If you think business freedom is compatible with prohibiting certain products, such as recreational drugs, merely because (you think) they harm their users, this video from Reason TV may make you think again. It’s the story of a business that made a benign product called Polar Pure, which outdoor adventurers could use to make water safe for drinking.
The business, which an old man ran from his garage, was run out of business by the government when the Drug Enforcement Administration decided that, because iodine is useful for making methamphetamine as well as purifying water, Polar Pure would henceforth be subject to outlandish regulations:
In 2007 the DEA reclassified iodine as a controlled substance and named Polar Pure in particular as a product that was of concern to the DEA. The DEA told Wallace and Ottenberg, they could continue to operate their business but they would have to pay a $1,200 regulatory fee, register with the state and feds, report any suspicious activity and keep track of each and ever person who bought a bottle of their product.
Defenders of the DEA might argue that it’s hard to stop people from making meth while letting Bob Wallace make Polar Pure. And that might be true. The solution, however, isn’t to impose controls on Polar Pure, or even to create a loophole for Polar Pure, but to recognize that people have the right to make, sell, and consume the products they deem valuable. The principle here was aptly stated by the Objectivist philosopher and international student leader Alexander McCobin: “Freedom does not come in pieces. It is a single concept that we must defend at all times.”
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