195 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
Peter died recently in a manner he could hardly have anticipated back when he wrote this book - yet his death, in a sad and poignant way, underlines the key point he makes in this wonderful tome.
The book documents - and ridicules - U.S. bureaucrats' attempts to legislate what people can and cannot see, read, and imbibe. Peter launches a particularly formidable argument against drug prohibition.
In 1996, when AIDS and cancer entered his life, he became an advocate for medical marijuana, testifying before the National Academy of Sciences and doing numerous media interviews. "As a recent cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation survivor who uses medicinal marijuana to keep down the anti-AIDS drugs that are keeping me alive," Peter wrote in an open letter in Daily Variety, in December of 1997, "I can personally attest to marijuana's anti-nausea effect."
Exactly seventeen days after he published those words, the Government responded the only way it knows how: with a full-scale raid. A swarm of DEA agents, guns drawn, stormed Peter's house in Laurel Canyon, Calif., confiscated his computer, his backup drives, and various research materials. Peter readily admitted to growing some marijuana for his own medical use, "in the time-honored tradition of Washington, Jefferson, and Timothy Leary."
The Feds had no warrant for his arrest at the time of the raid, but they finally came for him in July 1998. The indictment against Peter stemmed in large part from the fact that as publisher of Prelude Press, his own publishing company where he employed eighteen people, Peter had given an advance to an author for a book on medical marijuana. That writer, a fellow medical marijuana patient, used a portion of the advance to grow his own medicine. The Feds saw Prelude Press as the source of the funds the man had used to finance his little crop of marijuana. So they treated Peter as a drug kingpin, and they told his employees to look for work elsewhere, "because within six months, we're going to own this place."
Did Peter really break the law? Depends on whom you ask. California *explicitly allows the use of medical marijuana* under Proposition 215, passed into California constitutional law in 1996. The Federal Government, however, does not recognize the state's right to adopt its own drug legislation. So what Peter did was perfectly legal in his own state; it just didn't sit well with some drugfighting hardliners three thousand miles away, in Washington D.C.
One of the conditions of Peter's bail was a weekly urine test. Were he to test positive for illicit drugs, he'd return to jail, pending his trial. Besides, his mother (in her seventies) had put up her house as collateral for the bond. The Feds could seize her home and evict her if Peter violated his bail terms. So he had to be content with being sick as a dog on most days - much sicker than he would have been had he been allowed to smoke marijuana, whose medical benefit to cancer and AIDS patients is well documented. Frequently unable to hold down down his medication, Peter grew weaker and became wheelchair-bound.
The HIV virus wasn't the only thing hitting Peter where it hurts. The federal judge in the case wouldn't let him plead his defense to the jury. Peter's attorney wanted to argue that under California law, infirm Californians who get medical relief from marijuana are permitted to use it. But this line of defense was verboten, the judge decreed. The judge also forbade any mention that Peter suffered from AIDS and cancer, and that the marijuana helped his condition.
The case never went to trial. On June 14, 2000, while at home, taking a bath, the nausea overcame Peter once more. He choked to death on his own vomit. He was 50 years old. He died because the Government wouldn't let him have a toke. Few things better illustrate the monumental folly that is the War on Drugs.
"Ain't Nobody's Business" is vintage McWilliams -- funny, well-researched, expertly argued, and with a pleasant surprise on each and every page (a great quote, a deft turn of phrase, a piece of common 'wisdom' beautifully gutted and turned on its head).
I hope that the thought-provoking ideas in Peter's book will resonate with many people, even when memories of the man himself begin to fade.
