7. Drugs, including tobacco and alcohol: still more form, but with an existential element. I am alive, and I should be able to control the circumstances of my life, including my participation in activities that put it at risk. No one should be able to tell me that I cannot expose myself to danger, even when there is a high probability that I will die, unless I also expose other people to it (without their consent) or harm them in some way. Therefore, I have the right to drink alcohol, even to drink myself to death, but not to do it in a way that puts other people at risk, e.g., to drive while intoxicated. Similarly, I have the right to smoke tobacco, but again, this does not extend to affecting others, including through exposing them to second hand smoke, unless they willingly accept this. (Restaurants and bars should be free to allow smoking, or not, or to provide separate facilities for each, since if you are a non-smoker and other people are smoking you can always choose to leave, or not to go.) However, such freedoms do not extend to the manufacturers of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages. They should not be allowed to manipulate us through advertising to want to smoke and drink, such as because it is “cool.”

Drinking and smoking are enjoyable, so they should not be prohibited. And this extends to other drugs as well. People are free to try them, even experiment with them. There is no fundamental reason why society should prohibit this. However, society does prohibit it, on the grounds that it is protecting us, and itself, from the costs that are incurred.

Is this a type of protection that we need? I’m not sure. In a world dominated by form, experimentation often leads to abuse, but this would be much less likely in a world guided by reason. In any case, it is dependent on the specific drug involved. Marijuana, for instance, does not inevitably lead to social harm (it causes far fewer problems than either alcohol or tobacco), and as such it should be legalized. In this specific case, society is being overly protective, and also repressive, since so many people have tried and do use the drug. Other drugs, though, must be considered separately, since they have stronger effects and greater risks of addiction, which can easily lead to real anti-social behavior, such as crime. A basis for maintaining their illegality, at least at present, therefore may exist. But it is of course open to debate which world causes, or would cause, more harm. Making such drugs illegal has led to the imprisonment of huge numbers of people and the formation of a criminal class. Without their illegality, there would likely be more use, but also less real crime (and also a great reduction in government expenses, particularly for the police and prisons).

The underlying form which is objectionable is that society wants to control us, to eliminate our ability to take risks, and therefore to experience all aspects of life. And this should be resisted. But society does have a point about such behavior incurring costs. If you smoke, or drink, you must willingly accept responsibility for the consequences, including such risks as cancer and heart disease, and also higher personal insurance costs. And this brings us to the last aspect of form that is relevant to the issue. Any time you do such things it will affect you, including your mental clarity, your identity and your life. These are the costs that you incur for the benefit of artificially induced exhilaration. You should ask yourself, is it really worth it? (Also, aren’t there any natural sources - non-drug - of such exhilaration?)