Let's suppose there is a preventative personal law, say that of consuming some drug , or practicing sexualities, then, a possible arguement set by those who are against it would be, the preventative personal laws should not exist as it directly does not effect anyone else, and infringes on their liberty.

Now, a counter argument could be constructed by some second order thinking. If the preventative personal law were to be removed, then people would consider practicing what the preventative personal law tried to prevent stop more, and hence have an effect on whole of society in someway. (typically negative)

For example, legalizing an illicit substance like Marjuna would lead to more people abusing this drug, and hence to a societal degradation as a total. Please don't answer using this specific example btw

What could be an abstract counter argument to the counter argument provided above?


2 Answers 2


The argument against the preventative personal law that you've outlined hinges on the idea that the removal of such laws would lead to societal degradation. This line of thinking presumes certain outcomes, primarily negative, and is based on a set of assumptions that might not be universally accepted. Here are a few abstract counter arguments:

1. Autonomy and Personal Responsibility

This counters the paternalistic approach of preventative personal laws. It argues that each individual has the right to make decisions about their own body and life, as long as they're not directly harming others. Personal responsibility is emphasized here; adults are assumed to be capable of making informed decisions and dealing with the consequences.

2. Harm Reduction

This perspective argues that people will engage in certain behaviors whether they're legal or not. By legalizing and regulating these behaviors, society can reduce the harm associated with them. For example, if a potentially harmful substance is regulated, it could be purer, safer, and less likely to lead to harmful outcomes like overdose.

3. The Slippery Slope Argument

This argument posits that allowing preventative personal laws to exist could lead to a slippery slope where the government continues to infringe on personal freedoms under the guise of protecting society.

4. Questioning the Assumed Negative Outcomes

This argument questions the assumption that societal degradation would result from the removal of preventative personal laws. It asks for evidence to back up this claim and points out that there could be positive outcomes, such as reduced crime rates associated with illegal activities.

5. Redirection of Resources

The enforcement of preventative personal laws often requires substantial public resources. An argument can be made that these resources could be better used elsewhere, such as in education or healthcare, which could lead to better societal outcomes overall.

  • Countering paternalistic approach just moves the question to whether people really are 'adult'. I guess we assume it until it shows otherwise in each particular case.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jul 31 at 10:34

The best general argument against laws imposing on personal freedoms is probably whether you'd want similar laws to be imposed on you (related to the golden rule and the veil of ignorance thought experiment).

  • If you want weed to be illegal, would you be fine with, say, alcohol and processed sugar also being illegal?

    One could make a reasonable case that those things are bad for individuals and for society (and it wouldn't really matter whether you're convinced by that if it's legally imposed on you).

  • If you want to restrict people's bodily autonomy, would you be fine with being forced to donate your kidney, a piece of your liver, blood, and all the other things you can donate relatively safely?

    Those things could save a whole lot of lives.

  • If you want to impose limits (e.g. disallowing marriage) on other people's adult relationships, would you be fine with similar limits being imposed on your own relationships?

  • If you want to force the children of others to acknowledge their subservience to God, would you be fine with your children (or you) being forced to acknowledge their (or your) subservience to Satan, or the god of some other religion, or to proclaim the non-existence of any deity?

And all those examples are like-with-like, e.g. consumables vs consumables. One could potentially extend the argument beyond that, because personal freedom is personal freedom (although like-with-like tends to make for a more compelling argument).

The general principle is that you don't mess with my personal freedoms, and I won't mess with your personal freedoms.

It doesn't seem like the best idea to engage much with a "people will do it more, which will harm themselves, which will harm society" type of argument. Although there should ideally be some rebuttals available, keeping in mind that they'd have the burden of proof if they want to make something illegal due to the harm it would supposedly cause.

If you focus on whether or not it'll indirectly harm society, you're somewhat conceding that it would indeed be reasonable to restrict personal freedoms to protect people from themselves, for your vision of the greater good, which sounds like the start of a dictatorship, if you ask me (I'm reminded of a certain That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch).

  • 1
    I understand the 'turnabout' kind of argument, but it always felt to me like it lacked credibility, because if I want to forbid something with demonstrated harm, and you counter with an example of less harm but just imposing on freedom, it seems to miss the point.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jul 31 at 10:30
  • @ScottRowe I'm not following. If something enables people to harm others, that would not be analogous to something that allows people to harm themselves. The question is also how you define harm, because sugar, for example, is quite bad for you in the long term, but most people consider that to be worth it for the short-term benefit. Also, imposing on personal freedom could be argued is harm in and of itself.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 31 at 11:01
  • Mitchell n Webb 🤣... And v profound. I had to rerun it 2 times before I got the 2nd half
    – Rushi
    Jul 31 at 15:55
  • Is meat eating a personal choice? See my comment below the question
    – Rushi
    Aug 1 at 4:32
  • @Rushi I removed meat eating from my answer, because that causes animal suffering and, less directly, climate change. So arguments there aren't really about personal freedom (although, for the most part, veganism is advocated for as something people should willingly choose).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 1 at 8:56

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