Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Dilemmas of an Inconsistent Libertarian

This morning, Five Live had a phone in titled 'How far should the smoking ban be extended?' Not 'Should the smoking ban be extended?' which is a neutral title, but 'How far...' which indicates a tacit acceptance that it should be extended to some degree.

My view is that it is totally inconsistent to have a partial ban. If smoking is considered so harmful to public health, then why allow it at all? It's either harmful or it isn't. But of course no government is going to ban it completely, partly because of the loss of tax income and partly because it would lose several million votes overnight.

But of course those of us who like to think we have a libertarian streak and would not have banned it at all, also have a consistency problem. If I was a consistent libertarian I would want to legalise soft (or even hard) drugs. But I don't. I guess that makes me a pragmatist rather than an ideologue in this area, which in a debate is always the worst place to be. It's always tough to win a philosophical debate when you have to admit from the start that your argument is inconsistent.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone who supports the continued prohibition of drugs can call themselves a libertarian in any real sense.

David Boothroyd said...

Isn't this the fallacy of the excluded middle in action? It is quite possible to say that the response to smoking being harmful is to discourage it without actually banning it. Peter Kellner has an interesting piece on Comment is Free about public attitudes (and smokers' attitudes).

The pure libertarian line about the freedom of people to damage their health doesn't work well with smoking, where there are damaging effects of breathing other people's exhaled smoke.

Anonymous said...

No doubt this is an interesting issue - but right now Royal Bank of Scotland shares are falling 30%+ - all thanks to Darlings Ditherings yesterday.

And Wembley Stadium look like selling 50% of itself to the Arabs.

I suggest you need to turn your attention to the real problem.

And Iain - given that Iceland (thats the country, not the supermarket) looking like going bust I think you can see that this mess is all going to impact catastrophically on the real economy, not least your beloved West Ham.

PhilC said...

A dilemma nicely summarised.
Perhaps if the starting point is to curtail those things which harm others you can keep your libertarian and your pragmatism intact.
If you choose to harm yourself with smoking, fair enough. But you can't choose to harm others (through secondary smoke).
If you choose to drink to excess then it's your liver. If it harms others then the state should step in to protect society.
The point of the smoking ban is to protect low paid people working in bars and clubs just as we protect workers who handle asbestos.
Would a genuinely libertarian approach remove all health and safety support because it is an imposition on a worker's freedom to fall off an unsecured scaffold?

Tamburlaine said...

What David said.

I would add that, in fact, there are better grounds for restricting/banning smoking in public than for any other form of narcotic (from alcohol to heroin) - because only tobacco (because of the risk from passive smoking) has the potential to make bystanders ill too.

Praguetory said...

There's nothing wrong with being a moderate libertarian.

Anonymous said...

I'm biased. I smoke. Yes, some people sadly die of lung cancer. Many don't. Just as some die of chirosis of the liver, some die in car accidents, and many don't. I do defend the right of people who work not to have to be subjected to 'second-hand' smoke, but the government went overboard. What would have been wrong with laying down an aceptable air quality level and then allowing those establishments who chose to invest in the tecnology to put in extraction and filtration to meet the standard? - with randon unnanounced checks and big fines for perpetrators. And the argument that the government's approach saves the taxpayer millions in NHS costs of not having to treat patients has a flip side as well. Think of the taxpayer savings in pensions not having to be paid to those who smoke and die young!

Anonymous said...

David and Tambourlaine Passive smoking is nothing more than a mere irritant. So no need for legislation.

Most studies agree with me- the ones that show a risk show a very minimal one. They have been enlarged by this NuLabour government and other bodies. Nuf said.

Tom FD said...

What about our right to clean air, eh?

Anonymous said...

You missed the most important reason for not banning smoking outright: it won't stop smoking, simply hand the production and distribution of the product over to criminals.

Prohibition of alcohol was a catastrophic failure for society. Prohibition of all drugs is. There's no need to compound the stupidity by adding tobacco into the mix.

David Boothroyd said...

Anonymous @ 10:26 claims "passive smoking is nothing more than a mere irritant."

The Surgeon General of the USA, summarising a CDC study, disagrees: "The health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are more pervasive than we previously thought. The scientific evidence is now indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults." (see Marc Kaufman, "U.S. Details Dangers of Secondhand Smoking", Washington Post, June 28, 2006, page A01).

