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.
The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?
- History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
- In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
- Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
A glass of juice has as much sugar, ounce for ounce, as a full-calorie soda. And those vitamins do almost nothing.
Quick: think back to childhood (if you've reached the scary clown you've gone too far). What did your parents or guardians give you to keep you quiet? If you're anything like most parents, it was juice. But here's the thing: juice is bad for you.
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
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