said there would be Kids in the Hall links! I love those crazy Canadians.

    Girl Drink Drunk is good, but the Work at the Bank one might be my fav.

  • ||

    That's why we should only make actual harm, rather than potential harm, a crime.

    So if your neighbor takes a shot at you, and misses, no crime?


    OK, let's make it actual OR intended harm. You know, like, attempted murder.

  • kinnath||

    So if your neighbor takes a shot at you, and misses, no crime?

    And there's the next step.

    We start with depraved indifference (shooting blindly into a public space -- not defined yet whether its empty or crowded) and then step our way up to an actual intended effort to harm someone (which more than likely failed due to incompetence).

    This is why no one can have a rational discussin on the first question.

  • ||

    "Do you think they give the Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"

  • kinnath||

    From Wikipedia: Criminal offenses can be broken down into two general categories malum in se and malum prohibitum.

    Shooting a gun into an empty public square at 2 am is malum prohibitum. Same act a lunch time is malum in se.

    The overall philosophical question is how to prevent someone from shooting a gun into a public square at a time when the probability of harm is very high.

    One solution is to make the likelyhood of punishment very high and the punishment itself extreme. This prevents all but the sociopath from shooting a gun into a public square at lunch.

    The problem with this approach is it requires surveillance of the public square when people are there (a resource burden) and leaves an open question of when some act become evil when the space between good and bad is filled with grey.

    Another solution to ban shooting a gun in public spaces at any time. The advantage of this solution is there are no grey areas. Nice and discrete, fire a gun, commit a crime. Yet when it comes time to punish people, we either adopt a zero tolerance policy and throw someone in jail for most of his/her life for shooting a gun into an empty public square at 2 am. Or make a value judgement at time of sentencing whether or not this act in question was really evil or just a violation of the rules. You have not eliminated the problem with grey areas, only shifted the time when you need to determine whether or not an act is evil.

    The other big problem I see with the malum prohibitum concept is where to you stop. If it's illegal to shoot a gun in a public space, then why does anyone need a gun in a public space. Besides if we ban guns in public spaces we can just set up metal detectors and it will be much easier to find criminals than having resources standing around until someone actually shoots a gun.

    No doubt it makes my intestines churn a bit to say that firing a gun into an empty public space is not a crime. But I do actually believe that the world would work better if the law only bans acts of intential harm (whether act is succesful or not) and then punish those that break the law.

    Making things that might cause harm just leads down a slippery slope where some committee decides what is harm, what probablity of harm is the threshold for crime, etc etc etc.

  • Adam||

    Well said, kinnath.

    This is one of those areas of libertarian philosophy that on its face scares most people, because it's "extreme". But when you start rationally dealing with the details of where the law starts and stops, the "extreme" view is the only one which stands up to rationality.

    Same goes for the drinking age debate. People's objections to lowering it are mostly based on emotion and hysteria, not on reason and logic.

  • kinnath||

    This is one of those areas of libertarian philosophy that on its face scares most people, because it's "extreme".

    Liberatian philosophy: Let people be free; hold people responsible for their acts.

  • T||

    Liberatian philosophy: Let people be free; hold people responsible for their acts.

    Yup, that second half is the part that scares people.

  • Brian||

    I like Naga's point - and to expand on it, in theory the under-21s -can- vote, but in practice they don't.

    Therefore, I suggest jacking the drinking age up to Naga's 24 to give bartenders a chance at better tips, until such time as 18-21 voter turnout reaches the levels of the bigger-tipping old farts who'll return to the bars with the girly-drink bimbos having been dispatched.

  • ||

    I think the drinking age should be lowered, but that doesn't mean I want a bunch of obnoxious little bastards drinking in *my* bar.

  • Fluffy||

    So, I suppose you think shooting a firearm off randomly in a public square is OK, provided no bullets actually hit anyone.

    Well, we should also arrest everyone who has ever driven while being prescribed antidepressants:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080817223434.htm

  • ||

    OK, let's make it actual OR intended harm.

    We criminalize behaviors that have a high likelihood of harm to to reduce their frequency.

    Failing to do so infringes on my liberty by decreasing the likelihood that my life will be free from harm due to the jackassery of others.