Anonymous said...

It makes you a conservative, not a libertarian.

Tim Carpenter said...

Remember, Iain, that the smoking ban included private premises, i.e. PUBS, where nobody is there by compulsion and anyone working there knows it is a smoky environment.

If you want to ban anything, ban diesel vehicles. Pollution kills.

T England said...

If you dont like smoke dont work or go where there is smoke, if I want to smoke then who the hell is anyone to stop me?
I'm fed up with these limp wristed liberal pressure groups telling me how to live. Who elected them to stop me smoking?
I HATE pressure groups, full of granies with nothing better to do with their life.

Let's have some fair play.
Somking rooms for smokers & the rest of you can take your UNELECTED pressure groups & stick em where there is no smoke.

Shaun said...

Don't people see the end game here? They will say that if you have children or children visit your home, then you will be unable to smoke there. This will necessitate and extra class of busybodies to have the legal power to enter your dwelling and snoop to see if you've been illicitly using a legal product.

This isn't about smoking, its about the steady and irrevocable erosion of privacy in this country...

Grumpy Middle-Aged Man said...

Iain, instead of worrying about the inconsistency of your position, why don't you mention why you wouldn't legalise soft or hard drugs? Some of the most popular illegal substances used to be legal, after all. Btw, here's my declaration of interest: I smoke, don't drink, don't take drugs. Sometimes I am bothered by the behaviour of drunks, but not for a second would I suggest we should ban alchol.

Homercles of Edinburgh said...

Iain, You start off with a bald statement that the only smoking ban that would make sense is a total ban, and then at the end of the post you self-identify as a pragmatist!

A true pragmatist would recognise that smoking is harmful but at the same time, millions of people are hopelessly addicted to nicotine and a total ban is unworkable. You nearly get there, but couch it in electioneering terms.

Forget 'Inconsistent Libertarian'. How about 'inconsistent from one paragraph to the next'.

Iain Dale said...

I have to admit, you have a fair point there!

Niccolo Machiavelli said...

I fail to see the pragmatism in that position.

Gavin Kennedy said...

We already have an example of making something illegal, a crime and imposing severe penalties on being caught using it.

Given the almost total failure of illegal drug supply and use, why on earth are we edging towards making cigarettes illegal?

It won't work; people will still smoke; and others wills till breath in the smoke, with harmful effects.

Whatever side you stand on - smoker or non-smoker (disclosure I have never smoked a cigarette) - common sense and pragmatism suggests the banning is noit just futie, it is financially horrendous too.

Bulldog said...

If you were really a "pragmatist rather than an ideologue in this area", surely you would support the decriminalize of all drugs.

After all nearly 80 years of prohibition and the combined forces of international governments hasn't stopped the drugs trade has it? In fact drug use is probably more prevalent than ever.

So from a pragmatic point of view, wouldn't it be better to legalise, regulate and tax it and use the money raised to educate about the risks?

Jilted John said...

If you were really a "pragmatist rather than an ideologue in this area", surely you would support the decriminalize of all drugs.

too true. The practical, pragmatic and utilitarian arguments in favour of ending prohibition are legion. Only two types of people oppose; ideologues, who believe that what you choose to ingest should be regulated by the state and those who are making their money out of prohibition (and although there aren't that many over here, in the US there are many people who would lose their livelihoods should prohibition come to a halt). Oh, and drug dealers, of course, they love prohibition, as it gives them monopoly on supply, and therefore on pricing, quality, and all the rest of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone who supports the continued prohibition of drugs can call themselves a libertarian in any real sense...


...or a pragmatist.

neil craig said...

You show the difficulty of producing impartiality Iain. Your proposed title is less impartial than "Should the Smoking Ban be Reduced, Extended or Left Unchanged" though that is a clumsy title. Slightly more unbiased, but in the other direction ;-) is "Is the medical evidence that passive smoking is a major health problem, used to justify the smoking ban, as good as claimed?"

On a factual basis it most certasinly isn't.