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2000
Peter McWilliams died in the summer of 2000 because he was denied medical marijuana to suppress nausea caused by his medication for HIV/AIDS. His home state of California legalized medical marijuana, and the Federal Government found it necessary to raid his home there (and that of his medically-challenged friend Todd McCormick, now doing five years in a Federal penitentiary), and arrest and convict him. Subject to random urine tests, Peter died choking on his own vomit. It is not a stretch for me to claim that he was murdered by this heartless government. Peter was brilliant and multi-talented, and a reading of this astonishing book will confirm that. I defy anyone to read this book and not become fundamentally enraged at the audacity with which the government has continued to encroach on the precious liberties which the Founding Fathers penned in the hopes of their eventual historical fruition. In one of his activist emailings (Peter worked until the week he died), he noted that "...four DEA agents told me they found ['Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do...'] on the shelf of every drug bust they had gone on, making me ideological enemy #1 in their eyes..." Be one of the over one million NON-drug dealers with this excellent work on your shelf.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2000
This is one of the most informative and engaging books I have read in a long, long time. Every page has a quote, some of which are exceptionally enlightening besides being very entertaining. For instance George Washington in 1796: "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Hello Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson!
Personally I take a bit more pause over some issues, examples like the harmlessness of random jay-walking and not wearing motorcycle helmets. I think that many of these laws save lives, much of the public being too stupid to look out for themselves. But that's the whole point of this book and what makes it such a kick in the pants! Push come to shove, I'd probably take McWilliams' side any day. Be prepared to get mighty angry when the hypocrisy of many of our laws is pointed out.
Oh, by the way - at nearly 700 pages, the book's dirt cheap.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2001
I bought a used copy of this book after it had been donated to the bookstore I formerly worked in by, of all places, a church library. I became a libertarian last year and had heard that it was excellent reading for people of that persuasion. So I happily took it home and plunged in. I'm glad I did.
My sense of humor is similar to what McWilliams's was so I felt an instant connection to the text. Others may find him too caustic at times, but I liked his humorous interjections. My copy is an older hardback version so the newer paperback may have some differences but the basic premise is surely the same: people, not the government, have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies and property. It's as simple as that yet in America, we've been taught to perceive it as a tangled, complicated mess. Several years back, I was watching Sting (I'm a big fan) on _Larry King Live_ and he started discussing how strange it was / still is that society finds it acceptable to smoke, drink and ingest caffeine, but unacceptable, even morally reprehensible to use other "drugs". I was a staunch Republican in those days so I swept his comment under the rug but it always stuck with me. In reading this book, I am glad I allowed myself to explore the topic of consensual crimes.
So what are consensual crimes anyway? Some people think of them as "victimless crimes" but they are, more or less, acts that do not harm the body and/or property of any non-consenting person yet are illegal anyway. McWilliams states that the basis for this book is simple: "You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don't physically harm the person or property of another." To explore this idea, McWilliams looks at a number of things-- what are consensual crimes, what is the difference between personal morality and social morality, why making laws against consensual crimes is not a good idea, how consensual crimes got to be crimes in the first place, the role of religion (especially the B-i-b-l-e) in consensual crimes and what can be done.
The kinds of consensual crimes discussed in the book include gambling, drug use, prostitution, porno, issues of marriage (polygamy, adultery, and so on), homosexuality (McWilliams attacks several common myths about the homosexual lifestyle with jocularity *and* dignity), unconventional religious practices, suicide/assisted suicide, loitering, unpopular political sentiments, seat belt laws, helmet laws, public nudity, etc. McWilliams does an excellent job of clarifying the difference between one’s personal morality and society’s morality. Personal morality as he defines it is what we believe will make us better human beings whereas social morality consists of not harming someone else physically or harming his/her property. There’s quite a distinction there! Some groups in our country believe that social morality ought to consist of government enforcing laws around their religious beliefs. Maybe they have pure intentions but can you fathom the horrible results? McWilliams does and points out that if a book like, say, the Bible became the ultimate, completely imposed by force, law of the land, all of us would be in jail. At one time or another, we’ve coveted something someone else had, we’ve looked at someone through eyes of lust, and we’ve been mad at our parents. Do we truly want to spend the time and money to put someone in jail for envying his/her neighbor’s new car? Puh-leeze! McWilliams also does the great service of pointing out that, when groups such as those go out to make converts and raise people’s ire, it’s called "witnessing", "testifying" and "sharing". But when people of opposite viewpoints speak, those groups refer to it as "brainwashing" and "recruiting". Funny how that works…
If the simple idea of freedom is not enough to convince you that the government ought to butt out of people being able to do with their bodies what they want, McWilliams provides quite a list of other compelling reasons. He contends that keeping consensual acts illegal: is Un-American, is Unconstitutional, violates the separation of church and state, opposes capitalism, is extremely expensive, destroys lives, encourages real crimes, corrupts law enforcement and ties up the courts, promotes organized crime, corrupts freedom of the press, teaches irresponsibility, causes random enforcement of laws, discriminates, keeps issues from being resolved and creates an environment of fear, hate and conformity.
