January 3, 2014

David Brooks smoked marijuana long ago — "It was fun" — but he moved on and so should you.

Using marijuana — he observed back then and again now — doesn't get you anywhere, unlike the "higher pleasures" in life that "involve a state of going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning more about something, overcoming difficulty and experiencing a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment." Your life should be a "process" of getting better and better — becoming a "more integrated, coherent and responsible" person, "using the powers of reason, temperance and self-control." Marijuana gums up that process.
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.

75 comments:

Revenant said...

Everything which is not mandatory must be forbidden.

Sorun said...

government... discourages lesser pleasures, like being drunk.

Brooks wants to bring back Prohibition.

Kohath said...

David Brooks should immediately turn himself in to authorities and insist he be prosecuted and jailed for dozens of counts of possession.

If he favors marijuana prohibition, that's how he wants others treated -- for doing the exact thing he did.

Legalization is not a question of "encouraging" anything. It's simply a recognition that kidnapping people, locking them up, and ruining their lives is not a just and moral response to the weed problem.

Bob R said...

Gee, a smug conservative who think far more people agree with him than actually do. Good idea for a column.

MadisonMan said...

...and of course, if this is how it worked for David Brooks, then this is certainly how it must work for the entire rest of humanity.

Bob R said...

From John Cook of Gawker "We now have a couple states that have gone into the business of effectively encouraging David Brooks."

EDH said...

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.

What Brooks doesn't address is that to impose criminal punishments is to "go into the business of effectively" providing drug cartels with their largest source of revenue.

Xmas said...

It's quiet a moral world we've built where 20 guys each caught with a quarter ounce of pot will get 10 years in prison while 1 cop who violently, anally violated 20 young black men only gets two years.

But, you know, we must preserve our world for the children. We must keep this system in place that punishes dumb recreational activity with horrible violence. It's the moral thing to do.

Unknown said...

How about a moral climate where the States pass laws that deliberately conflict with Federal law? Or Federal law that conflicts with State laws? Or Local government law enforcement deliberately and selectively not enforcing State laws? Or Fed Gov law enforcement deliberately and selectively not enforcing Fed laws? How far from "Render unto Caesar" have we come? What is the fundamental meaning of the term "law"?

garage mahal said...

David Brooks should immediately turn himself in to authorities and insist he be prosecuted and jailed for dozens of counts of possession.

Atrios sums it up: They both want Official Disapproval of activities they happily participated in once upon a time because kids today, but Offical Disapproval means people go to jail. Not Brooks and Marcus of course, or their kids, but other people. Link

betamax3000 said...

Law is a Hammer to Be Applied in Whatever Manner the One Holding it Chooses to Use. We are a Nation of Nails.

betamax3000 said...

Deck Shoes, Izod Shirts with the Collars Up, Vuarnet Sunglasses, Smoking a Joint with the Other Children of Entitlement: Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta.

Michael said...

Brooks should man a fryer at McDonald's all day and then tell us if he wants to study Latin or smoke a big bowl.

betamax3000 said...

David Brooks Smoking a Joint, Listening to "Straight Outta Compton," Keepin' It Real. Those were the Days.

betamax3000 said...

"New Jack Hustler: David Brooks and His Friends Would Smoke a Bowl and Rap Along: "H-U-S-T-L-E-R-Hustler". They Knew How it Was on the Street. Word.

betamax3000 said...

David Brooks: Still Upset from When They Made Fun of His Kangol Hat.

betamax3000 said...

He Tried to Get People to Call Him "LL Cool Brooks" 'cuz the Ladies Love Cool Brooks. It Never Caught On.

betamax3000 said...

Some of Those Disses Still Hurt Him, Even Now. He Keeps it Inside, Of Course, OG-Style.

betamax3000 said...

Some of Those Disses Still Hurt Him, Even Now. He Keeps it Inside, Of Course, OG-Style.

betamax3000 said...

David Brooks and His friends Would Smoke Joints and Debate Who Was Most Dope. Brooks Would Argue That the Beastie Boys were Too White. He Kept His Ear to the Ground, Yo.

