From the Arizona State University State Press, Monday, September 15, 1986, vol. 69, no. 14.

American 'clockwork orange'


I was amused by Ben Hoglund's attempted defense of totalitarianism (Sept. 4). Hoglund is right that many laws are legislation of morality, but quite wrong if he thinks that government can force people to be good. Even if legislating every facet of human existence were enforceable, it would at best result in a society of "clockwork oranges"--people who make "right" choices (by the government's definition of right) because, in fact, they have no choice.

The purpose of our government is not to make people good, but to facilitate "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This is best achieved by keeping government intervention into the lives of individuals to a minimum. Legislation against prostitution, drugs and pornography is beyond that scope. Hoglund argues that by allowing these things, society itself is victimized by its implicit promotion of these activities. This is a bogus argument.

First of all, failure to proscribe an activity cannot be equated with condoning that activity. There is no legislation against vomiting in public. Does this mean that such behavior is encouraged by society? By Hoglund's reasoning it should be illegal. Allowing pornography to be distributed does not mean that "women should be regarded as objects of exploitation." It means only that if individual women desire to be "exploited" by being paid considerable sums of money to appear in such material they have the right to do so; and that people have the right to purchase such material.

Likewise, the legalization of drugs does not mean that "society" is telling individuals "that pleasure should be achieved at all cost"--by this logic, one could argue that any pleasurable activity being legal is promotion of the achievement of pleasure at any cost.

Secondly, what does it mean for society (the collection of interacting individuals) to be a "victim"? How is society at large injured if John Q. Public smokes a joint (or drinks beer--alcohol is a drug, too, you know) or subscribes to Playboy? Hoglund says that "to say that the only victim of a victimless crime is to fail to see the victimization of all of us as a society." He's right, I do fail to see how I am being victimized if someone else wants to live a lifestyle different from my own. People like Hoglund--who become emotionally distressed at the knowledge that others are enjoying themselves in "sinful" activities--are victims of their own fascist mentality.

Jim Lippard
Senior, Philosophy