  • ||

    Today I've been mulling the question about whether or not we should make dangerous acts illegal, or instead simply hold responsible those that harm others while performing dangerous acts. Kinnath says it well in the breakdown about shooting in a public square; people should be held responsible for the crimes they actually commit, not may commit. On the other hand, Tbone brings up a good point about the possibility that it is a public good to prevent jackasses from hurting random people in public. Without some meaningful limit on how far the prevention can go, however, you get into the slippery slope. The best I can come up with is either to remove laws like drunk driving laws, which prevent possible, or probable, damage, or to leave it up to the smallest forms of government to decide. It seems with things like drunk driving, which could be argued as a public good that can only be achieved through government, but requires a weighing of liberty lost against a public good, should be the responsibility of either towns, counties, or at worst, states. This solution, of course, depends on whether or not you accept that there is any sort of cost-benefit analysis to be done between liberty and security, and that if the risk to public security is too great, we can restrict liberty to fix it. If you don't accept that any security could justify loss of liberty, then I guess drunk driving itself shouldn't be a crime either. It's a hard pill to swallow, but logically, it is a pretty sound argument.

  • ||

    Person A shoots randomly into a public square and doesn't hit anyone.

    Person B shoots randomly into a public square and hits someone.

    If the only reason for the difference is better luck in the case of person A, then I don't think it makes sense to charge B with homocide/assult with a deadly weapon/etc; while letting A completely off the hook.

    Another example could be burying landmines in a public park and then walking away. Once you do that, it no longer makes sense to say "Take responsibility for whether your landmines harm anyone". The outcome of whether they harm someone or not no longer depends on your present actions - and you already committed the act that would make you "responsible" if they do.

    The basic idea here is: Act X does not necessarily harm others, it will only do so when condition Y is met. Condition Y is reasonably likely, one doesn't know whether it will be met at the time of performing X, and the X performer does not control whether Y obtains. This is one of the (relatively few) types of cases when I'd say its ok for the government to criminalize acts which are not always - in themselves - harmful to others.

    Drinking doesn't fall into this category, since you still control your own actions even when drunk.

    I would argue that drunk driving does fall into that category - since one no longer has the ability to drive carefully if one is sufficiently intoxicated. However, this leaves open some questions. What BAC does one need to reach this point? Is it different for different people? Should police only enforce such a law against those actually seen driving dangerously? Etc.

  • ||

    We criminalize behaviors that have a high likelihood of harm to to reduce their frequency.

    Failing to do so infringes on my liberty by decreasing the likelihood that my life will be free from harm due to the jackassery of others.


    Hm, well, what "percentage decrease" is tolerable to you and what isn't?

    How is that not arbitrary? And how is that not a simultaneous invitation to the Control Freaks and Nanny Wannabes out there to suddenly start manufacturing specious "studies" to demonstrate the "high likelihood of harm" from activities X, Y and Z?

    After all, most people think there's a "high likelihood of harm" from secondhand smoke...these people are also, unfortunately, voting idiots. But the restraint on liberty is *totally* justifiable under your metric.

  • miche||

    My oldest daughter called me this afternoon to tell me about a New Orleans cop buying a drink for her 20 year old friend and then ticketing her for drinking under age.

  • ||

    I would argue that drunk driving does fall into that category - since one no longer has the ability to drive carefully if one is sufficiently intoxicated

    I think you almost answered your own question: it is not the act of driving drunk that is determined by the sheer luck of "A who Crashes" and "B who does not". It's dangerous, aggressive driving that has a probability approaching 1.0 that said dangerous driver is going to hurt or kill someone.

    People don't realize the honest-to-god slippery slope DUI put us on. It's justified checkpoints, bans on cellphones, random stops just to "shake down" innocent drivers, patent lies on the part of the police that they "sense the presence of alcohol" so they can tear the seats out of your car and take you to county for the night for no good reason other than they didn't get laid.

    The sheer panic about DUI has also led to the absurdity (in my state, anyway) that:

    conviction of DUI = 1 year suspended, buncha fines bla bla
    refusal to comply with Breathalyzer and field tests = six months suspension and buncha fines.

    oh yeah, and the legislature has authorized the forcible withdrawal of blood on those suspected of DUI (who already have two or more convictions of DUI)...how long do you think it's going to take to expand that to "first-time suspects"?