John Lynch said...

I get Althouse and what she's saying- not everyone wants or needs to follow the path of material success. There are other ways to happiness, and it's not the government's business.

I get this because I rejected the whole upper middle class treadmill. I had a 1400 SAT score and Yale was sending me packets in the mail (I'm Hispanic). So I dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy. I've done many things since I left the Navy, but right now I'm delivering pizzas.

Am I a failure? Well, no. I live exactly where I want to live, in my own house, with my wife and son. That's what I wanted. I don't have to report to a organization and I don't have to deal with HR. I just do my job so well that everyone leaves me alone.

So, all very bohemian and Althousian, right? Well, yes, except that the only reason I can do this is because I don't do drugs and I made a family happen.

You can't have a happy life in extreme poverty. Drugs cause poverty. It's easy for middle class people to go on about individual liberty and drugs... because they aren't paying the price. On a working class salary (except we get paid by the hour) you can't afford to be a weed addict and still get ahead.

Worse, all the good jobs have drug tests so you can't move up. My store had a random drug test and we lost several good employees, including our best worker who'd risen to assistant manager. He'd have been running everything in due time, except he smoked a lot of weed and the test got him fired. So, he had to start all over again somewhere else. He had just had a child, too.

Brooks is right, folks. Even if you don't give a shit about being an educated, upper middle class drone you cannot live a full life as a drug addict. It interferes with everything you do. It also interferes with everyone around you. Drug addicts have to pay for their drugs, so the are much more likely to steal. This happens so often at our store that we expect it. Not every pot head is a thief, but it's a lot more likely than someone who isn't.

The reality of drugs isn't individual choice, nor is it romantic. It's squalid. It crushes people by limiting their choices. Real freedom is not about money or status- Althouse is right about that. But drugs are not freedom, and they aren't liberty.

Michael said...

War on drugs is lost. I think we should surrender and legalize the lot. In reasonably short order the half that is already contributing nothing will be too stoned to votemmexcept those on coke, of course, whomwill be voting twice. But since coke is expensive.....

I think anything we can do to keep the poor down is worth a try.

Michael said...

War on drugs is lost. I think we should surrender and legalize the lot. In reasonably short order the half that is already contributing nothing will be too stoned to votemmexcept those on coke, of course, whomwill be voting twice. But since coke is expensive.....

I think anything we can do to keep the poor down is worth a try.

SGT Ted said...

Spot on, garage. The moral scolding is dried up and stale.

Shouting Thomas said...

Gawker restates the Brooks' article:

Columists Declare: I Smoked Weed and Totally Missed the Point.

Tim said...

David Brooks is not a "conservative".

Tim said...

David Brooks is not a "conservative".

garage mahal said...

I wonder if Obama has ever been asked if he should serve a little time for pot like the people his DOJ goes after that are now serving time.

n.n said...

Oh, the irony. The audacious hypocrisy. "Moral ecology", really? That's antithetical to the tenets of liberal civilization. Sacrifice another human life for sex, money, ego, or convenience. Perhaps your mortal gods will reward you with progressive inflation and compensatory medical insurance.

Other than the Chinese Communists, what was the last regime to normalize state-sponsored murder of millions of human lives, annually? The Left is an enigma wrapped in hypocrisy.

Freeman Hunt said...

I once asked a boss why he didn't do drug testing when it seemed like so many other companies did.

"What's the point? If someone is doing a bad job, I'll fire hiim whether he does drugs or not. You know what can happen when you drug test? You can find out that one of your best employees likes to get high on the weekend, and you have to fire him because you instituted a drug testing policy."

He was a pretty sharp boss.

garage mahal said...

I smoked pot with David Brooks.

Not sure if that is satire, but funny nonetheless.

betamax3000 said...

Brooks Was Admired for the Crease of His Joints.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't drink, smoke, or do any drugs, so I have nothing at stake personally. I think it would be a social good if some people replaced binge drinking with smoking marijuana. I am guessing that would lead to a reduction in violence and in fatal traffic accidents.

madAsHell said...

