Law, government and the use of force

I am not too sure if most people, particularly those who are not familiar with various libertarian ideas, realize the significance of passing a legislation and then enforcing it. Put plainly, the worst possible outcome for a person disobeying any law is death. Consider an example-

A government passes a law banning smoking in public with n sum of money as fine for the offense. A person, X, disregards the law and lights up in a public area. A cop comes and asks X to pay the fine. And X refuses. In such a case, the cop will move to arrest X. If X resists arrest, the cop is within his rights to shoot X down.

What happens to X in the above example depends on his actions and those of the cop. If X is pragmatic, he would not smoke in public. If he does, he would probably pay up the fine. If the cop is in a benevolent mood, he might let X go with a warning instead of a fine. And so on.

The situation assumes significance in today’s times because of the increasing interference of government in what is purely private space. Making helmets and seat belts compulsory, banning smoking in public areas in toto etc. are rightfully called nanny laws because it is not the business of government to dictate how people should lead their lives. Government can and should only regulate those actions of people that directly affect the safety and property of others. A person not wearing a helmet is a danger to himself and not others. A similar case can be made in the case of a seatbelt. On banning smoking on the grounds that secondhand smoke is harmful, I support a ban only to the extent that people who do not choose to expose themselves to such smoke should not be subjected to such smoke. So a ban on public roads and similar areas is fine. But a blanket ban in restaurants etc. is not acceptable because the business owner should be allowed to create special smoking only sections for such customers if he so desires.

Things reach a point of irony in cases such as a ban on consumption of narcotics or a case of attempted suicide. The government will not let X harm himself by consuming drugs and won’t let him commit suicide, but is ready to kill him (if push comes to shove), if he disobeys a law banning such activities. Do such apparent contradictions not enter the heads of lawmakers and bureaucrats writing laws? The only thing I can think of for the proliferation of anti-liberty laws, apart from stupidity, is a case of malicious intent on part of those responsible for running government. Because law enforcement, in the case of trivial laws, is big business, if the enforcers are corrupt.

As Tacitus said, the more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.

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