    The dirty secret of society is that DUI is a lot like masturbation: a lot of people do it, and no one admits to it.

  • ||

    The reason we cant prosecute person "A" in the scenario where A and B shoot into a square, A hits no one, B hits someone, is because they did not actually harm someone. B, however, did harm someone, and should be punished for it. The idea here is that neither will be blindly shooting into crowded squares because of the high likelihood of them getting convicted of some sort of crime. It is also unsafe for a libertarian to say we should assume that a dangerous act which does not harm someone only failed to do so because of luck on the performer's part.

    There are two slippery slopes when dealing with the argument of how much danger is necessary to regulate a risky action. One, when saying that there is some amount of danger which, if likely enough, could justify regulation. This could be argued on the grounds that it is a public good to prevent extremely unsafe behaviors, such as the firing a gun into a square scenario, or drunk driving.

    The other slippery slope comes with the argument that we should only criminalize behaviors that actively violate the rights of the victims, not merely have the chance to. This stance would make drunk driving and firing the gun into the square legal, but you are responsible for any crimes committed while performing this risky act. The slippery slope here occurs when you get into questions about blatantly dangerous acts. For instance, using this logic, there should be no law against driving on the wrong side of the road, or against purchasing rocket launchers, as long as you didn't actually commit a crime with them.

  • ||

    I think you almost answered your own question: it is not the act of driving drunk that is determined by the sheer luck of "A who Crashes" and "B who does not". It's dangerous, aggressive driving that has a probability approaching 1.0 that said dangerous driver is going to hurt or kill someone.

    What question did I almost answer? When one is driving with a very high blood alcohol level, one will be unable to avoid driving in a manner that is dangerous. That's a fact about the effect of alcohol on one's ability to be coordinated. Although there are still the questions I brought up at the end of my last post.

    People don't realize the honest-to-god slippery slope DUI put us on.

    Perhaps not. But that slope may be more horizontal and have less friction than you think.

    With the exception of bans on driving while on a cell phone (which I'm not where I stand on), everything you mention in your post is about enforcement methods, possible invasions of privacy, and sentencing. While those are important issues, they arise even crimes that clearly violate the rights of others. So pointing that stuff out doesn't show that the underlying law is unjust.

    The dirty secret of society is that DUI is a lot like masturbation.....

    I guess I've been a menace to society for years, especially during high school :)

    (I know, I know, that is not what you meant)

    The reason we cant prosecute person "A" in the scenario where A and B shoot into a square, A hits no one, B hits someone, is because they did not actually harm someone. B, however, did harm someone, and should be punished for it. The idea here is that neither will be blindly shooting into crowded squares because of the high likelihood of them getting convicted of some sort of crime.

    But that deterrent effect would be even greater if A could be prosecuted, since the only way to avoid prosecution would be to avoid getting caught. If only B could be prosecuted, the chances of avoiding prosecution would be greater. And A is not morally innocent, so penalizing A would not be unjust.

    It is also unsafe for a libertarian to say we should assume that a dangerous act which does not harm someone only failed to do so because of luck on the performer's part.

    Well, I'm more of a Classic Liberal myself. But in any event, sometimes it is obvious that the harm only didn't happen because of luck. See my burying landmines example.

  • ||

    Oops.

    My last post should read:

    "Perhaps not. But that slope may be more horizontal and have more friction than you think."

  • ||

    BG, that brings us back to the original question of: What is the appropriate level of, or potential for, danger to public safety that an act must pose to require regulation? There seems to be some line drawn between things like eating and driving, which could impair you, talking on a cell phone and driving, which seems to be a moderate impairment, and drinking and driving, which is a definite impairment if you are drunk. What is the justification for distinguishing between mildly impairing acts, such as eating, moderate, such as cell phones, or major, such as being drunk? Without that, it becomes a slippery slope of nanny-state type regulation. Arguing the opposite, that only acts that do actual damage should be criminalized, has the problems you mentioned plus provides no justification for laws that seemingly make sense, such as laws against driving on the wrong side of the road.

    There seems to be some level of "unsafe" that we are trying to balance against freedom to do as you please, or as RC Dean put it earlier, "unacceptable risk to others". Maybe it is the purpose of local government to decide the appropriate ratio of risk to freedom for their populations. I am trying to figure out a logical, objective answer to the question, but I haven't been able to do it yet.

