By Pedro Molina
Originally published December 28, 2014
Theorists of public morality - from the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman jurists on - have noticed that apparently private acts of vice, when they multiply and become widespread, can imperil important public interests. This fact embarrasses philosophical efforts to draw a sharp line between "private" morality, which is not subject to law, and public actions that may rightly be subjected to legal regulation.
Considered as isolated acts, someone's recreational use of narcotics, for example, may affect the public weal negligibly, if at all. But an epidemic of drug abuse, though constituted by private acts of drug-taking, damages the common good in myriad ways. This does not by itself settle the question whether drug prohibition is a prudent or effective policy. It does, however, undermine the belief that the recreational use of drugs is a matter of purely private choice.
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