Law is a Hammer to Be Applied in Whatever Manner the One Holding it Chooses to Use. We are a Nation of Nails.


Lather.
Rinse.
Repeat!!

Mr. Forward said...

To David Brooks: Thank you for your concern. Now get the f**k off my lawn.

Birches said...

I find it interesting that most of the cultural elite can cop to trying weed at some point. It seems as most think its some sort of WASPy rite of passage and that everyone has done it.

Anecdotaly, I've discovered that most of the driven people I know who weren't given everything by mama and papa never touched the stuff because they wanted to get ahead and didn't want to screw it up.

Jman said...

"Laws profoundly mold culture"

That's the problem: moldy culture.

David said...

Today at Walgreen's, the man in the line ahead of me bought a package of prescription medication. He also had two cases of beer and a carton of cigarettes.

In a nation where the top medical drug dispenser profits from alcohol and tobacco, a little pot seems beside the point.

It's not, of course. I had potheads and alcoholics in my family, and the result of the family is quite similar. Both are quite a bad thing.

One is generally legal, the other is not. But for both the individual has a choice on whether to consume.

John Lynch said...

Birches-

Yeah, exactly. It irritates me when elites try to get street cred by talking about drug use. Drug use as some sort of right of passage by kids moving up the ladder is no the same thing as chronic use by lower classes.

Mattman26 said...

If I were talking to one of my kids (late teens to young adult), I might make Brooks' point --- yes, this can be fun, but question whether it should be much of a part of your life --- but to preach it to the nation, or to suggest that it can excuse making someone a criminal, seems all wrong.

Writ Small said...

Brooks use of the word "effectively" was entirely fair if read in context. He cites a study that says says legalization will cause a massive reduction in price. Basic economics says that will "encourage" greater usage.


The well-to-do are all about society being non-judgmental about self-destructive behaviors. Those people can pay for rehab or child support or high-priced criminal lawyers. For many others, such bad choices can be life-ruining.

Given Althouse's moral preening, I expected the Brooks column to be a real doozy, but it struck me as rather reasonable.

William said...

In the free market of intoxicants, it may turn out that young people prefer alcohol to marijuana. Since marijuana was illegal, many young people naturally assumed that it was a more potent high. There's quite a lot of hype--pro and con--surrounding pot.......People who want to go to hell in a hand basket, generally find a suitable vehicle. They come along at frequent intervals, and you can always hitch a ride in someone's sidecar. The legalization of pot will not subvert western civ, nor transform us into a nation of gentle hobbits,

Tom said...

It's sloppy language. I tend to use "effectively" when an issue has been reduced from a systemic level to one of a more isolated events level. Take prostitution as an example. If we lived in a society where there are large numbers of prostitutes and there were processes available to solicit prostitutes and then we found way to eliminate those processes and high numbers of prostitutes, I'd say that prostitution has effectively been eliminated. That's doesn't mean that isolated cases of paying for sex have been eliminated - those cases could still occur. But without processes to perpetuate it self, those isolated cases cannot grow into a systemic issue. In other words, it ain't all gone. But it's pretty much all gone.

But that's my label. And the bigger issue is that people infer different meanings from the same label. That's a problem.

2acde780-74a5-11e3-9621-000bcdcb471e said...

"I smoked pot with David Brooks"
http://www.garygreenbergonline.com/w/?p=449

"And here all along I thought he quit because of that time we got pulled over by the Radnor cops in senior year right after we’d clambaked his Mom's Vista Cruiser, and first thing the cop does after the smoke clears is look him right in his red, red eyes, and said, 'I don't suppose it would go over so good if I went over to 632 Haverford Road and told Mr and Mrs Brooks their boy was out here with his clique smoking pot.'"

Freeman Hunt said...

"The well-to-do are all about society being non-judgmental about self-destructive behaviors. Those people can pay for rehab or child support or high-priced criminal lawyers. For many others, such bad choices can be life-ruining."