One of the ways the BBC lie & censor is, as evidenced here, that though they discuss the issues they decide what sides are discussed. A couple of years ago BBC Scotland broadcast a debate on our "Energy Future" between 2 teams, one of which wanted more windmills & the other of which wanted nothing but windmills. Equally during our war to help the KLA commit genocide the BBC bravely broadcast both views - should we on the one hand bomb Yugoslavia to help the KLA or should we on the other hand send in a ground invasion to help them? Of course the BBC knew at the time that a ground invasion, over 5,000 ft tall mountains from Albania was a physical impossibility but that did not intrude on their debate.

Iain Dale said...

Neil, you mistake me for someone who seeks to be impartial.

I am not the BBC!

Mark said...

This lot have the right approach in my opinion and are campaigning for the legalisation of all drugs: http://www.tdpf.org.uk/

I definitely think in 50 years time all drugs will be legal and controlled and we will look back at the ridiculous situation we are in at the moment where millions of people break the law every week the vast majority of whom are causing no harm (taking e.g. cannabis, ecstacy, cocaine) in the same was as the prohibition of alcohol era in the US is now viewed.

The problem at the moment is that the political classes (including especially the print media) throw terms like "soft on drugs" around without any engagement with the underlying issues. I am sure this will change eventually though.

Iain, perhaps you need to do some more research in this area. no offence but it is very easy for people to just accept the standard current illegal position and that War on Drugs as a good thing without properly thinking it through. If you are an instinctive libertarian then some deeper reading around this issue may cause you to rethink. It certainly has with me.

By the way I do not smoke, drink or take any illegal drugs so I have nothing personal to benefit from any change in the law.

Darrell G said...

I am biased too since I smoke. I tend to accept the ban on smoking indoors as I felt the trade of individual liberty was justified by the effects of passive smoking.

However, this is becoming one of those cases where the phrase 'tyranny of the majority' is becoming very applicable. A balance can be struck by accepting measures like the ban but not accepting what is effect a government sponsered war on a perfectly legal substance.

Liberty has to protect minorities while freeing the majority else it is not worth an awful lot in my view...

Ian said...

It's true to say that no pragmatist would oppose the legalisation (or at least decriminalisation) of most if not all drugs. But I think what ID must mean is "political pragmatist". Good sense though legalisation of drugs would be, it still seems to amount to political suicide. There are an awful lot of people in this country who just aren't ready for it.

griff said...

I'm a vegetarian. I used to eat meat and still long to put my teeth into a pork pie or have a bacon butty.

Because of that I don't preach to others what they should do.

But what will the health police tackle next? I think animal eaters.

I won't however join the mob braying for justice to animals.

Jilted John said...

It's true to say that no pragmatist would oppose the legalisation (or at least decriminalisation) of most if not all drugs. But I think what ID must mean is "political pragmatist".

ok, I'll buy that. There are still plenty of people who view being 'soft on drugs' (what a contemptible phrase) as akin to legalising pederasty. Some are blinded to the rational arguments because of personal tragedy and those I have sympathy for, but disagree with. Others, however, are p*ssy little puritans. Both should be pitied, but it's a crying shame they should have to be indulged.

Benjamin Gray said...

Jilted John, you're constructing straw men. For all the plethora of arguments you claim exist, on both comments all you've done is misrepresent the position of those who oppose the legalisation of all drugs.

I'm not going to go into it at the moment because I'm on the move and haven't got the time to, but please stick to advancing your own case, rather than rubbishing an opposing argument of your own construction.

Stuart King said...

Not someone I often quote but as Barry Goldwater said: "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue".

Jilted John said...

I'm not going to go into it at the moment because I'm on the move and haven't got the time to

When you do, I shall happily debate it with you. I wouldn't be so foolish as to 'claim' that a plethora of arguments exist without being happy to back that up. Neither am I so bored that I will joust with the air.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with Shaun. WHO/ASH and the other pernicious lobbyists of the anti-smokig crusaders want sanctioned authority to intrude into every aspect of our lives in their quest to push their lies.

Posters still mention 'passive'smoke' as if it's gospel, but that's old hat now, the crusaders don't even bother to hide their lies anymore, they openly state that 'smoke is a nuisance for non-smokers'. But what I find immoral and downright disgusting is the way they keep using 'THE CHILDREN' to further their aims. They should be prosecuted for child abuse. The media have lost the plot, they don't investigate anymore, they just take the word of the antis.

