I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.Yes, but many things that aren't particularly helpful are nevertheless legal, and in a free society, we don't outlaw everything that's not "particularly uplifting." Most things that "should be discouraged," we just discourage, for example, in conversations or with silent looks of disapproval or by writing newspaper columns about what a good little boy I turned out to be and don't you want to hop onto the conveyor-belt of worldly success like MEEEEEE.
To remove legal punishments for the use of marijuana is — in Brooks's view — to go "into the business of effectively encouraging drug use." "Effectively" is a fascinating NYT word, used yesterday in saying that Chairman Mao "effectively eradicated" prostitution. (Does it seem potheadish to get distracted by the mysteries of "effectively"?) Colorado and Washington are relieving people of the harassment and burdens of criminal law enforcement and threats of enforcement, but you could say they are kind of sort of "encouraging" drug use.
Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.Healthy? I’d say that in healthy societies government gets out of our lives and lets us decide for ourselves what we want to do. We should be free to choose high or low pleasures, including the low pleasure of getting high. One person's high is another's low. For me, it's a high pleasure to look at the high pleasure of a man who thinks he's high and to puncture it so it's low. And that was low, Mr. Brooks, your call to loftiness. (I almost wrote "lawftiness.") Take you subtle nudging and tip your own scale toward prudence and self-governance.
Brooks seems to know he's in the weeds, because his next sentence, his penultimate, is: "In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom." Thanks for that concession. The final sentence is set up. Here it is, the clincher:
But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.Most of us? Well, if you're going to be all majoritarian about it, most of us want marijuana legalized. Most of us would like to nurture a moral ecology in which each of us gets to decide how we want to live.