Make no mistake- while you may have a few laughs, this book is not an easy or relaxing read. You will have to think. You may become riled up or even incensed. You may have your current religious and/or political beliefs called into question and interpreted in ways you may have never considered before. Whether you agree with McWilliams on any of the issues, you do owe it to yourself and your country to give it a look. Your tax dollars are probably being spent this very minute to punish someone for participating in a consensual crime. Read _Ain’t Nobody’s Business_ and then ask yourself, is it really worth it?
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2000
This book is perhaps the greatest written, period! Never has one book so thoroughly and successfully highlighted the real problems in this country, as well as offering a highly workable solution. Our Founding Fathers are no doubt rolling in their graves at what their vision of a free America has become, due to the evil machinations of religious nuts and their "legislated morality." McWilliams has also written one of the most hilarious books on the subject, as he shows the glaring hypocrisy and outright stupidity of recent legislation crusades. This huge tome is also filled with the most profound, funny, and frightening quotes from diverse sources. "Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do" should be read by every freethinker and young person in the country!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2003
This is one of the best books I've ever read and easily ranks as one of my favorites. It's a shame that Mcwilliams is no longer with us. This book shows what a great author he was. He makes his point so well and provides an endless amount of evidence for why he feels the way he does. The way he died is especially tragic.
McWilliams makes his point very effectively and will probably leave many of his readers agreeing with him on the issue of consensual crime by the time they've finished. This book is interesting and very well researched, but without being boring as many books regarding law/politics tend to be. It's full of information about how and why victimless crimes became illegal and why laws against them ultimately do a lot more harm than you might think. McWilliams points out how drug/gambling/prostitution laws are far from effective, very expensive to uphold, and most of all, unamerican, and I for one was left in complete opposition to these laws by the time I had finished this book.
As you might've noticed, this book is extremely long (about 700 pages I think) and is organized very well. The index makes it very easy to find what you're looking for and it's very helpfull to be able to look up people's names to find if any of their quotes made it into the book. The book contains a quote from someone on every page in the upper corner. All sorts of people are included from George Carlin to Thomas Jefferson. This is one of my favorite features of this book.
One of the best things about "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" is that it can appeal to all sortof people. Prior to reading it, I hadn't given mush thought to the topic of consensual crimes, but since I read it, it's become a major concern of mine. I think that even those who completely agree with consensual crime laws will find this book interesting. It's written in a manner that adresses the issue in a calm fashion rather than waving accusations around, and I think that those who may not agree with McWilliams will appreciate this.
This book can appeal to people on either side of the issue and does a great job and maintaining the reader's interest. It never drags or gets boring and always has interesting, little known facts to keep you reading. I encourage everyone out there to read this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2002
I think this is one--if not the--of the most important books that I have ever read. And I do not say that lightly. I'm weighing this single book against all the "great" books of the world, including that perennial bestseller, the Bible. Why is this book so important? Because of its terrifying immediacy. While I say this books is important, I mean here and now. It is my sincere hope that this book will become a historical document (like many of those great books); it is my fear that I am dreaming.
So what is so all-fired important? This book is a history and discussion about consensual crimes--that is, victimless crimes, or, as the author prefers, crimes in which the participants consented to the action. The distinction is necessary, and McWilliams makes a point of clearly stating his position, codified in a single statement, which I will repeat for you here: "..." However, for such a simple statement, it is dangerously revolutionary with regard to our society today (...).
