Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society

Rate this book
A refresher course on rights and personal freedom. What is your position on prostitution, pornography, gambling and other victimless crimes? This book will make readers consider their rights and the rights of others in a more humanistic and caring way. First serial to Playboy. (Prelude Press)

692 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peter McWilliams

58 books37 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
352 (58%)
4 stars
161 (26%)
3 stars
67 (11%)
2 stars
11 (1%)
1 star
7 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews
Profile Image for Jeff Chase.
70 reviews
January 15, 2012
If any one book ever changed my life, it was this one. The philosophy of this book is, boiled down, if I'm not hurting someone else, then what I do is my own business. Whether it's dressing up in a leather bustier, being an atheist, or ingesting the burning fumes of a certain plant. It's not hurting you, or anyone else, or their property, so I should be left alone.

I have given several copies of this book to people I felt needed to read it, and now it's finally available for free in pdf format. So if you want a copy, message me!
Profile Image for Terry.
850 reviews35 followers
December 20, 2008
Despite its imposing length, this is a quick read and lots of fun. McWilliams is a journeyman writer, so his book moves along with humor and energy; he tells a good anecdote and throws in puns and hyperbole with gleeful abandon. Although it dates from 1993, his central argument (nothing that consenting adults do that doesn't hurt someone else should be illegal) remains completely relevant. He doesn't cite his sources with the attention of an academic, so this is a good place to begin inquiry that leads in other directions.
Profile Image for Damon Suede.
Author 19 books2,110 followers
February 22, 2011
A superb, and superbly written meditation on what crime actually means, and what freedom must mean in order to identify our culture as a "free" society. Lifechanging!
Profile Image for Luna Corbden.
Author 7 books57 followers
September 4, 2010
Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do covers the facts on the politically-charged concept of victimless crimes.

Drugs, pornography, prostitution, and gambling. We make these things illegal in this country, because we assume it's the government's role to protect people from hurting themselves. But is this assumption correct?

I started this book as a conservative. The facts and history showed me I'd been lied to by mainstream advertisements, urban myths, and schools. I had many misconceptions that were quickly disillusioned by this book. Those facts are sound and have held up over the decade since I read it. Other sources back them up.

The conclusion: Adults should have the right to make choices about their own lives. Even if those choices seem harmful, stupid, or worthless, they have that right. Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins... but you should be able to hit your own nose all you want.
1 review
June 18, 2016
After 20 years, I still agree with many of McWilliams' viewpoints in this book.

Yes, McWilliams has an agenda: to persuade readers of the 'absurdity of consensual crimes in a free society.' If the US is a free society, then why and how did many consensual acts, such as prostitution and drug consumption become criminalized?

Read the book for yourself and make up your own mind.

3 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2008
Liberty and pursuit of happiness! Isn't it what this country all about? Or was? Shame on us for letting the Gov to "take care" of us because we're just not responsible enough to manage our own lives. Read this book. Make changes in your life. Scream about it on every corner. It isn't anyone's business what I do behind closed doors of the house I own!
Profile Image for Glen Engel-Cox.
Author 4 books51 followers
December 8, 2014
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 book 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 Peter McWilliams makes a point of clearly stating his position, codified in a single statement, which I will repeat for you here: "You should be able to do with your person or property whatever you please, as long as you don't physically harm the person or property of another." However, for such a simple statement, it is dangerously revolutionary with regard to our society today (but then, most revolutionary statements have been simple, like "Give me liberty or give me death" or "Thou shalt have no other gods before me").

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"?). Thanks to Laurie Mann for recommending this book.
Profile Image for Anton Klink.
190 reviews30 followers
January 22, 2013
I still remember reading this book online back in 1997. Since the author knew, that he wouldn't be around for much longer, yet he wanted to disseminate his important message to the world, he decided to publish all this book online for anyone to read. He was dying and one of the few things easing his pain was smoking cannabis - which at the time was almost impossible to acquire legally in the US. It was maddening, how he had to struggle as a dying man, trying to ease his pains and how to state was simply prohibiting him from doing it. I was struck by his decision to tell his story, publish his book online and it certainly made me pay attention - and boy am I glad I did.

This is one of those eye-opening books that can actually change one's life and maybe even give it a new course. I now realize, that I am still largely under the influence of the ideas of this book, as I've grown to be a staunch supporter of personal liberties. Indeed, "ain't nobody's business if you do" - smoke weed, watch porn, use contraceptives etc. It is YOUR life, you only have one and we are all entitled to live it as we please. As long as we don't harm others around us, we are even free to harm ourselves if we want to. We don't need the state or the church or anyone else really in their misguided attempts to "protect" us from ourselves. Yes, some of the choices we make in life can be harmful to us, nevertheless those are OUR choices about our OWN lives and really - "ain't nobody's business if we do".

