Hedonism and the state’s interference in the lives of adults

Hedonists believe ‘the pursuit of pleasure is the most important goal of human life’. Hedonists are tolerant. Each person’s pleasurable activities is theirs. Hedonists don’t recognise any role for states in legislating the personal conduct of adults. The only caveat is taking pleasure from inflicting pain on non-consenting adults. These activities are entirely unacceptable. Hedonists accept state enforced limitations in this regard, likewise protecting minors. Hedonists demand freedom for adults qua adults to knowingly make personal decisions which promote their pleasure, regardless of the style of activities involved. Two state interferences are identified and discussed below.

Religious authoritarianism has informed legislation for generations (see addendum). Much of that legalisation prevailed into the post-religious period. The ultimate premise that the state has a right to interfere is generally uncontentious. This is astonishing. The zeitgeist of the 1960s smoothed the path for the legalisation of homosexuality. In 1966 homosexual activities were illegal. Two years later homosexuality was perfectly legal (subject to laws protecting minors).1 Egregious prosecutions have subsequently been subject to very public apologies.2 The arbitrary use of public policy to victimise pleasurable activities as an exercise of power is undemocratic, but at least the state didn’t profit from criminalising homosexuality.

Feeble justifications are offered for criminalising some drug use. Usually the justifications run along the lines that legalisation is required as a ‘protective’ measure. Hedonists find this incomprehensible. Adults are infantilised by the premise that they need protecting from themselves! Worse, the state ensures that harmful drugs are legalised for commercial reasons3 whilst others are criminalised. Commercially available addictive drugs are heavily regulated and taxed. The state profits from addictive drug use. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Addictive drugs are very lucrative as every criminal knows. Hedonists shudder at the insanity of British drug laws. The state reaps a huge income from drugs.4 The state profits from drug related deaths which wouldn’t happen with quality control and regulation. Meanwhile criminalised drugs cost the state extraordinary amounts of money.5 Smashing lives and paying out hundreds of millions of pounds in direct costs so the state can interfere in the pleasures of a citizen is insanity. When a Conservative Justice Secretary6 admitted using cocaine ‘several times’ this point is triple underlined. A wealthy, middle-aged, white man admits to criminal behaviour, remains untouched by the law and keeps his job as a cabinet minister. This is class war at its worst as working-class drug users are hunted down. They fill prisons with their lives in ruins. Not only their lives. The lives of their loved ones are also severely damaged.

Hedonism isn’t degeneracy. Seeking pleasurable activities is normal. What’s abnormal are state approved lists of pleasurable activities. States should withdraw from every attempt at moderating private behaviour so long as they aren’t vicious or harmful to others.

Addendum The Blasphemy Act, 1650, was the ultimate state interference in the 17th century: God’s relationship with man and therefore eternal life wasn’t repealed until 1967 by the great reforming government of Harold Wilson. See https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp409-412

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent_reform_in_the_United_Kingdom

2 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/11/pm-apology-to-alan-turing

3 Tobacco and alcohol are notoriously lethal. The latter also causes huge social damage in addition to personal harm. Respectively there are two very important companies on the FTSE. They’re British American Tobacco valued at £67.55 billion and Diageo valued at £77.87 billion. (Correct on 27th September 2019). Both of these companies are, in essence, drug dealers.

4 £10.7bn in tax revenue from alcohol for example http://www.ias.org.uk/Alcohol-knowledge-centre/Price/Factsheets/How-important-is-the-revenue-from-alcohol-duty-to-the-government.aspx

and £9.3bn from tobacco https://www.statista.com/statistics/284329/tobacco-duty-united-kingdom-hmrc-tax-receipts/

5 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/563326/costs-per-place-cost-per-prisoner-2015-16.pdf

6 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/07/michael-gove-admits-to-taking-cocaine-on-several-social-occasions


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