  • ||

    BG - Also regarding your "If A and B randomly shoot into a square" argument, you can't hold people responsible for crimes they haven't committed. If I make the statement, in dead seriousness, that I will commit some crime if I roll a die and it comes up 6, but then roll it and it comes up 1, should I be prosecuted for that crime? Is allowing the commission of a crime to be up to chance criminal in and of itself?

  • ||

    BG - Also regarding your "If A and B randomly shoot into a square" argument, you can't hold people responsible for crimes they haven't committed. If I make the statement, in dead seriousness, that I will commit some crime if I roll a die and it comes up 6, but then roll it and it comes up 1, should I be prosecuted for that crime? Is allowing the commission of a crime to be up to chance criminal in and of itself?

    If you "make the statement, in dead seriousness, that (you) will commit some crime if I roll a die and it comes up 6"; you would still have to take the additional acts of committing that crime after rolling a 6. And you might change your mind. If you take some overt action towards committing that crime after rolling a 6, that is when it is ok to intervene to stop you (and impose penalties).

    However, lets say you rig some system where there is a gun pointed at an innocent person - hooked up to a computerized firing system - which is in turn hooked up to a camera. The setup is such that if you roll a 6, the gun will fire and kill the person. In that case, merely rolling the die would be criminal. No further action on your part would be needed if were to roll a 6.

    Of course, another issue with the A and B firing into a public square thing would be: what if one fired when it was crowded and one when it was not? In that case luck might not be the only factor accounting for a difference in outcome. In an earlier post, I didn't address this, but rather I addressed the case in which the two were equally crowded (and all other such factors are equal). But yeah, that could complicate things.

    BG, that brings us back to the original question of: What is the appropriate level of, or potential for, danger to public safety that an act must pose to require regulation? There seems to be some line drawn between things like eating and driving, which could impair you, talking on a cell phone and driving, which seems to be a moderate impairment, and drinking and driving, which is a definite impairment if you are drunk. What is the justification for distinguishing between mildly impairing acts, such as eating, moderate, such as cell phones, or major, such as being drunk? Without that, it becomes a slippery slope of nanny-state type regulation. Arguing the opposite, that only acts that do actual damage should be criminalized, has the problems you mentioned plus provides no justification for laws that seemingly make sense, such as laws against driving on the wrong side of the road.

    There seems to be some level of "unsafe" that we are trying to balance against freedom to do as you please, or as RC Dean put it earlier, "unacceptable risk to others". Maybe it is the purpose of local government to decide the appropriate ratio of risk to freedom for their populations. I am trying to figure out a logical, objective answer to the question, but I haven't been able to do it yet.


    Hmmm..... Let me think about that, and perhaps get back to you tomorrow.

  • AM||

    There seems to be some level of "unsafe" that we are trying to balance against freedom to do as you please, or as RC Dean put it earlier, "unacceptable risk to others". Maybe it is the purpose of local government to decide the appropriate ratio of risk to freedom for their populations. I am trying to figure out a logical, objective answer to the question, but I haven't been able to do it yet.

    That's easy. There isn't a way. Arbitrary lines are necessary.

    Not everything is a slippery slope.

    By the "no harm no foul" logic:

    Person A fires a gun into a crowd. No one is hurt. No wrong has been committed.

    Legislator A passes a law that you agree with, but you are disturbed by the possible logical extensions of the law. These extensions are not considered; you do not slip on the slope. No wrong has been committed.

    To condemn a law for the harm it could possibly lend itself to in the future, and not what it actually does, is to condemn person A for just firing the gun, and not whether or not he harms anyone.

    If you want to buy the "slippery slope" argument, you must acknowledge the wrongness of the potential for harm.

  • VM||

    Person A fires a gun into a crowd. No one is hurt. No wrong has been committed.



    Episiarch | August 22, 2008, 1:59pm | #
    That's why we should only make actual harm, rather than potential harm, a crime.

    So if your neighbor takes a shot at you, and misses, no crime?

    OK, let's make it actual OR intended harm. You know, like, attempted murder.


    they hashed this! c'mon, AM, get with the PM!

    (keed keeed, cept can't follow your statement.)