One of the best books I've ever read and one that still influences me almost two decades after having read it.
Profile Image for James Maxey.
Author 66 books165 followers
December 30, 2011
I read this book fifteen years ago and it still influences my thinking about political rights. A comprehensive and exhaustive argument for removing government from medling in morality, the book is an extremely well-researched primer on the constitution, the Bible, and American history. Despite the seriousness of the subject and the arguments, the book is an enjoyable read because McWilliams has a sharp and biting sense of humor that often manifests in sarcastic and snarky footnotes, plus page after page of great and relevant quotes on the subject at hand by celebrities and politicians. If every person in America read this book, we might actually have a shot of living in a sane and compassionate country.
31 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2007
This book is one of the most important exegesis on the current state of the American penal system and breakdown of our Constitution. Each page holds a pearl of wisdom from Billie Holiday to Thomas Jefferson. Peter McWilliams style is completely accessible, compassionate and astute. It is a priceless tome and one that I keep near by. You can begin the book at any number of chapters and in fact are given permission to do so by the author. This book tragically was released post-humously, followinga debacle of jurisprudence the likes of which this book seeks to inform on. Please get, read, pass on, re-read a copy of this book.
Profile Image for George.
802 reviews83 followers
June 16, 2010

Thanks to her recent and excellent review of Peter McWillams' 'Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do,' my goodreads friend, Krista, has reminded that I too had read and very much appreciated this book, but had not included it on my goodreads shelf. In fact, it was the one book that I happily gave to my son, soon after he became a defense attorney in a county public defender's office. Not trying to influence the judicial system (too much).

Recommendation: We really do need to pay more attention to the individual, freedom-loving good guys, once and always, among us. Peter McWilliams was one of those good guys.
Profile Image for Cannonhistory Potter.
42 reviews6 followers
August 7, 2008
This book needs to be read by anyone who is confused if they are a liberal, a conservative, or a Libertarian. Very well written, it takes you step-by-step through the absurdities of laws that have been passed in America that protect one from oneself. McWilliams goes of the deep end on some issues, but there is a logical consistency in what he is saying.

Do yourself a favor when reading this book: suspend all of the "rules" that have been imprinted on your mind, be they from home, church or state.
Profile Image for Krista.
Author 8 books92 followers
June 10, 2010
I completely agree with the concept of this book; that we waste a lot of resources and our own future liberties criminalizing activities that were agreed to between adults and do not harm another's person or property. The book has some shocking facts and interesting history.

However, I think it is limited in its ability to persuade and convince, because the tone ridicules anyone who doesn't already believe the concepts.
Profile Image for Kevin.
2 reviews
March 14, 2012
Everyone should read this book! It looks imposing, but reads quick. You also do not need to read front to back. You can read different sections randomly without losing anything. This book clearly outlines how ridiculous so many of our laws are, how un-enforcable they are, and in some cases, how archaic they are. It has a healthy dose of humor, but takes the subject very seriously. If you read only one book in your life, this should be it!
1 review
April 4, 2016
This book is not an objective look into the criminalization of consensual activity, but rather a politically driven tome that states the obvious and assumes the reader is an idiot. I can't imagine anyone who is a fan of a justice system derived from societal morality would be persuaded by this book given the language. If you support the decriminalization of "consensual crimes", then this book is still a waste of your time, as it is not going to present an idea you have not thought before.

Profile Image for Allison.
180 reviews10 followers
January 1, 2008
Excellent arguments for why consensual crimes (aka victimless crimes, like drug use, homosexuality, etc) should be decriminalized. MacDonald anticipates moral and religious arguments and presents convincing counter-arguments; his writing is logical and packed with data, but is also highly readable, as he takes a conversational tone with the reader.
2 reviews
January 3, 2016
Surprised me in the way it broadened my notion of personal liberty and government intervention in citizens' lives. Changed the way I look at American politics; put me outside the scope of pretty much any public discussion then or now, but on topics which have been gradually easing that way in the years since; drug policy being the most obvious, but on others as well.
Profile Image for Jen G.
2 reviews
September 11, 2007
Every time I pick up this book I feel like I am settling in for a heart to heart with my slightly crack pot and very paranoid Father. I love it! To hell with the law degree all you need in life is this book.
101 reviews1 follower
October 10, 2010
Anyone who thinks Marijuana should be legalized should read this. Be prepared to be appalled at how much money we spend in our country to jail people who are only harming themselves. On the other hand are they? This was the dilemma I had with the book. Thought provoking
Profile Image for Kevin.
9 reviews2 followers
October 5, 2011
Absolutely wonderful book. Best compendium on quotations on liberty you are likely to ever find. The book would be worth the price just for the quotations. Sad that such a book is so radical in a once promising social experiment.
Profile Image for Steve.
36 reviews
May 20, 2012
One of the best books I have ever read. Long, detailed, but explains how and why a so called "democratic society" like the U.S. still has a long way to go in seeing true freedom being exercised by its citizens.
Profile Image for Steven Colucci.
14 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2017
I took the LSAT because of this book lol I LOVED and still do LOVE IT!
1 review
May 14, 2012
WIll Petrone