What at first glance might seem the height of liberalism--McWilliams is, after all, recommending the abolishment of laws against drug use, gambling, and prostitution, among others--is actually the basis of libertarianism. Yet McWilliams has solved the problem that I have always had with the libertarian movement, and that is their stand on the environment. Clearly many of the environmental rules and regulations would continue to stand if McWilliams had his way; pollution does physically harm the environment (and the persons) of others.
This book, for the simple nature of its argument, is no half-measure though. Although it is extremely readable, with an interesting layout (included a boxed quote for almost every page), it is still 800 pages. I didn't feel like any of the material was extraneous, however, and sometimes wanted more detail. Some of the interesting details that were included:
* McWilliams documenting Jerry Falwell committing a "false witness" (lying) on national television;
* The history of hemp use (and the evolution of the propaganda on its abuse);
* The play-by-play description of a "Dragnet" episode in which a character dies of an LSD overdose, although there's never been a documented case of such (some have died due to actions performed under the influence [similar to drunk driving?], but not of an overdose);
* "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." The Bible, right? Wrong. Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice," Act 1, Scene 3, Line 99.
While it isn't necessary to agree completely with McWilliams (although you'll be tempted; he is a very persuasive writer), the point is that if you agree with a single argument, it is enough to call for the abolishment of laws against consensual crimes. A strong statement, but clearly evidenced by the facts--that is, if you agree with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Is it needless to say that I highly recommend this book? No, I think I need to state it openly. Even if you don't come to the same conclusions as McWilliams, I think it is vitally necessary that you make the effort to educate yourself regarding the history of these activities and the history of the laws against these activities. Given the amount of dis- and non-information that is available on drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, et al, even if the statistics that McWilliams quotes are only 10% accurate, the figures are still impressive.
This isn't a "dry" book at all, even given the numerous quotes from founding fathers (both American and Biblical); McWilliams understands the necessity of humor (who said, "If I couldn't laugh, I'd be crying"?).
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
The author, arguing that the War on Drugs and other consensual crimes causes more harm than good, died back in June. Ironically, it was the War on Drugs that killed him.
Mr. McWilliams suffered from AIDS and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The medication that kept him alive caused intense nausea (thereby vomiting up the medication.) He smoked medical marijuana to reduce the nausea and stay alive. This is legal in California (Proposition 215 passed in '96), but in 1997 McWilliams was arrested for drug charges.
He was ordered by a federal judge not to mention his illness or the medicinal value of marijuana in the trial. To avoid a mandatory 10-year prison sentence, he pled guilty, and was prohibited from using medicinal marijuana. On July 14, Peter McWilliams was found dead in his home, having choked on his vomit.
He was arrested for what is 100% legal in California. He was not allowed to introduce evidence on his behalf in the trial. And he was released on the promise he would not take the medicine that kept him alive.
This book is about the violation of our freedoms based on the argument that other people know what is best for you. Mr. McWilliams was a fine author who used marijuana to stay alive. Now he is dead, and the world is a poorer place.
In a speech to the Libertarian Party Convention in 1998, Mr. McWilliams said this: "Marijuana is the finest anti-nausea medication known to science, and our leaders have lied about this consistently. [Arresting people for] medical marijuana is the most hideous example of government interference in the private lives of individuals. It's an outrage within an outrage within an outrage."
Let us ask ourselves some hard questions: Do I have the right to prohibit someone else from doing something (that doesn't harm another's person or property) just because I don't like it? Am I justified in imprisoning someone who may or may not be harming themselves? If my religion forbids something, should I make it illegal?
