The ever-perceptive Harry Hutton makes a good point:
The West is losing the War on Arson, along with the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, the War on Fare Dodgers, and some other wars I don’t remember right now. Is it time to consider decriminalisation? Making it illegal just drives it underground and gives it a false glamour, like filleting haddock on a wooden surface*. If burning stuff down were legal it could be taxed and controlled, as in Holland. There was a most interesting piece about it in The Economist.
The filleting haddock thing is explained thus:
*Banned by the 1990 Food Safety Act, since when cases of food poisoning have obviously rocketed.
I have never liked the “it gives it a false glamour” argument against banning drugs, for precisely the reason Harry pinpoints, which is that the same thing applies to bank robbery, arson, and so on, and they are falsely glamorous but so what? I prefer the simple “it’s wrong to ban something that isn’t an aggressive attack on the rights of others” argument. Terror is an attack on others’ rights. Fare dodging is stealing, ditto. Haddock filleting on a wooden surface you can avoid, by not doing it, and by avoiding restaurants where they do it, if you really mind it that much.
Personally I think that the old ways of preparing food are less poisonous than the kind that the EU now demands, and I think those figures that Harry Hutton links to back that up, as he implies. But why has reported food poisoning abated since 2001? Have people stopped bothering to report it? Have some of those vulnerable to it died off? My guess is that the restaurants that poisoned their customers have been identified and shunned by those wanting a meal. After a period when new and safer rules were introduced and new and safer food preparation methods mandated, which was obviously extremely dangerous, the worst excesses of the new regime are now starting to be avoided, but obviously not yet as successfully as happened before the new and safer safety regulations were introduced.
If there must be laws against food poisoning, let them be laws against actual food poisoning, rather than against practices which, in the opinion of EU officials who just want to regulate stuff for the pure pleasure of it, might be poisonous, although less poisonous than any imaginable alternative.
The other argument I like to use about alleged crimes without actual victims which ought not to be crimes is the practical point that these are harder for any policemen to find out about. If you commit the crime of filleting a haddock on a wooden surface, and you and your dinner guests happen to prefer haddock filleted thus, why would any of you inform the authorities? Laws against victimless “crimes” are easily broken, by otherwise law abiding persons, and thus lower general respect for the law.
The trouble with that argument is that many real crimes are a source of shame to their victims, and they will not tell the police for that reason. Banks, for instance, do not want the fallibility of their security systems to become too public. Many property thefts are, as our current Government never tires of telling us, our own fault, and we are justly punished for allowing such thefts to be committed. Dare we bother the police with news of our trivial and self-inflicted misfortunes? But that is insufficient reason to make stealing that the victims are ashamed of legal, even if in practise that is pretty much how things are.