The Moral Argument Of Michael Huemer

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Huemer’s Moral Argument

Michael Huemer argues in favor of legalizing recreational drug use by addressing three major concerns that are commonly used to argue in favor of drug criminalization:

(1) Drug users may harm themselves
(2) Drug users may harm others
(3) Drug use may make people less productive and less altruistic

In order to address the first two concerns, Huemer posits that there exist countless legal behaviors that result in self-harm and harm to others. These behaviors include “smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol [....] [and being] an inattentive and inconsiderate spouse and parent” (PPE 584-6). If it is not the role of the government to restrict these activities, then it should not be the responsibility of the government to prohibit
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Recall Huemer’s earlier argument: while drugs only possibly result in harm to others, there are several legal ways in which one can actually harm others; therefore, drugs should not be prohibited.

This argument conflicts with another claim of Huemer’s. He concedes that it is the business of the state to prohibit driving under the influence of drugs. But, like drug use, driving under the influence only introduces the possibility of harm to others. At least in some cases, Huemer evidently believes that the government should regulate risky behavior, even if there may not be negative consequences.

Additionally, Huemer largely overlooks the issue of addiction. He briefly addresses the argument that drug users may not have full autonomy over their decisions. If this is true, according to Huemer, then drugs should legal: “It is unjust to punish a person for something he is not responsible for” (PPE 588).

While this reasoning is valid, Huemer does not address the claim that the government should protect the autonomy of its citizens. Making the empirical assumption that drugs inhibit users’ ability to control themselves, prohibitionists might argue that the government is obligated to restrict the use of drugs—or at least addictive ones—in the interest of preserving

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