I originally published this post on my now-defunct blog Dispatches from the North in January of 2012.
- To reduce the prison population and ease police workloads. As of 2008, more than 175,000 Americans were behind bars for ILA. Statistics for other countries with anti-ILA laws are similar. Anti-ILA laws thus put a tremendous strain on both prisons and law enforcement, giving them less time and fewer resources to deal with other, more important problems, such as poverty and racism.
- To combat discrimination. In many countries, those who have been convicted of ILA are forbidden from voting or running for political office. Furthermore, tremendous social stigma is attached to ILA, reducing practitioners’ opportunities in housing and employment, among other things. Laws against ILA are also often used to legitimize institutional racism: In the United States, a disproportionate number of people convicted of ILA are Hispanic or African-American, and again, the statistics for other countries are similar. We believe that the legalization of ILA should be complemented with anti-discrimination laws, mandatory sensitivity training for police and public servants, and the introduction of an ILA History Month aimed at making society more inclusive of ILA and its practitioners.
- To maintain a longstanding tradition. History shows us that ILA has been practiced in all cultures, at all places and all times. Furthermore, many notable historical figures – Founding Father Aaron Burr, celebrated revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and 15th-century Wallachian ruler Vlad III “Ţepeş”, to name but three – engaged in various activities that would be illegal today under most ILA laws. Who are we to challenge the precedent set by these great men and women?
- To save us all from the unenlightened past. Formal or informal prohibitions on ILA have existed (and continue to exist) in many societies that also harbor racist, sexist, homophobic, and other undemocratic attitudes. Thus, there is good reason to believe that anti-ILA laws are impeding our progress towards a more open and tolerant society.
- To save us all from theocracy. The Bible includes very specific prohibitions on ILA, as do many other religious texts, and the practice is universally opposed on the Religious Right. Therefore, anti-ILA laws have no place in a secular and rational modern democracy.
- To save us all from a moralistic dictatorship. Every anti-ILA law is ultimately on the books because some legislator found the practice personally distasteful. Should private morality and private preferences really be allowed to dictate public policy?
- Because anti-ILA laws are unscientific. As of January 2012, no scientific study has shown that ILA is any way wrong or harmful. Furthermore, there is no scientifically proven link between ILA and cancer, heart disease, or any other health problem.
- Because it will allow more efficient regulation. While we believe that the arguments against ILA are religious and unscientific, we also acknowledge that the practice is not without its dangers. If not carried out correctly, ILA can cause long-lasting physical and psychological injury. In the past, lawmakers have tried to combat these problems with zero-tolerance policies, even though this is an outmoded and inefficient method that has failed at every turn. (See point 9.) We believe that harm reduction is a better way: Legalizing ILA will allow the government to regulate the practice, and to educate practitioners about safe ways to practice ILA.
- Because people will do it anyway. Even though almost all anti-ILA laws have been on the books for years, hundreds of thousands of people around the world continue to engage in the practice. Thus, we can surmise that anti-ILA laws have little or no effect, failing even on their own terms.
- Because it will make people happier. Practitioners engage in ILA for a variety of reasons, often rooted in strong, deeply felt desires. The repression of these desires has a number of adverse psychological consequences. Furthermore, not a single person who has undergone a successful ILA has ever reported feeling unhappy or dissatisfied. Legalizing ILA will make society happier and allow people to be themselves.
These, then, are the top ten reasons why we should legalize Involuntary Life Abdication, known to the less enlightened by pejorative terms like “murder” and “homicide.” The list could, of course, easily be expanded to include more arguments, but these are the ones that are raised most often. We hope you find them convincing, because as we say in ILA Practitioners for Tolerance, “Legalize ILA – or we’ll practice it on you!”