Ian can't seem to make up his mind whether he's a pragmatist or libertarian, but what about passing himself off as a compromiser, smoking/non-smoking establisments. I can't understand why the anti-crusaders and their non-smoking followers have a problem with this, it would suit both sides, but no some non-smokers would claim it's their human right to go into the smoking venue.

With all that's going on with the credit crisis the crusaders don't seem to be having any problems receiving grants/funding from the government and pharmaceutical companies.

Smokers are on a hiding to nothing unless some sanity is restored. The best smokers could do is stop buying tobacco here for a fortnight and deprive the treasury of their taxes. Money always talks.

D said...

...because only tobacco (because of the risk from passive smoking) has the potential to make bystanders ill too

Not true. Alcohol related violence is a real problem. You only need to visit a city centre at the weekend to see the damage it causes. The social cost of alcohol is well documented. A high percentage of beaten wives would say that alcohol was a key factor in domestic violence, so its not just trouble on the streets.

The smoking ban is being pushed by a small minority who won’t be happy until it is illegal. In my experience the majority of both non-smokers and smokers want a compromise. With current technology smoking areas/rooms could be created meaning less smoking in the streets and at home in front of the children whilst still protecting non smokers.

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Iain Dale writes: "But of course those of us who like to think we have a libertarian streak and would not have banned it at all, also have a consistency problem."

I think it is about time someone argued against this, so here goes.

Decision Theory (yes there is a Wikipedia entry under that name) gives us greater scope for balancing various factors in making decisions under uncertainty, with a multiplicity of benefits and costs, and where those benefits and cost arise in a probabilistic way.

In one of its simpler forms, we can use Bayesian Risk Analysis. As this is sufficient for the purpose of my argument here today, let's not get into considerations of the limitations or weaknesses of that particular approach.

With Bayesian Risk Analysis, for a single decision, we attach value on a common scale (say money) to the possible costs and benefits. We attach probabilities of occurrence to the good and bad events contingent on the possible policy choices representing that single decision. We then consider the overall benefit or cost for each policy choice, and favour the one with the greatest overall benefit (or the lowest overall cost).

Within all this, we can include a benefit favoured by libertarians, calling it something like 'freedom of personal action'. Furthermore, we can attach a value on our common scale (say money) to that benefit. This can then be traded off against the costs associated with the choice.

From this, for example, it is quite possible to find that the balance of benefit on one decision favours, say, compelling car passengers to wear seatbelts while it does not favour other decisions: say banning smoking in pubs, or relaxing laws on recreational drugs. [*1]

This is, by using in each case, the same value on our common scale, for the benefit of 'freedom of personal action'. Thus the (hypothetical) libertarian with the entirely consistent valuation policy on 'freedom of personal action' supports freedom of action in one decision and not in the other. This is, simply put, because for one decision the choice against personal freedom is balanced by greater costs than for the other decision.

Of course, a libertarian who places a higher benefit value on personal freedom (perhaps labelled a more extreme libertarian) would be against limiting freedom in all the above-mentioned decisions. Likewise a (mild) authoritarian could be for limiting freedom in some of these cases and not others, for the common good, also by having a consistent view on how much the value of the common good exceeds the value of personal freedom.

Now, of course the real problem with this sort of approach is not that that different people place different value on different things (such as personal freedom); we can cater for that. It is that that most people much of the time have little or no concept of all of the conflicting factors that should reliably inform their opinions, nor of the values that they ought to attach to those factors, let alone that their value-judgements on each individual factor should be (reasonably) consistent between the various different decisions that they make.

Politics is very tribal: success is judged by group acceptance and not rocking the boat, rather than by informed judgement. Decisions are often also taken as binary, rather than as more nuanced; in fact rhetoric is often used to make what is a truly graded decision into a binary one, so that tribal loyalties can be sought. Thus, many political decisions are badly made, at least the first time around.

Best regards

[*1] For the avoidance of doubt, I believe that each of the decisions mentioned above (car seatbelts, smoking and taking recreational drugs) all have at least some modest factors of benefit/harm to others as well as of benefit/harm to self (though I do not see secondary smoking as having significantly harmful health effects for most people). If any reader disagrees, and given that this is not central to my case, they should just imagine different decisions, more acceptable to themselves, each involving either or both of personal freedom and the common good.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting comments here, far better than the very basic level discussion that has taken place recently in some other places online.