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country by Peter McWilliams is a book about, well, just what the title suggests. In this quite lengthy book (an intimidating 653 pages in all) the author takes on “consensual crimes” which he defines as crimes that do not infringe upon the rights of anybody else. His thesis is the very first sentence, and states that “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 a nonconsenting other” (3). The first third of the book focuses on the broad idealistic reasoning for his ideas. He goes into things such as the ideas that laws against consensual crimes are unconstitutional, un-American, and are in direct opposition to capitalism and free markets, etc. He spends time examining why such laws are illegal, and the two largest arguments against consensual crimes are that they are dangerous and immoral. He brings up several points to combat the ideas behind their illegality. Generally, he puts forward the argument that while, yes, many of these things are dangerous to the person who would choose to do them, they should not be illegal because of this. His argument is that since the action would not harm anybody else, and the person doing it would be fully consenting, there is no reason it should be illegal. He also argues that the ‘immorality’ of many of these crimes is based in religion, and thus should not be dealt with in the law. He states that most ‘morals’ in the eyes of the law are based on the Christian religion, and to a lesser extent the other Abrahamic Religions. He makes the argument that the country was never intended to be run by strictly Christian ethics and uses a number of ways to support this. One way is tracing our country’s religious history and saying that many of the founders were, in fact, not Christians but Deists. He also points out that a large part of our revolution was being free from religious interference in government. One way he demonstrates this is by pointing out that the king was supposedly selected by god to rule, and that after the revolution, our people saw that we could live with a God outside of our government. The rest of the book focuses on specific consensual crimes. He gives a lot of background on exactly what the crimes are, how they became illegal, and why these reasons are absurd. His principles he put forward in the beginning of the book remain consistent with the rest of his arguments. The most interesting thing about the book, I thought, was the fact that he says that you do not need to read the whole thing. He says that you only need to read its first chapter, which gives a general overview of his arguments, and then he says you should jump around to the issues that you care about most. I thought that this was a very pragmatic approach to the way he views his own book.
His major argument, as stated above, is that “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 a nonconsenting other” (3). This applies to an array of things that we have discussed in class, and one I can specifically think of is Tan Mom. There is much controversy over this genetic-defying-melanin-hog. She tans, on average, “way too f*cking much” per week, and as I am sure is common knowledge, this is pretty dangerous. And no matter how dangerous it is, it is not, and should not be illegal. It is her decision to go tanning, and while this may be a very dumb one, it is hers to make. She can choose to tan as much as she wants, or as much as the salon allows her to use their devices. It harms no one else, and should therefore not be illegal. On the issue of her daughter however you could argue that since tanning is dangerous, and she is a minor and would therefore not be able to consent so taking her could be argued to be illegal. Another thing he says is that “Our bodies and our lives belong to ourselves. Our bodies do not belong to the state, to our relatives, or to our friends” (437). This relates to our discussion about the Right to Die or assisted suicide. In class, we debated whether or not you should be able to tell a physician to give you a lethal amount of some drug, rather than make your family face the emotional stress or the medical bills. Whatever your reason for wanting to lose your life, you should be allowed to do so. He says this very plainly, and it is all centered on the principal that our own body is ours, and no one else’s. A third specific statement he makes is about prostitution, saying that “I view prostitution as a purely economic exchange, inherently no more or less degrading for either buyer or seller than any other professional relationship.” (339). This relates to our class discussion of the legality of prostitution, which the author handles just like all the other cases. His basic argument is that prostitution is completely consensual with both the prostitute and the patron, and should therefore not be illegal. If either one of them was forced into the exchange, there would be a problem, but if legal it would be regulated and then would cause no harm to any nonconsenting party.
The author is very biased, but is very open about it. He is trying to tell you why this side of the argument is correct and the other is wrong. He does not pretend to be someone who went into their research with little knowledge and then formed his opinion from the evidence. He, from the first page, tells you what he thinks is the correct way our government should be run. This book is so Libertarian, I’m sure it contains most of Ron Paul’s platform, and I assume that Penn Jillette said it was ‘a little on the radical side.’ And to just to drive home how ridiculously Libertarian it is, Milton Friedman is quoted as saying “This is a wonderful book” (Back Cover). Being a member of the aforementioned party, I had a grand ol’ time reading this book. The author even directly says that the book espouses libertarianism. His audience consists of mainly like-minded people, but also people who are on the fence about many of these issues. The book spends a great deal of time explaining its thought process, rather than just spouting off generalizations to appease the readers who would already agree with it. Overall, this book was great, and should be read by anyone who either agrees, or wants to see what the Libertarian crowd would have to say about the issues.
Profile Image for Michaela Light.
Author 3 books9 followers
December 27, 2020
About the crazy "illegal acts" we have on the books in most countries for consensual crimes eg drugs, sex, money use etc. ie crimes that don't hurt anyone else but the adults involved who have agreed to whatever they are doing.