This book raises serious issues that cannot be dismissed off-hand. Outlawing marijuana and subsidizing cigarettes is an outrageous example of hypocrisy in our country, and we should be ashamed of letting government shackle us with these chains.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2007
Time and time again, if one thing has been proven painfully clear, it's that matters best left to the discretion of the individual cannot be legislated. Take for example Prohibition, which was instigated by conservative religious temperance unions whose twisted ideals of Christianity must not have included the fact that Jesus Christ was in fact a wine drinker. We all know how that turned out. But this mentality has carried on with the horrific travesty known as The War on Drugs; which to date has resulted in countless nonviolent "offenders" facing prison terms longer than rapists and murderers, billions of dollars in lost revenue, and who knows how many other problems just to prove how futile this particular endeavor really is.
Peter McWilliams' ANBiYD focuses on what are called consensual crimes such as gambling, prostitution, drug use, etc. These are things that are deemed illegal when the only real victim CAN be the perpetrator if no other crimes such as theft or murder occur. What it all boils down to is that by focusing on consensual crimes, our government has ignored greater threats such as corporate fraud, environmental abuse, and judicial corruption. We have not just limited the freedoms of those "who like to live in the fast lane", we have diminished the quality of life for every law-abiding citizen by keeping victimless crimes in the books.
Some people may think this is a manifesto for bleeding heart liberalism, and wrongly so. McWilliams did not always defend the illegal victimless behaviors, he simply attacked their criminalization. He also defended free-market capitalism, and he believed that religion can be great for determining INDIVIDUAL choices. Most striking of all was how seriously he took the threat of terrorism back in 1993, after the Clinton administration pretty much swept the first WTC bombing under the rug.
Why did I give ANBiYD 4 stars if it is so important? Because it is overlong and repetitive. McWilliams had to define "consensual crimes" several different times in the first 20 pages. We all know what it means and we agree. Now to the next point please. This is a very good book that could have been an outstanding book if it had been about 300 pages shorter.
It comes as no surprise that the government that McWillaims fought so hard to improve would ultimately lead him to his death. It may seem absurd to make this comparison, but it has to be made anyway. Like the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who bravely fought overseas to preserve our way life, he died trying to make America a more free nation from the inside. He was truly a hero whose sacrifice I take no shame in defending.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2004
In many ways this is the book that inspired the entire semester study and the deep and abiding interest in liberty that drives it. McWilliams's 780-page work was initially inspired by the "consensual crime" philosophies of Lysander Spooner. In brief: adults should be free to do whatever they wish with their own property and their own person, as long as it does not harm the property or person of others. Consensual crimes refer to any illegal activity that does not physically harm the person or property of another. Virtually all drug use "crimes" may fall into this category, as well as all laws governing any kind of sexual behavior between consenting adults. McWilliams also takes to task the laws on assisted suicide, gambling, prostitution, bigamy and polyamory, "unorthodox" medical practices, pornography and obscenity, the expression of unpopular political views, and even the petty laws on seat belt use, public drunkenness, and vagrancy. None of these have any business being classified as crimes, McWilliams argues. The desire to regulate such behavior is regarded as a moral crusade "for our own good," and so often this desire translates into allowing government greater and greater power to enforce such laws. In fact, McWilliams reasons, the removal of all such consensual crimes from the law books would: reduce taxes by as much as one-third, unburden the court system, decrase the country's staggering inmate population, and reduce _real_ crime by freeing up law enforcement's resources to pursue legitimate crimes such as arson, theft, rape, and murder. Moreover, such actions would create an environment in which people are free to live their own lives their own way: free to experiment, free to fail, free to succeed. Besides being highly critical of Prohibition and its modern-day analog The War On Drugs (which made him a target of the DEA), McWilliams devotes considerable page space to examining the New Testament and putting the words of Jesus of Nazareth into interesting perspective (this being done since so many would-be morality enforcers cite Jesus's teachings as justification to prosecute and imprison the perpetrators of consensual "crime"). Richly researched and liberally sprinkled with thought-provoking and amusing quotations, this book is a testament to the philosophies of true liberty and stands as a worthy monument to its late author, who died awaiting trial after being arrested by DEA agents for state-approved medicinal use of marijuana.