Be A Ragnar Danneskjold

One of Ayn Rand's three heroes in Atlas Shrugged was a pirate and a terrorist, an outlaw with a price on his head by all "legitimate" governments. He was the example of the independent individualist living in defiance of the collectivist state.

Ragnar lived in defiance of all national and international law and is Rand's demonstration of the fact, moral and legal are totally different things, and mostly in contradiction of each other.

I have always felt that a real-life Ragnar would not be a pirate, but would be equally defiant of the law. A real life Ragnar would undoubtedly be an international smuggler.

Smuggling and Black Markets

Smuggling is closely related to another law-defying activity called the "black market." In a hypothetical free society neither smuggling or black markets would be possible, because everyone would be free to produce any product or perform any service they chose in the open market, where anyone would be free to buy those products and services. It is only in government oppressed societies that either smuggling or black markets exist. It is only where governments arbitrarily outlaw or regulate certain products or services that importing those products is identified as "smuggling," or offering those products or services for sale is identified as a "black market."

[Please see, "Underground," for details on the nature of the, "black market."]

What Is Moral To Smuggle

Though one might argue it, the mere fact that smuggling is in defiance of government oppression is not what makes it moral. Smuggling is nothing more than commercial shipping, and is only called smuggling when what is being shipped or transported has been outlawed or regulated by some government, at the source when things are smuggled out of a country, or at the destination when things are smuggle into a country.

It is perfectly moral to smuggle anything that it would be moral to transport if there were no laws governing the import or export of those goods or services. If something would be immoral to transport, with or without laws (such as slaves or war materials), the fact they are being smuggled does not make such transportation moral, and of course would be immoral to transport even if completely legal.

The Ancient and Honorable Profession of Smuggling

Smuggling is certainly not a modern phenomenon and throughout history, whenever governments attempted to confiscate wealth by means of taxation and tariffs of shipped goods, independent men would find ways to avoid those oppressive taxes and tariffs by becoming smugglers. As early as the mid-sixteenth century business men in England were supplementing their legal businesses with smuggled goods.

Smuggling was the major business of many of the early American colonists, the most successful being John Hancock, who smuggled glass, lead, paper, French molasses and tea. Though charged with violation of revenue laws by the British, his lawyer, John Adams, managed to get him relieved of all charges.

Governments do everything in their power to paint smuggling as an immoral and crooked business, but the only immorality or crookedness associated with smuggling are the laws and confiscatory taxes and tariffs imposed by governments that make smuggling possible.

Smuggling Today

Smuggling remains one of the biggest businesses in the world. Unfortunately, much smuggling is unscrupulous, taken over by truly evil underworld types. Much of that type of smuggling is immoral. The following are both examples and possibilities for perfectly moral smuggling.


Perhaps the largest moral smuggling being done today is Cigarette Smuggling. Of course governments classify all smuggling as, "criminal," so statements like, "'... a vast and burgeoning underworld of criminals' is now engaged in the business ..." doesn't really mean anything, because even if they were all just someone's Grandma making an extra buck they would be called criminals. On the other hand, claims like this: "Criminals who once dealt exclusively in illegal drugs are now smuggling cigarettes because it is so lucrative and punishments generally are much less severe," make it clear it is government laws and enforcement that drive the smuggling business into the hands of the truly immoral.

So why is tobacco smuggling so popular? According to the article, "It is easy to buy a truckload of cigarettes in North Carolina and sell them in New York City for a profit of almost $30 per carton. Thus a few hours' "work" can yield several thousand dollars' profit." Though there is risk in everything, there is little in cigarette smuggling, because, as the article says, "although interstate cigarette smuggling is a crime, prosecutions are rare."

[NOTE: There are links to over 1000 articles describing the successful tobacco smuggling business from the anti-smoking, "Tobacco-Free Kids," site.]


Right now, it's only people in Spokane, Washington, who are doing the smuggling of soap, because that is where all detergents with water-softening phosphates have been banned. But that ban is growing nation-wide: "The detergent industry has pledged to make every automatic dish washing soap sold in the U.S. and Canada nearly phosphate-free." The dish detergents without phosphates do not work, and that is why people are willing to smuggle to get their phosphates.

Phosphates are easy to obtain, and as more states outlaw them as detergents they may become a profitable substance to smuggle. The actual phosphate used in detergent, from one source, is Trisodium Phosphate. Here is another Phosphates source.


The smuggling of so-called recreational drugs is very dangerous, caters to the lowest in man, and is mostly a true underworld operation of the totally unscrupulous. There is a class of drugs, however, that is not only moral to smuggle, but perhaps one of the noblest of enterprises.

Those drugs are what we usually refer to as medicine. Many medicines have been made unavailable to people through government regulation, restrictions on imports, or outright prohibition. This story, Smuggling Hope, is just one example.

In addition to the very large and growing number of people who are unable to obtain the medicine they need, simply because government regulation and control has made medicine too expensive, there are many people whose entire medical experience is outside the government sanctioned and licensed establishment. Some are illegal immigrants or just the very poor who seek out treatment in black-market or underground clinics and "medical offices," like this dentist's or the "clinics" described in this article.

Many of these suppliers of "medical services" and "medicine" are unscrupulous, but some are simply providing medical products and services otherwise unavailable to people because of government restrictions. This article, "Black Market Medicine: An Ethical Alternative to State Control," addresses the ethics of these issues.

Should You Be A Smuggler?

I certainly cannot publicly recommend that anyone, "break any law." Smuggling certainly is risky, but nothing is without risk in this life. But smuggling will only appeal to a very small number of individuals. It is just one of the almost infinite number things suggested in, "A Penny Saved Is Not A Penny Earned," one might choose as the service or product they will provide to make their wealth.