"Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property. In vices, the very essence of crime—that is, the design to injure the person or property of another—is wanting. It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practices a vice with any such criminal intent. He practices his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others. Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property, and the corresponding coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property."
by:
Lysander Spooner
(1808-1887) Political theorist, activist, abolitionist
Source:
Vices are Not Crimes, A Vindication of Moral Liberty (1875)
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Reader comments about this quote:
Very self explanatory, we hold this truth to be self evident (except to the power mongering malefactors).
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The greatest Prime Minister in Canadian history put it this way: "The government has no place in the Nation's bedrooms." Canadian law makers need to learn and practise the Spooner quote as well.
     -- L. Hanson, Edmonton, Canada     
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     -- John, Denver      
    And some states have laws against suicide. Let each person be his own and get rid of medicaid and medicare so the government will have absolutely no intersts in anyone's personal habits of choice.
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
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    Drug laws are a perfect example of vices as opposed to crimes. These laws have, however,created lots of jobs, jail constuction, prison guards, drug courts, and thousands of DEA cops to name only a few. When this insane "war on drugs" is finally over, the world will be a far better and more peaceful place.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
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    it is always WAR...war on drugs, war on obesity, because people can be gathered together to fight a war...to pay for a war...for it can be forced upon them 'for their own good'. Soon it will be the war on consumption, the war on private property, we already are seeing the war on the rich....
     -- Abigail, Newport     
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    Exceptionally sweet fruit today from the Liberty Tree. Freedom under attack by the statists from my youth and brought to a shrieking crescendo by obama and his allies. Vice is an issue between a man and his God, and obama is neither.
     -- joe mn, Rochester, MN     
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    The argument is succinct and not bad but I generally think Lysander is as goofy as his name. Under the law as we have it today there is a concept of criminal neglect. If a person fails to maintan machinery or automobile in accordance with standard practice and safety and others are hurt by that negligence he can and, I suggest should, and is held accountable as a criminal. While "he" of course meant no intent, the courts have time and again have found his vice of slovenliness a crime.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Hard to argue with such logic. Right on.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    It is too logical for socio-psycho-pathic minds. The object of their actions is control and domination of others for their own feelings of inferiority, envy, and hatred of others.
     -- David Michael Myers, Martinsburg WV     
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    Waffler, are you nuts, well yes, you are.
     -- jim k, Austin     
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    I would agree in theory, but we have transformed society in such a way as to have created barriers to ever returning to this libertarian tenet.

    1) Society does not let a person who has brought pain and suffering and illnesses upon himself pay his own consequences. The drug user who is dying in the street as a result of his addition can expect (even if he does not want it) that the government will take him into a hospital at taxpayer expense. He will be given a place to live and some income during “recovery” time.

    2) This same addict may also fall into crime to maintain his addiction. This pushes the cost of crime onto the victim. Then society may put the person in jail for his criminal behavior and again, taxpayers are responsible to house, feed, and take care of this person medically while paying prison guards and doctors.

    The list of societal costs goes on and on depending on the nature of the “sin” being examined. Many are really quite far from “only hurting himself” as often portrayed. In the bigger picture we cannot go back to considering these things victimless crimes when there is in fact spill over into societal costs. I would prefer that we have fewer crimes against “sin” but don’t see a way to actually implement them or that they are truly victimless in many cases.
     -- SCSURFR, La Mirada     
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    When entering into the "tents" and mingling with the " first nation" of peoples, who by natural design of nature, the Creators natural laws, live in harmony with and are helped and serviced by the goods of the land, There is no right of another to condemn. What is one mans vice is another persons medication. The fruit of the vine and the herb of the field are for the service of mankind. Liberty is a responsibility, moderation is key when " at liberty". Knowing the ancient healing plants for body and mind, being of local knowledge from the "healer". Disruption of their rural natural life, and that of the yoeman farmers comes by way of socialistic intent of the socialist federalist party, call today the democratic party, feeding and medicating the idle hands they have created ! Spooner is always "right on point". !
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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    Great share and information,worth while reading...
     -- Anonymous, new port richey FL     
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