Dave Brooks Became Too Good to Smoke Pot
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
Several people have asked me what I thought about David's column about the moral message we send people by completely legalizing marijuana. The price would drop rapidly. It would be readily available. And the message sent by our law would be there's nothing wrong with it.
I need to begin with the obligatory moment in which I admit that the criminal penalties connected with either buying pot or being a small-time weed entrepreneur have typically been ridiculous. There was every reason to lighten up a lot.
David's objection to smoking seems almost Epicurean. He had his obligatory moment when he confesses (on behalf of his coolness) that he had loads of marijuana-induced fun as a young man. He enjoyed being silly with his friends. But then he figured out that he was only being silly, even when he thought he was being profound. So he and most of friends ascended to higher pleasures—those that that require clear thinking. David moved away from drug-addled fantasy in the direction of the pleasures of philosophy and real human accomplishment.
Drug-addled might seem a bit too severe as a judgment concerning habitual smokers of pot. But it's not. I remember in college being impressed with the slightly older Vietnam vets who had "real life experiences" and smoked, in part, to get over them. I guess I can join David in my cool confession that I joined them on occasion, thinking that was the way to participate in their wisdom. The truth is that some of them stayed with the habit (which is not chemical addiction) and didn't get on with life.
The truth is also that most "hippies" were more like David. They didn't become pathetic "aging hippies," but, like David, transformed themselves into bourgeois bohemians, who might naughtily smoke once in a great while to remember what is was like to be more genuinely bohemian. (David and I don't.)
The real issue when it comes to completely legalized, free-market, low-priced marijuana: We're getting more puritanical and prohibitionist when it comes to smoking tobacco, because it's really bad for your health. It's not particularly bad for your soul, for having what David calls an "interesting and integrated life." Our "nudge economists" are thinking up more and more ways of discouraging people from smoking tobacco (including taxing cigarettes more and more). They do so because habitually using tobacco is a stupid choice that leads to one's own needless sickness and early death and ends up costing "society" a lot on health care, lost productivity, and all.
Smoking marijuana isn't, all by itself, particularly bad for your bodily health. But it easily becomes a habit that's bad for your soul. In thinking alone these lines, I keep remembering what libertarian Tyler Cowen says in his fascinating Average is Over: The marginally productive people of our lower economic class will be diverted from their misery by screens and legalized marijuana. Legalized marijuana (and the screen) is in the process of becoming what Marx calls an "opiate for the people." (Marijuana, of course, is much closer to being like the literal opium.) It too, studies can or will be able to show, can have its consequences for lost productivity, broken families, increased health-care costs, and all that. It will be an indispensable feature of what some fear will be the idiocracy to come.
And among ordinary or failing Americans, I'm sure it would be easy to show a growing correlation between tobacco use and cannabis use.
So my most modest conclusion is that "nudge economists" should be for various public policies that discourage the smoking of marijuana, for the same or better reasons than discouraging the smoking of tobacco. And if you're not any kind of libertarian at all, you can have a stronger conclusion.
How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.
While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.
A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.
We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.
Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.
Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.