Of Vice & Men
by Brian C. Bennett

It has come to my attention that a rather large subgroup of my fellow citizens are unable and or unwilling to control their self directed behaviors, resulting in an annual "cost" to society of $170 billion and 300,000 preventable deaths. They are eating too much and not getting enough exercise. Clearly, in the time-honored American tradition, it is time to declare a "War on Fat."

Preposterous, you say? Then consider this: we are already waging a decades long war against another subgroup of citizens whose self-directed behavior is said to cost our society a mere 54,000 lives and $110 billion per year. We call that one the "War on Drugs." The line has been drawn; I therefore submit that we are compelled by the 14th Amendment to attack with equal ferocity any "problem" costing our society more in terms of either lives or dollars. If self-directed intoxication is thought to be under the province of law, then all self-directed behaviors must be considered fair game for government control.

Waging a "War on Fat" will be far easier and more cost effective than waging war against citizens who choose to use the "wrong" intoxicants. For one thing, fat people are easy to spot and most will be unable to run fast enough to escape arrest. Users of "illegal" intoxicants, on the other hand are devilishly clever and difficult to detect. Indeed, according to the U.S. ONDCP, fully 77 percent of those who use "illegal" intoxicants hold jobs and can only be discovered by testing the chemical composition of their urine. Curiously enough, though, very few of them are actually detected.

Since random testing of an employee's body waste has become de rigueur in our society, we should also begin an immediate program of random testing against yet another subgroup of our citizens who "cost" a collective $300 billion in annual lost productivity: those suffering from "job related stress." If we allow random urine testing due to a societal cost of $110 billion annually, surely we are compelled to weed out the stressed out citizens costing our society nearly three times as much money.

Humans are biologically hard wired to seek pleasure. Some will be unable to resist their particular vice and it may have long-term negative consequences. Such is the true cost of "freedom." Attempting to prevent freethinking beings from purposeful self-directed pleasure seeking is truly impossible.

As a society we must face the reality that to deny the basic rights of citizenship based on one's self-directed freely chosen behaviors is folly of the highest order. While drug warriors continue their battle cry of intoxicant re-legalization "sending the wrong message," we must also all give pause and reflect on the lunacy of the messages daily displayed for all to see:

The War on Drugs is basically being fought as a genocide campaign against three plant species (marijuana, opium poppies, and coca bushes). One would have to assume that if all plants of those species were nearly eradicated, society would then be compelled to protect the remaining specimens of those plants from extinction under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. How is it possible that one of mankind's greatest enemies (smallpox) is being protected from annihilation, while plants that can do no direct harm to an innocent are subjected to genocide?

Why is it that only those self-directed behaviors engaged in for pleasure (including sexual behaviors) are declared the province of law, while no law exists to "punish" one for intentionally harming oneself - say, by lopping off one's leg with a chainsaw? Why is it okay to intoxicate oneself with a toxic fluid (alcohol) which annually contributes to 150,000 deaths, but considered illegal to intoxicate oneself with far less malignant substances? How can it be illegal to ignite and inhale one form of plant which has never directly caused a death, while another (tobacco) may be freely inhaled despite causing the loss of 400,000 lives annually?

America now finds itself fighting a war against groups of fanatics who seek to cause direct harm to its citizens. It is time to end the folly of the War on Drugs and re-direct all those resources to the new War on Terrorism. As a frequent flyer, it never occurred to me that I would die a horrible and fiery death brought about by a bag of weed going off in someone's pocket. No amount of heroin or cocaine could collapse a skyscraper. And no black market money can fund terrorism if the market is eliminated through the re-legalization of intoxicants.

It is time for our government leaders to drop the facade and start telling the truth - the drug war is unworthy of America (a lesson it should have already learned from alcohol prohibition), and the propaganda campaign and witch hunt being waged against those who choose their own intoxicants must end. In short, it is time for America to grow up and leave otherwise peaceful and harmless citizens to their own pursuits, regardless of how "self-destructive" their behaviors may be construed to be. It is time to stop chasing after our non-conformist fellow citizens and re-direct all those wasted resources toward going after those trying to cause all of us harm directly.

Written Jan 5, 2003

truth: the Anti-drugwar More Opinion Pieces Analysis & Commentary