I would suggest we need to define the following, as a starting point.

a. What do we mean by HARM.

b. What do we mean by ANOTHER PERSON.

One situation where these issues arise with great repercussions is where a pregnant woman is an addicted user of hard drugs. We need more than Wikepedia definitions of the Harm Principle to know how best to respond.

Is the unborn baby a person? Does it, at some stage during the pregnancy, become one deserving of the protection of the law? If so, is it deserving of all protection, or just some? (We might want to deem an advanced foetus a 'person' for the purposes of homicide law, yet not for child protection purposes since this might involve a great curtailment of the mother's liberty.) What level of harm is required to justify intervention? (If compulsory intervention is justified for a heroin addict pregnant woman, then what about a one who smokes ordinary cigarettes? Or one who regularly consumes more than the recommended level of alcohol units per week? Or an anorexic?)

There are also issues surrounding what the actor knows about the consequences of his or her actions.

Contrast the following.

Teenager A is aware that playing with matches is dangerous, yet persists in so doing in a built up residential area and starts a fire which results in death or serious injury to others.

Teenager B suffers from serious mental health illness and does not see a causal connection between playing with matches and causing a fire. He also starts a fire which results in death or serious injury to others.

Teenager C is of sound mind and understands that playing with matches may cause fires, yet he believes he is playing in a deserted area and would not harm anyone except possibly himself. Unknown to him, a homeless person is sleeping rough nearby. This person is subsequently killed in an ensuing fire.

As suggested above, these questions are but a starting point. We can perhaps aim for clarity of principle if not universal consistency.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting comments here. Iain - I'd be fascinated to hear your rationale for not wanting to legalise or decriminalise (some) currently illegal drugs. I note that David Cameron was a member of the Home Affairs Committee a few years back that produced a very considered report on all this - which included a reference to at least exploring further the possibility of introducing the legal regulation of cannabis and other drugs. No chance of him delivering on that one, sadly!

Anonymous said...

Historical comparisons are interesting here. Heroin, for example, was originally marketed as a cough medicine (by the same pharmaceutical company, Bayer & Co, that launched aspirin - they were called their two 'wonder drugs'). Possession and supply of heroin were only criminalised in 1920. Cocaine was widely used in dentistry - until the arrival of novocaine. The point is that the way we deal with these substances today is by no means the 'obvious' or 'inevitable' way that they must or will always be dealt with.

Raedwald said...

1. Let's be clear. No one, not one person, ever, has died of passive smoking. The EPA's study has been debunked as a huge con that abandoned statistical veracity for the sake of promulgating this lie.

See Numberwatch for a comprehensive debunking of the fraud - this post
http://tinyurl.com/4ok8tg
sums it up.

2. Children that grow up in the shadow of the Hammersmith flyover absorb such massive quantities of heavy metals from vehicle exhausts and catalysts that they are dumber and live shorter lives.

3. 'Exposure to smoke brings on childhood asthma'. Fine. So how come all the kids that sat through the 50s and 60s in smoke-filled cinemas, smoke filled buses and smoke-filled trains have a negligible incidence of asthma? If you look at the statistics, you might even suggest that exposure to smoke prevents childhood asthma ...

4. Yes, smoking makes some smokers more liable to cancer. It has other nasty effects in other people, from mild impotence to having gangrenous limbs amputated. Rock climbing, parachuting, ocean sailing and scuba diving also have attritional health effects. Occupational liability outweighs smoking as a morbidity predictor; being a non-smoking dentist, vet or journalist condemns you an earlier grave than being a smoking lock keeper.

5. Having said the above, I may be a smoker but have always tried not to cause unintentional irritation; a discreet cough from a lady in a train smoking compartment was usually enough for me to murmer 'Oh sorry' and stub it out or walk down the corridor. Likewise in decent restaurants where smoking spoiled some people's meal (but not in transport caffs). And I always respected parents' wishes about smoking or not in front of their kids.

6. As with you Iain my views on drugs are irrational. Before the days of skunk, I smoked my share of hash and weed in my youth and can't say it did any lasting psychological damage. But I can't stand coke sniffers; I walk away from them in social situations with a derisive sneer and a murmured 'pathetic scum'. Yes, I'd legalise smack and even supply it free on the NHS in return for the smackhead agreeing to having a huge Rimmer-like 'H' tattooed on their forehead. But I'll sack any member of my staff I find taking Coke.

vincent1 said...

