Essay:Burden of proof

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In a culture that respects freedom, the burden of proof in argumentation should be on those who favor prohibiting an activity to demonstrate that the costs of allowing that activity outweigh the costs of prohibition. If the burden of proof were on those who oppose prohibition of an activity, then people could go around all day saying "Let's prohibit your doing x until you can prove that the benefits of being allowed to do x outweigh the harms from not being allowed to do it." We would constantly be having our right to engage in various behaviors challenged, and we would be having to invest effort in providing evidence that what we want to do is, in fact, okay.

As a practical matter, people need not offer any logic or evidence in order to ban an activity. They can simply say, "We choose to prohibit this, and are voting accordingly." Although there are costs (e.g. time and effort) involved in debating a topic, there are also costs involved in prohibition. When those costs are high, it is often worth examining the evidence and logic to see whether they justify the prohibition.