Which are completely different from laws about acts that do hurt others without consent such as robbery, rape, fraud and murder.

The book gives the context of the laws being created, what America was like before those laws, counter-arguments and why they are fallacious.

The book is particular poignant because the author had AIDS-related non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and took pot to help with the nausea he had. He was released from custody on $250,000 bail and with the "condition that he not use marijuana." (this was before medical marijuana laws ) and he drowned in his own vomit while in intense pain while he was waiting sentencing.
189 reviews
June 9, 2021
While over 25 years old, this book is still a classic and holds up today, for the most part. Author gets a little long winded, but all content is relevant and interesting. Should be on every non-fiction readers' list. And a much quicker read than the page count implies.
2,140 reviews
September 7, 2021
Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society (Paperback)
by Peter McWilliams
Profile Image for Justin.
46 reviews
January 22, 2012
This is a deeply flawed book.

Peter McWilliams exaggerates, misrepresents facts, and engages in questionable statistical analysis. Flagrant innumeracy abounds, including one particularly egregious example wherein he states that since "0.25% of the ozone layer is destroyed" with each space shuttle mission, then with "four hundred space shuttle launchings, bye-bye ozone." (Even if you assume that the 0.25% figure is correct - which I don't - this is extraordinarily bad math.) McWilliams overstates his case, and he does so in no less than eight-hundred fifteen pages. In small font.

So why do I happily give this book an enthusiastic five stars? Two reasons:

First of all, McWilliams' thesis - that 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 - is absolutely right on. Sure, he could have chosen his evidence a little more carefully, but then the book wouldn't be the fearless, hilarious, mind-bending door stopper that it is. McWilliams is going to convince you that drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, gambling, cults, and oh-so-much more should be legal, legal, legal - and he's going to convince you come hell or high water. Just the sheer chutzpah of the book, published in 1993, following the very end of the Reagan/Bush era, is remarkable. And, I'll say it again: McWilliams is right. That this book remains for the most part completely relevant, almost twenty years after publication, is a sad commentary on the glacially slow movements towards freedom we've made in the freest country in the world.

My second reason for the five-star rating is more personal. I stole my copy of this book in 1994 from the press room at The Brown and White, the student newspaper for my alma mater, Lehigh University. No book has been more inspirational to me in my political beliefs, my essay writing, and frankly my general outlook on life. I must have read the book cover to cover three times in college alone, and a couple more times in the following years. Rereading the book now as a 37 year old was like spending time with dear friends that I hadn't seen in years, but had thought about all along.

P.S. This entire book is available to read, albeit in a difficult-to-read format, here.
Profile Image for Doug Brunell.
Author 30 books25 followers
September 7, 2015
This tome (over 600 pages in length) makes some great points about the futility of the concept of consensual crimes (drugs, prostitution, attacking cults, etc.). It also points out why many of these things became crimes in the first place (religion plays a huge role, which was to be expected). Mixed in with all that good, however, were quite a few things that distracted from the issue at hand.

First, don't expect this to be a serious, scholarly tome. McWilliams uses humor throughout, and sometimes that humor is groan-worthy. I don't mind humor in a work such as this (the concept lends itself to it), but some of it was just so basic that it was reminiscent of a bad joke an uncle would make.

I also didn't need so many chapters on the Bible and a history of WWII. There was too much of that it and it bogged down the message. There are a few other places where McWilliams loses himself in the history of things, as well. I would have far rather read about real-life examples of people affected by prosecution gone awry.

Overall, however, this is a solid read on a subject that shouldn't even be an issue. Unfortunately, the fact that this book exists and is still relevant says that not enough people have read it.
Profile Image for Anna.
54 reviews5 followers
November 19, 2007
i think the author might be a little bit of a crackpot and/or conspiracy theorist type, but i can dig it. basically, he goes through a bunch of arguments about why "consensual crimes" (sometimes referred to as "victimless crimes") like using illicit drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc. are unconstitutional and costing the government money. a lot of his arguments are pretty sound (e.g., if marijuana was legal, we could tax it), but some of them don't take into account the larger picture of society (e.g., he says prostitution, in and of itself, is not degrading, which i agree with to some extent, but that it becomes degrading because of society's view of women. that said, in order for prostitution NOT to be degrading, our entire society would have to change its view of women, which doesn't seem like it's going to happen anytime soon). additionally, there are some useful historical chapters about the american revolution, prohibition, and the constitution that are a nice refresher.

overall, an easy book to pick up and read a couple chapters of and then come back to.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.