Keep Your Laws Off My Body – by John Stossel

Keep Your Laws Off My Body
The case for legalizing drugs, prostitution, organ sales, and other consensual acts.

John Stossel | March 4, 2010

“It’s a free country.”

That’s a popular saying—and true in many ways. But for a free country, America does ban a lot of things that are perfectly peaceful and consensual. Why is that?

Here are some things you can’t do in most states of the union: rent your body to someone for sex, sell your kidney, take recreational drugs. The list goes on. I’ll discuss American prohibitions tonight at 8 and 11 p.m. Eastern time (and again on Friday at 10) on my Fox Business program.

The prohibitionists say their rules are necessary for either the public’s or the particular individual’s own good. I’m skeptical. I think of what Albert Camus said: “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.” Prohibition is force. I prefer persuasion. Government force has nasty unintended consequences.

I would think that our experience with alcohol prohibition would have taught America a lesson. Nearly everyone agrees it was a disaster. It didn’t stop people from drinking, but it created new and vicious strains of organized crime. Drug prohibition does that now.

The prohibitionists claim that today’s drugs are far more dangerous than alcohol.

But is that true? Or is much of what you think you know … wrong?

I believed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s claim that drugs like crack and meth routinely addict people on first use.

But Jacob Sullum, who wrote Saying Yes, says, “If you look at the government’s own data about patterns of drug use, it clearly is not true.”

The data is remarkable: 8.5 million Americans have tried crack, but there are only 359,000 regular users. (The government defines “regular use” as using a drug at least once in the past 30 days.) More than 12 million tried meth, but only 314,000 still take it. The story is similar for heroin. Most people who try these “instantly additive drugs” do not get “hopelessly addicted.” They give them up on their own.

As Sullum puts it: “The vast majority of people who use illegal drugs do not become heavy users, do not become addicts; it does not disrupt their lives. In fact, I would argue it enhances their lives. How do we know that? Because they use it.”

But on the news, we constantly see people whose lives have been destroyed by drugs. Sullum says: “When you have prohibition, the most visible users are the ones who are most antisocial, most screwed up. They’re the ones who come to the attention of the police. … People who present themselves as experts on drug use because they come into contact with all these addicts have a very skewed perspective because they are seeing a biased sample. The people who are well adjusted, responsible users are invisible.”

My prohibition show will also touch on prostitution. I want ratings—I admit it. Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy says prostitution is “sexual slavery.”

I think calling it slavery is an insult to those who’ve suffered real slavery. Slavery is force. Prostitution is consensual. On my show, I’ll let a former “sex worker” and the prosecutor fight it out.

The prohibitionists also ban the sale of human organs. You aren’t allowed to sell a kidney to someone who will die without one. Sally Satel, a physician who is the recipient of a kidney and the author of When Altruism Isn’t Enough, says, “Altruism … is a beautiful virtue, but tomorrow at this time 13 people will be dead because they didn’t get a kidney.”

In a free country, we consenting adults should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies as long as we don’t hurt anyone else. People who don’t like what we do have every right to complain about our behavior, to boycott, to picket, to embarrass us. Bless the critics. They make us better people by getting us to think about what’s moral. Let them mock and shame. But shaming is one thing — government force is another. Prohibition means we empower the state to send out people with guns to force people to do what the majority says is moral. That’s not right.

And it doesn’t even work.

John Stossel is host of Stossel on the Fox Business Network. He’s the author of Give Me a Break and of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at



3 responses to “Keep Your Laws Off My Body – by John Stossel

  1. We are supposed to have the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, which implies that we own our lives, therefore, our bodies. But that is a lie, because the state can take your body and enslave you by impressing you into the military. They can, as the article states, keep you for using your body as wish. And any time you disagree with the state, they can and do take your life.
    It is the state’s will that, on the one hand, can shoot you down in the street, but on the other hand, prevent you from ending your own life.

  2. “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. ” (Thomas Jefferson)

    And, I would add, that the vote of a majority on that should not be voted on–inalienable rights–is that same as “the tyrant’s will.”

    The thesis of my political pamphlet, “The Myth of Inalienable Rights . . .” ( is that–Any and all non-violent, non-coersive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property, that does not present an immediate and direct danger to other people and their property, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, especially if done privately on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults and that laws prohibiting such behavior are illegitmate and must be taken off the books if we want to call ourselves a nation that believe in personal freedom and true liberty.

  3. “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” (Thomas Jefferson.) But too many Americans have not been taught the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. They have been taught, instead, that the purpose of government is to take care of them, rather like that way the people thought of the Catholic Church in 1500.