Prohibition Vs Regulation

Stuart McMillen is a comic writer who makes some fascinating and thought-provoking comics on socially relevant topics. One of these is ‘The War on drugs’ (Please read this comic before continuing)


Even before reading this brilliant comic, I was of the opinion that prohibition is not the answer. I used the same explanation provided in the comic to convince anyone who asked me about my views on prostitution or the ban of alcohol in Islam and some places in India like Gujarat; that it was a bad idea.

However, this comic made me realize that it might apply to many other things and made me wonder if banningĀ is bad in general, whether prohibition is always the bad choice and whether taboo or blacklisting is always the wrong way to deal with a problem.

It wasn’t surprising though, that I quickly realized that even this absolute might not be true. We can regulate services and commodities, we can regulate trade but how can we regulate crime? How can we regulate murder, rape or theft? Surely we have to ban these things, right? But then, these are all natural urges. With some people being able to control them better than the others. But I feel that even that is not something that can be said for sure. Even the best of people might snap under the right (wrong) circumstances.

If so, is it even remotely possible to satisfy these urges? In case it is, I believe that there could be a way to do some sort of regulation even in these cases.

In ‘Brave New World’, Huxley envisages a world where these urges are controlled or satisfied to a great extent, leading to overall peace and happiness. I don’t quite like the idea of subdued humanity under the influence of drugs, but there was one aspect that was not controlled by drugs and that was sex.

In the book, they have made sex a mundane activity. Much like playing a game. If someone wants to ‘have’ someone, they just have to ask. So there goes the urge to rape. But is it really that simple? How would you like the idea of ‘everyone for everybody’? Wouldn’t that take away the psychological reward associated with getting someone to get intimate with you? How would that change things?

In the book, Huxley doesn’t dwell on this much (or maybe he uses subtle hints that I might have missed), but I find that it is an interesting question. If we convert every urge of ours into a service and regulate it, how would it change things? There is another interesting question about human-farming related to this, that I think I will put up as another post, but till then, just putting this out here so I can have discussion with anyone who’s interested.


  1. Yes, interesting thoughts and important questions. But difficult answers! There is a lot of evidence that regulations don’t work, or have unexpected side effects. Many economists argue that rent controls, minimum wage, etc end up making everyone poorer. Communism certainly didn’t make ordinary workers richer – it did the opposite. Prohibition of alcohol failed totally in America and the war on drugs doesn’t seem to be working.

    But some laws are necessary. Murder must be against the law, because it is wrong. There may be self-defence exceptions, but in nearly every other case it is simply wrong.

    The problem with many laws is the unexpected side effects. Making alcohol illegal didn’t stop people drinking – it caused them to do it in illegal drinking places where crime was rife. Drug laws seem to be having a similar effect. Laws against prostitution just put vulnerable people in dangerous situations as far as I can see.

    But some laws are very necessary. Laws that protect people from others.


    1. Absolutely agree with your thoughts. Murder is wrong almost always. But that is because you are killing a human being who is not willing to die. What if we could create a service that got people who wanted to die anyway and let the people with a murderous rage to kill them to get it out of their system?

      What if we could use this as therapy? I know it sounds outrageous and downright evil, but I think it isn’t entirely impossible. There is also the concept of creating stuff to damn (to borrow from Tame SheWolf), wherein we could create shadow human beings just to use them for the bodies.

      Please don’t think that I’m a horrible person. I’m not saying that this should happen, but simply trying to understand the pros and cons of the idea.


      1. People who want to die are surely among the most vulnerable people in our society and the most in need of protection. If anyone has a murderous rage they can play Call of Duty.

        If you could only have one law it would be this: do not kill or hurt others.

        Nevertheless, people hurt others every day. What can we do about it?


        1. People who want to die are surely among the most vulnerable people in our society and the most in need of protection. If anyone has a murderous rage they can play Call of Duty.

          Very true. What a horrible idea that was! I’m putting that out of my mind for good.

          BTW, does Margarita’s blog have markdown enabled in comments? What about yours?


          1. Markdown in comments? Don’t know! And I thought I was a geek. Aamil, you have out-geeked me!


            1. Indeed I have, albeit unwittingly :P

              Here’s the guide to enable it

              Once you enable it, you can embed links like I did just now and format your comments to make words bold or even italic and you can even




              1. Thanks, I have enabled markdown on my blog. Let’s see if anyone uses it!


  2. You prohibit crime. You regulate services.

    So there is no question of regulating murder/rape, because that is outright wrong. But while meting out the punishment, you need to study the case individually, and all the cases before. It is not a blind, blanket judgement. It shouldn’t be, really.

    You can legalize and regulate services/commodities/businesses such as drugs, alcohol and even prostitution because then you can control the bad effects and ensure safety while they’re used for ‘recreation’.


    1. Oh.. I should’ve included that human farm thing there. I agree with all that you say, as long as murder and rape are just a crime and nothing else. But what if we could make that a service?

      How on Earth can we do that? Well, human farming. I’ll meet you on that post :)


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