  • ||

    Wow, no wonder no one votes for Libertarians.

    Guys--it's quite obvious that NONE of you are law students. Go read up on the history of why we have the set-up we do. You might understand a bit better. Allowing people to get away scott-free with carrying out reckless behavior simply because through the luck of the draw they managed to not kill someone that time simply encourages them to think that they can continue out said reckless behavior in the future. Did you ever know a drunk who wasn't convinced he could handle himself perfectly well?

    We tried it your way already, and it doesn't work.

    (And before you decide to chuck out over 1500 years of jurisprudence, you might want to study exactly what it is you are insisting that we throw out.)

  • Adam||

    re: Grumpy Realist

    a lot of libertarianism involves throwing out the existing jurisprudence....and why not?

    legal systems rely upon precedent, sometimes to a fault. Look at all of the blatantly unconstitutional things we've got now, such as the drug war. The only thing holding the whole system together is an unwillingness to challenge a few bad precedents.

    Just because people decided something a long time ago doesn't make it right.

  • AM||

    grumpy realist:

    Quite right.

    You tell someone that you want to legalize marijuana and they are interested. You tell them that you want to legalize prostitution and they smile and nod. You tell them you want to legalize drunk driving and they never talk to you again.

    I am just glad that many libertarians don't subscribe to this inanity. Or at least I hope so. I never really see them argue with the "no harm no foul" people when it comes up. In hindsight, they are probably smarter for it, as this is just a ridiculous argument.

  • dpsc||

    BG saya: "Is it different for different people? Should police only enforce such a law against those actually seen driving dangerously? Etc."

    It almost certainly is different for different people. One of my best friends has been driving drunk on a daily basis for many years. He finally got popped a couple of years ago, and there was hell to pay because his daughter (still a minor) was in the car. He's an exceptionally good driver, and is pretty used to being a bit over the limit. He's probably safer than the average driver up to at least twice the legal limit.

    The problem is that there's no easy way to determine that that's the case. What are you going to do, have "drunk driver's license" tests (though that could be fun, and a lucrative reality show)? I've come to the strange position of supporting the laws that popped him (in essence- I might not support the details of those laws, or where they set the limit), while thinking it would be better if he weren't popped.

    I guess I think that if you fire into a crowd you ought to be stopped from doing so again, because it's really hard to tell if you are William Fucking Tell.

  • ||

    Grumpy, just because you say we aren't law students (I am planning to be, but am undergrad at the moment), doesn't mean the current law isn't logically sound. The reason drunk driving is a logical issue, compared to firing into a crowd randomly, is that they are fundamentally different issues. Actions that pose direct danger to the public by their very nature should be criminalized at the behest of the population if they vote it so. I think it is up to the people to decide their threshold of "safety" they want to sacrifice liberty for.

    Drunk driving is not an action that poses direct danger to the public by its very nature. To be unsafe by nature, a danger must be posed by every person performing the action as long as possible victims of the action are present. Just like eating and driving, drinking and driving is not necessarily dangerous by its nature. You can't ban an act preemptively because some of those people committing that act *might* be doing something unsafe.

    If I get into the care in the middle of the night, yea I hope that I don't pass any people who are wasted drunk driving. However, during the day, I hope that I don't get hit by soccer mom's yelling at their kids, people eating or reading while driving, watching TV in their cars, etc etc etc. None of these things are dangerous by their nature, so we cannot prosecute every person who performs these actions. Once they lead to an action unsafe act, we can then punish them for doing so. Being absolutely wasted an unable to operate a vehicle should not be a crime because you are wasted, but because you are unable to operate the vehicle. If you operate your vehicle poorly, that is unsafe and a crime. There is no reason to single out drunk people for operating a vehicle poorly, especially not *before* they are doing it. That would be like having Sandwich Checkpoints along the road to arrest you for eating, even if you can do it perfectly fine while driving.

  • ||

    As a small addendum, I want to respond to your reference to libertarians sounding reasonable when they want to legalize pot and prostitution, and sounding crazy when they come out with stuff like legalizing drinking and driving. Issues like this are important for libertarians to consider, but definitely not the priority considering all the other losses of liberty we have endured. Basically, this would be at the end of the list of issues to get on a stump about. However, that does not make it any less of a logical argument.

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