The United States is indeed an exceptional nation. It has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. It has over 2 million people behind bars, more than any other nation. And it has the highest per capita prison rate.
A great many of the Americans who are in prison have been incarcerated for victimless crimes, and especially drug crimes. Only violent criminals should be incarcerated, and no one should ever be locked up for committing a victimless crime.
Every crime should have a tangible and identifiable victim with real harm and measurable damages. Rape, robbery, assault, child abuse, battery, burglary, theft, arson, looting, kidnapping, shoplifting, embezzlement, manslaughter, and murder are real crimes. Possessing “illegal” drugs, “illegal” gambling, prostitution, discriminating, price gouging, and ticket scalping are victimless crimes.
Prosecuting Americans for committing victimless crimes turns vices into crimes; unnecessarily makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding Americans; is an illegitimate function of government; criminalizes voluntary, consensual, peaceful activity; costs far more than any of its supposed benefits; does violence to individual liberty and private property; and is incompatible with a free society.
Committing victimless crimes may be unwise, addictive, unhealthy, risky, immoral, sinful, and/or just plain stupid, but it is not for the government to decide what risks Americans are allowed to take and what kinds of behaviors they are allowed to engage in as long as their actions are peaceful, private, voluntary, and consensual.
According to Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” According to the case of Ex parte Garland (1867), the scope of the president’s pardon power is quite broad. And according to United States v. Klein (1871), Congress cannot limit the president’s grant of an amnesty or pardon.
This means that Trump could, today, pardon every American in a federal prison for committing a victimless crime.
Aside from being the right thing to do, it would show the world that Trump is not just another Progressive politician.