Isn't that a point against Brooks? The rich can get high with little consequence while the poor are branded criminals.

Trashhauler said...

"When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things."

Smilin' Jack said...

Using marijuana — he observed back then and again now — doesn't get you anywhere, unlike the "higher pleasures" in life that "involve a state of going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning more about something, overcoming difficulty...blah, blah, blah.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. Pass the bong.

William Chadwick said...

If only Sir David could outgrow the New Toryism.

Sam L. said...

I am so unimpressed with Brooks. I brook no Brooks now.

Meade said...

garage mahal said...
"I wonder if Obama has ever been asked if he should serve a little time for pot like the people his DOJ goes after that are now serving time."

Last year Barbara Walters asked him about his own drug use.

Obama: "There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid."

"My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society."

"I want to discourage drug use.

From "Dreams from My Father":
“I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though-Micky, my potential initiator, had been just a little too eager for me to go through with that. ...
Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. I had discovered that it didn’t make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate’s sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you’d met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl. Nobody asked you whether your father was a fat-cat executive who cheated on his wife or some laid-off joe who slapped you around whenever he bothered to come home. You might just be bored, or alone. Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection. And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism...


So clearly, pot use during teen years can lead to addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, cognitive impairment, and poor judgements… lingering into the adulthoods of the current President of the United States and many of those who voted for him. (Non-users who voted for him will have to come up with their own explanations.)

garage mahal said...

The rich can get high with little consequence while the poor are branded criminals.

The war on drugs is really a war on the poor and minorities. There is zero chance Brooks or one of his kids would ever do time for possession.

Scott said...

Holy Sweet Jeebus, garage, you sound like a libertarian.

Meade said...

"The war on drugs is really a war on the poor and minorities."

No, garage, it isn't. You see, that is one of impairments drug use can have on you - poor critical thinking.

The war on drugs is not "really a war on the poor and minorities." It's a war on the poor and minorities and everyone else who traffic in drugs. The vast majority of "the poor and minorities" who never traffic in drugs are not the targets.

mrs. e said...

"I think it would be a social good if some people replaced binge drinking with smoking marijuana."

How would that even happen?

Meade said...

"How would that even happen? "

It won't. No matter how much THC you provide alcoholics, what they have to have is one thing: ethanol.

Scott said...

Both garage and Meade engage in indefensible suppositions.

To me, it doesn't seem to be a good idea to craft public policy based on what class does or doesn't get hurt.

Smilin' Jack said...

The war on drugs is not "really a war on the poor and minorities." It's a war on the poor and minorities and everyone else who traffic in drugs.

Absolutely. "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread."--Anatole France

eric said...

There's a lot I don't understand about those who support the legalization of Marijuana.

It's not addictive, yet people will do it and risk being "kidnapped and thrown in prison" as one person puts it.

Making it legal means the drug cartels no longer make money off of it. Wait. Doesn't the government now make money off of it? Somehow I think I'd rather have the drug cartels having the money than the government.

We know making it legal means it's use will go up. How is that good for society?

Some say, if it's not hurting someone else, it ought to be allowed. Since when doesn't drug use of one person hurt those around them? I call these people small minded individuals, or fools, who can't see beyond their own nose.

Yeah, this isn't going to end well.

Meade said...

Ha ha. In this case, more like: In its majestic equality, the law forbids the rich bored, lonely, disaffected and the poor bored, lonely, disaffected alike to traffic in marijuana.

SOJO said...

David Brooks has gotten so boring to me. The commentary leaps he takes are so small and safe, his articles often say nothing at all. I used to find him kind of interesting. His descent or early progression to middle-aged thinking offered a novel kind of mildly common-sense stability when I was younger, but now that everyone in my peer group is in their late-30s to early-50s, I find his columns more suffocating than interesting.

SOJO said...

I don't really understand that line of reasoning unless you were planning on becoming a full on elder stoner. People don't say, "Oh, I drank wine in college. No more trips to Sonoma for me now that I'm a parent." They might say, "Yeah, I used to binge drink with my frat. Can't do that anymore."