I would like to say, what an interesting blog and comments.
They tried this in Canada, after spending millions on the smoking ban"experiment" the pictures, the misinformation, trying to "denormalise" smokers (myself included) they achieved nothing. 1 in 5 smoked before the ban,1 in 5 still smoke.
What they did achieve as already mentioned in the comments, was a thriving black market, with teenagers and adults buying who knows what.
I have never taken drugs (tried waccy baccy once) on my 40th birthday. I would prefer that the drugs were legal and clean. People are not going to stop taking them, at least they would be clean and untampered with.
I will not be shocked by the pictures, I know many elderly people who smoke, I also know many young and middle aged people who have and still are suffering with awful dieseses, and car accident victims. I am 52, I have been very lucky with my health.
I am shocked at where this is going though.
Thank you Iain
mandyv

vincent1 said...

I would also like to leave this here if it is allowed -
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=4a3b8eb9-e353-47e2-9b88-67c5e99fab76&p=2
Snip~
It doesn't just turn regular folks into scofflaws willing, at least, to wink at the plainly illegal source of their smokes. It also makes them complicit in the corrupting influence of organized crime on law enforcement. Black market vice needs security and it can afford it, and since crooks cannot dial 911 they must either provide their own or else bribe public authorities.
I find it especially worrying that contraband tobacco smuggling drills holes in the border that can then be used for other purposes.
Here I think not only of illegal drugs but also terrorist weapons and even terrorists. And for what?
Smoking may be dumb. But a policy that corrupts citizens and police, and that menaces public safety, needs very strong positive effects to pass the test of common sense. Does further discouragement of smoking, at this point, seem to you to qualify?
The rush of bossing people about, the tingly puritanical pleasure of snatching peoples' glowing cigarettes from their very lips and stamping them out in front of their faces is a short-term pleasure that comes at too high a long-term cost. Time to give it up.
John Robson's column appears weekly.

Kosovar refugee said...

Dear Gordon,
As a grateful beneficiary of your drugs policy, I would be most grateful if you would now please ban tobacco.
Yours sincerely,
A drug dealing admirer

Tendryakov said...

All things considered, old people’s health is worse than that of young people. They need more medication, aids, medical attention and so on. An 85-year old is more likely to die within a year than a person of 25. Yes folks, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: living has a deleterious effect on one’s health. Surely young people should be advised that if they insist on carrying on with the harmful practice known as being alive, their health is likely to slowly, and inexorably, deteriorate, and that ultimately it could lead to death? Shouldn’t those who continue to practice this clearly harmful activity be penalised in some way?

Tendryakov said...

All things considered, old people’s health is worse than that of young people. They need more medication, aids, medical attention and so on. An 85-year old is more likely to die within a year than a person of 25. Yes folks, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: living has a deleterious effect on one’s health. Surely young people should be advised that if they insist on carrying on with the harmful practice known as being alive, their health is likely to slowly, and inexorably, deteriorate, and that ultimately it could lead to death? Shouldn’t those who continue to practice this clearly harmful activity be penalised in some way?

Cinnamon said...

Iain, you have a drug problem too I think, but it's a mental addiction to want to be doing the right thing :-)

If it helps in any way, here some very old but still very valid advice in this matter: http://librivox.org/what-prohibition-has-done-to-america/

Falco said...

The motivation for the smoking ban is bizzare for two reasons mentioned above: 1, the evidence that passive smoking causes any measurable harm, (as opposed to irritation), simply does not exist. To show that smoking leaves xyz chemicals in the air and that these chemicals can be harmful is one thing. Showing that they are harmful in the quantities found is another, the poison is the dose.
2, if the concern was air quality then this can be accomplished in various other ways.

Given the above, I can see no motivation for the ban other than a desperate need to interfere with other's lives.

The Libertarian argument is that you are responsible for your actions and any consequences from them. We should no longer be subject to prohibition "for our own good". Adults are capable of making their own choices and being held accountable for their actions.

As to "If you choose to drink to excess then it's your liver. If it harms others then the state should step in to protect society."

Alcohol is a thing, it is not responsible for anything. The person harming others is responsible, drunk or sober.

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