Pubdate: Wed, 01 Mar 2000
Source: Harper's Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2000 Harper's Magazine Foundation
Contact:  666 Broadway, New York, New York, 10012
Fax: (212) 228-5889
Author: William Fusfield
Related: The Harper's article "This Is Your Bill of Rights, On Drugs" is 


I applaud Graham Boyd and Jack Hitt for detailing how the drug war has made 
a mockery of the Bill of Rights ("This Is Your Bill of Rights, on Drugs," 
December). One important point, however, was left out. The fundamental 
principle of liberty on which our Constitution is based was expressed by 
Thomas Jefferson in his "Notes on the State of Virginia": "The legitimate 
powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others." 
Hence, whenever the government seeks to prevent a person from doing some 
alleged injury to himself, it acts illegitimately. It is a great tragedy of 
American political history that this principle was considered so axiomatic 
by Jefferson and the other drafters of the Constitution that they neglected 
to articulate it explicitly there.

Had they done so, misguided federal campaigns to criminalize private 
behavior, such as Prohibition and the war on drugs, would have encountered 
stiffer resistance.

William Fusfield
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