Bernard Darnton
Bernard Darnton

It's Your Body

One day I woke up and thought, "This is my body!" Yes, I'd always wondered what that bizarre lump of flesh hanging down from my neck was.

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While the Special K ad may be trite to the point of being suitable for a TV audience, it contains a fundamental truth that a lot of people seem to forget. This is my body. That's right, mine — not yours, not the government's but Mine. Sadly, a lot of politicians don't seem to recognise this. They think it belongs to them. While I should be flattered that Jenny and Helen want my body I'm trying to contain my excitement.

Universal outrage surrounds the violation of someone's body. When a person steps outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour and becomes a murderer or a rapist that person and his action are reviled. In these extreme cases we are disgusted at what we instantly recognise as a gross injustice.

Maintaining the integrity of this right to one's own body is the sole justification for the existence of government. That's why the Police is one of the few parts of the state apparatus that a libertarian government won't get rid of. Crime will be dealt with seriously and swiftly. All of the Police officers currently on reading-the-latest-Tom-Clancy-in-the-back-of-a-speed-camera-car duty will find themselves reassigned to catching actual criminals.

I was interviewing a policeman at about 3am in KC's bar one night the other week and he agreed that when he joined the Police, at about seventeen, he did it because he wanted to be able to do something to make the world a better place. The idea of nailing rapists and their ilk to the wall appealed to him. I asked if chasing sub-twenty-year-olds out of pubs despite the fact that their only crime was having fun was as satisfying, whether it fulfilled his dream, but he had to leave before he had time to answer.

A more focused police operation will make this place a lot safer to live. Certainly the thought that the Police may go back to investigating burglaries will put dents into the business plans of some career crooks. Sadly, nothing can prevent all crime and often the only job the Police will be capable of is mopping up the blood. They can't be, and we certainly don't want them to be, everywhere at once. At these times it is vital that we have the chance to take matters into our own hands. After all, if it's my body I have the right to look after it.

It should come as no surprise that the government, who think that your body is theirs, won't let you look after it. They nobly denied us the right to buy pepper sprays. Every time someone chooses to defend his home or family with a gun (real or fake!) it's the good guy who gets into trouble. The bad guy, no doubt, gets counselling and accident compensation.

A libertarian government will allow to defend yourself and your property. These people are heroes, certainly not to be treated like the pond slime that they're trying to face up to when the all-protecting state fails to protect. Those career crooks' business plans that we dented above will be shredded by this policy. The idea that you might leave that tasty looking house without the TV and video but with a shotgun shell's worth of flachettes us your arse instead will give pause to a few would-be troublemakers. Muggers prefer the cards to be stacked in their favour. A target known to be unarmed makes a much better target than one who might put a 0.22" hole in your shirt.

The particular organised crime gang that occupies the Beehive don't want you to able to look after yourself. They have much more leverage over you if you are defenceless and they can appear as the shining knight. They've spotted your body out there and they're coming to get it (to look after it, you understand).

So, if the Police are busy clearing their backlog of last year's 80,000 unsolved burglaries, how will they find time to conduct those extensive undercover operations into suspected brothel-keeping? The long hours of gathering evidence, the patient wait for that slip of the tongue that may crack open the case ....? Well, we can save the boys in blue a few hours here. Obviously if your body is your own you have the right to rent it out. Brothel-keeping, soliciting, living off immoral earnings, wearing undies decorated with tinsel, all of this and more will be legal under a libertarian government. Simply because your body is yours and what you do with the various bits of it and for what price are completely up to you. None of this is any business of the politicians (unless, of course, they are either buyer or seller — I would suggest buyer being the more likely).

Other victimless "crimes" get the chop as well. Drugs are certainly not covered by the "nail the bastards to the wall" policy outlined above. This is my body and what I put into it is up to me, whether it be Special K, or special E.

This is one area where the body snatchers really come out in force and earn their name as they snatch people from their homes and throw them in jail. All of this happens because those-who-know-better-than-you-do have decided that it's fine to poison yourself with supermarket wine but not with Northland's finest. We're going to see much more of it this year. Politicians parading around on television, declaring that they're going to take control of your body more than the other (presumably weak-willed) party. It's these people, who want to take control of your body away from you, that are the real criminals.

The individuals who make up a libertarian government may well believe that heroin is a bad substitute for meat and potatoes but you will get to make the final decision yourself. And the police who aren't putting their steelcaps through people's doors and buzzing around in a borrowed Iroquois will be able to help out with that burglary backlog. The courts and prisons will be cleared of all the trivial cases of people who've done nothing to harm anyone but themselves. The Otago Daily Times will have to find something to print on the Court News page other than "Mr Arty, student, 20, of Dunedin, was today fined $200 for attempting to grow possibly the world's most pathetic cannabis plant on his bedroom windowsill to make his girlfriend think he was cool." Another promising young life reduced to having his bum searched every time he re-enters the country.

Claiming ownership of your own body has the corollary that it is up to you, and only you, to maintain it. A libertarian government will no longer tolerate the current system which requires community ownership of everyone's bodies. "Sorry, Mr Waiting-list-client, we've decided we can't be bothered treating you. Tough shit. By the way, thanks for all the taxes." A private health system will mean that everyone gets to look after their own bodies. No-one's life will depend on some point-scoring formula made up by someone I'll never meet (because I'll be dead). You will get to make your own decision about how and when to maintain your body.

A socialised health system is how the body snatchers first set their plan going. People love the idea of the collective security (and the secret sneaking feeling that they might be getting a freebie off someone else's back). But once the body snatchers are responsible for the maintenance of your body it seems only fair that they make a few requests to help them in that job. Regulate alcohol, ban drugs, persecute smokers, gas fat people, etc. Suddenly you're just a puppet with the strings being pulled in Wellington.

What is the extent of this assumed ownership of your body? One of the services not provided by Uncle Joe's health system is euthanasia (unless waiting lists count). The government has assumed the right to say when you can live or die. This is my body and it should be up to me if I want to terminate its function.

In a perverse reversal of justice, similar to that seen with self-defence, a doctor who complies with a patient's wishes ends up charged with murder. An act of compliance, probably even compassion, is masqueraded as an act of force.

A libertarian government will state categorically that you alone are responsible for making decisions as important as your own life and death. Euthanasia will become solely a matter of agreement between those involved, usually doctor and patient.

This is my body. It's incredible that one simple thought can generate such a wide range of policy, all consistent with, and true to, that one principle. It's also incredible how few political parties have policy sets that are consistent with anything, even themselves. It's simply anything to stretch the slimy fingers of government further round your throat.

So later this year prepare for the invasion of the body snatchers. From a distance they look like normal people but up close you can tell them by the coloured rosettes and the pamphlets. And they have an unnatural desire to kiss other people's babies. It's by a process known as "pressing the flesh" that they infiltrate society. They'll try and make out that we inevitably have to be ruled by one tribe or other of them but don't be fooled.

You can still choose not to lend them your support. There's still one place where you can tick your ballot without fear of the body snatchers.

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