There’s an objection to freedom that we often hear, but rarely hear countered. It’s the “if we are all free to do that, then everyone will do that” argument, often encountered regarding drug policy.
“If dope becomes legal,” the argument runs, “then pretty soon nearly everyone would be hooked on dope.”
The assumption behind the objection is that the only thing dissuading people from vice is the force of law. The law of force. But that’s simply not the case. Vice may seem attractive, but vice possesses its own built-in disincentives. People can and do see the bad effects, and choose accordingly.
Further, illicit drugs are generally cheaper now than in the past, thanks to the huge profits to be made in the black market, and the industry and ruthlessness of its producers. But still, despite their cheapness, drug use is not really all that rampant. The recent cries of “heroin epidemic” are almost all hysteria and no fact.
It turns out that only a fraction of the population really wants to dramatically alter their psychological states using recreational drugs. Making them all legal might (or might not) increase usage somewhat, but not in a grand stampede to a general freak out.
The objection also applies to the “crazy policy” of free immigration, as pointed out by Bryan Caplan on EconLog. “Under open borders, over six billion people would be free to move to the United States. The population could increase by more than a factor of twenty,” Caplan writes. When Americans contemplate free immigration — something that was corked by Progressive policymakers in the early 20th century — they envision chaos: “six billion people migrating in unison!”
But Caplan is for open immigration. Why? Well, he doesn’t buy the “everybody will do it” scenario, for one. After all, “analogous policies are already on the books, and the system works so well few complain about it.”
We have free migration, now, within the U.S. Over three hundred million people are free to move to your hometown.
But they don’t. A number of factors, including housing prices, limits that kind of thing.
There may be good reasons to regulate migration, but fear of mass waves of migrants is overblown.
The hysterical argument that freedom-to entails universal exercise and chaos has little merit.