Intemperance is a vice, not a crime, so it should be dealt with by voluntary means, not by coercion. And if he is persuaded or induced to do the act, his act is then his own; and even though the act prove to be harmful to himself, he cannot complain that the persuasion or arguments, to which he yielded his assent, were crimes against himself. That matter of degree will be different for everybody, and often only revealed by trial and error. A jolly or hilarious drinker disturbs the quiet of a neighbor-hood no more, and no less, than does a shouting religious fanatic. He must himself experiment with it, and be burnt by it, before he can know it.
If the use is criminal, then the sale of it, for that use, is criminal. The liturgicals, secure in their church teachings and practices, simply wanted to be left alone to follow the counsel of their priests; they were not interested in pestering or forcing their fellow human beings into being saved. The question of virtue or vice, therefore, in all such cases, is a question of quantity and degree, and not of the intrinsic character of any single act, by itself. Those who hold opinions opposite to these, are those whose false and vicious theologies, or whose own vicious general ideas, have taught them that the human race are naturally given to evil, rather than good; to the false, rather than the true; that mankind do not naturally turn their eyes to the light; that they love darkness, rather than light; and that they find their happiness only in those things that tend to their misery. If, instead of standing by, and giving their consent and sanction to all the laws by which the weak man is first plundered, oppressed, and disheartened, and then punished as a criminal, they would turn their attention to the duty of defending his rights and improving his condition, and of thus strengthening him, and enabling him to stand on his own feet, and withstand the temptations that surround him, they would, I think, have little need to talk about laws and prisons for either rum-sellers or rum-drinkers, or even any other class of ordinary criminals. That is to say, it is either in accordance, or in conflict, with those natural laws of matter and mind, on which his physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being depend.
Every human being has his or her vices. Before a man can be convicted of crime in selling liquor to a dangerous man, it must be shown that the particular man, to whom the liquor was sold, was dangerous; and also that the seller knew, or had reasonable grounds to suppose, that the man would be made dangerous by drinking it. We have determined it, not only for ourselves, but for all others? The quality of the act of sale depends wholly upon the quality of the use for which the thing is sold. The next greatest crimes committed in the world are equally prompted by avarice and ambition; and are committed, not on sudden passion, but by men of calculation, who keep their heads cool and clear, and who have no thought whatever of going to prison for them. Spooner had studied law under the prominent lawyers and politicians John Davis and Charles Allen, but he had never attended college. Does any one suppose that the person who furnished him with the necessary instrument was a criminal? He is also known for competing with the U.
We're against other, equally fallible people forcing us to make mistakes of their choosing. The questions of virtue and vice have therefore been as various, and, in fact, as infinite, as the varieties of mind body, and condition of the different individuals inhabiting the globe. The question of virtue or vice, as already remarked in a previous section, has also been, in most minds, a question of degree; that is, of the extent to which certain actions should be carried; and not of the intrinsic character of any single act, by itself. Both of them are nuisances when they disturb the rest and sleep, or quiet, of neighbors. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness.
The same for gambling, prostitution, boxing, etc. The question of virtue or vice, therefore, in all such cases, is a question of quantity and degree, and not of the intrinsic character of any single act, by itself. For these reasons it is dangerous to persons and property in its immediate vicinity. Such coercion, practised upon children, is a denial of their right to develop the faculties that Nature has given them, and to be what Nature designs them to be. From there the pietists concluded that it was everyone's moral duty to his own salvation to see to it that his fellow men as well as himself are kept out of temptation's path. Furthermore, each human being differs in his physical, mental, and emotional constitution, and also in the circumstances by which he is surrounded, from every other human being.
It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth. They are little else than attempts to make them seek and appreciate health by keeping them in ignorance of disease and of everything that will cause disease. But there is no analogy between the two cases. On the other hand, the object aimed at in the punishment of vices, is to deprive every man of his natural right and liberty to pursue his own happiness, under the guidance of his own judgement, and by the use of his own property. He rather foolishly declared libertarians are against government nudging us because libertarians believe people don't make mistakes. This may be true occasionally, though not very frequently. For them to grant it would be an absurdity, because it would be granting away their own right to seek their own happiness; since to grant away their right to judge of what will be for their happiness, is to grant away all their right to pursue their own happiness.
No one, certainly, not claiming supernatural inspiration, should undertake a task to which obviously nothing less than such inspiration is adequate. In vices, the very essence of crime - that is, the design to injure the person or property of another - is wanting. No act of one person can be a nuisance to another unless it in some way obstructs or interferes with that other's safe and quiet use or enjoyment of what is rightfully his own. Furthermore, everybody wishes to be protected, into his person and property, against the aggressions of other men. Though I agreed with most of his conclusions, I found this book too long winded for the basic summations he made. The real criminals in these cases were not the men who went to prison, but the judge, and the men behind him, who sent them there. It is a denial of their right to themselves, and to the use of their own powers.
Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. But anybody and everybody have a natural right, as individuals, to punish other men for their crimes; for everybody has a natural right not only to defend his own person and property against aggressors, but also to go to the assistance and defence of everybody else, whose person or property is invaded. It is now obvious, from the reasons already given, that government would be utterly impracticable, if it were to take cognizance of vices, and punish them as crimes. And so, among his pietistic and moralizing antislavery colleagues, only Spooner was able to see with shining clarity, despite all temptations, the stark difference between vice and crime. They are little else than attempts to tach their children to know and prefer truth, by keeping them in ignorance of falsehood. Z, through fear that such acts or expenditures may tend to bring him Z to poverty, and that he Z may, in consequence, at some future unknown time, come to him A in distress, and ask charity. In short, they are little else than attempts to make their children happy, by keeping them in ignorance of everything that causes them unhappiness.