A law creates an absolute rule. There are few situations that warrant an absolute rule. Killing is bad. Stealing is bad. Assault is bad. What common denominators exist in these bad actions? The existence of a true victim is that common denominator.
Myriad other behaviors which have been made illegal do not have victims. In the case of these laws, the only victim is the “lawbreaker” who is harmed by the state via enforcement and incarceration. Compliance with arbitrary rules with respect to interaction with government has no victims other than private citizens who are accused of failing to stay in step with these rules.
The middle ground is more complex. Risky behaviors such as driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol present an increased risk of unintentional damage to life and limb of other people. The evaluation of that risk is subjective, so making finite laws to address these increased risks will always create debate. In addition, every law that is created carries an increased risk of abuse against the people.
Possession of items or substances should rarely be illegal, as it is the action that harms other people is already illegal and that should be enough. So where should this start and where should it stop? Should there be a law which deters and punishes a person for possession of a nuclear weapon? In this case, an unintentional detonation could cause the deaths of millions of people. A kitchen knife could also cause the unintentional death of another person as well. Where do we draw the line?
Looking at this from multiple points of view, the possession of a nuclear weapon has the potential of denying the right to life of large numbers of people that are not in proximity to the person possessing the weapon. But if the person possessing the weapon peacefully has this in his possession, where is the victim? A nuclear weapon is not used for the defense of an individual. Examples can be introduced of other items kept in one’s private possession that have the possibility of being harmful as well if not handled responsibly.
Both the kitchen knife and the nuclear weapon can be used to kill other people. It is the variance of perspective and opinion that create the debate. To some people if their next door neighbor has a nuclear weapon in his garage, it does not present a problem for them as long as the neighbor stores it properly to avoid an accidental detonation. To other people, if their next door neighbor has a kitchen knife in their garage, they live in such fear that they want to call for protection and create laws to prohibit the ownership of a kitchen knife.
So, in the case of such dramatic sways of opinion from person to person, where should this imaginary line be drawn? Most people reading this will have an opinion. It is also likely that many opinions of some will seem ludicrous to others. If you own a knife, and your neighbor rallies to make it illegal for you to own your knife because they are afraid you will hurt someone with it, this example represents one extreme. If you own a live thermonuclear device and that is fine with your neighbor as long as it doesn’t hurt them, this example is the opposite extreme.
The bottom line is this: consensus will never exist.
So, while I cannot offer a solution to all of these quandaries that will satisfy everyone, I can offer this solution: Create laws sparingly. Do not try to protect people from themselves. Do not force your religious morals on to other people. Every attempt to create crimes or violations of an action with no victim will ruin innocent lives.
In this world, there are enough instances of people harming others to keep a government busy. There is no reason to create artificial crimes, because the creation of artificial crimes creates real victims.