For a more interesting take on why mid-life weed smoking isn't always doable anymore, I give you Louis CK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8FzGlgVGdo

If you're an older boomer, you can get a senior citizen discount. Hah.

There are so many kinds now - and so many edibles- differentiation and branding gone haywire - that you can't lump them all in together. They affect the mind and body in different ways.

garage mahal said...

It's a war on the poor and minorities and everyone else who traffic in drugs. The vast majority of "the poor and minorities"

Blacks are arrested four times the rate as whites for marijuana possession despite the fact that marijuana use is about the same for both black and white Americans. Not sure what impairment you're suffering from but this information is readily available on the internet.

Meade said...

How does that make it " a war on the poor and minorities"?

ALP said...

Brooks is pushing the same argument the people who hate "mindless TV" do: any period of relaxed mindlessness, any break from the tedious work of progress and "constant improvement" is frowned upon.

I've yet to hear a really good argument AGAINST indulging in a good stare once in a while. Why must we strive, strive, strive every waking second of the day?

garage mahal said...

The federal government subsidizes it:

"Phillip Atiba Goff, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that police departments, partly driven by a desire to increase their drug arrest statistics, can concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods to meet numerical goals, focusing on low-level offenses that are easier, quicker and cheaper than investigating serious felony crimes." Link.

Meade said...

"During President Obama’s first three years in office, the arrest rate for marijuana possession was about 5 percent higher than the average rate under President George W. Bush. And in 2011, marijuana use grew to about 7 percent, up from 6 percent in 2002 among Americans who said that they had used the drug in the past 30 days."

And yet you voted for President Obama, garage. What, were you high?

garage mahal said...

Keep trolling Meade. You clearly have nothing of substance to offer.

Meade said...

"This disparity had grown steadily from a decade before, and in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were around eight times as likely to be arrested."

Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. All blue states, right? Correlation or causation?

ALP said...

"We know making it legal means it's use will go up. How is that good for society?"
*************
Are you sure? IMHO - 90% of the people I meet who try and it and never do it again just don't like it - the legality or illegality is not the primary issue. People who don't touch drugs/drink have no attraction to altered states, and frequently state "losing control" makes them uncomfortable. The second most quoted reason is they care about "what people think". Making it legal probably ensures more will *try* it...but I am not so sure the percentage of people who want to include altered states as part of their life will suddenly increase.

Meade said...

garage, I'm agreeing with you. Apparently the war on drugs isn't only a war on minorities and the poor, it's a BLUE STATE war on minorities and the poor!

Meade said...

"Federal programs like the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program continue to provide incentives for racial profiling, the report said, by including arrest numbers in its performance measures when distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local law enforcement each year."

Look at that grant program report and you'll see that the allotment for "drug enforcement" steadily increased in 2012 as Obama's reelection grew nearer. Racial profile incentivized federal grant money from the Obama administration.

If you think that was just a coincidence, I don't want whatever you're smoking. I need to keep the few wits I have left about me.

garage mahal said...

I need to keep the few wits I have left about me.

I don't think you need to worry about any remaining wits you may have left.

mousie130 said...

This was a really well-written, lovely post. THANK YOU! I love your writing.

SOJO said...

I recently watched Snoop's "Reincarnated".

He was explaining his pre-rap drug dealing days - He tried to get a job, and found one at a fast food place. It paid $80 a week. Drug dealing paid $1500 a day. If your parents had no money, and you had no 1980s local access to anything else, what would you do, especially if you were his achievement-oriented personality type?

To a certain extent, it's like a frustrating drop-down menu where certain options are just grayed out- all the result of bad programming/policy beyond your control. You can become a super hero like he did, but how does that help the average person in that neighborhood deal with it?

It doesn't.

I was familiar with that area in that time period - it was a fast food joint on every corner scary mary shit hole with guys walking by in bright white t-shirts and starched baggy pants and stray middle aged women tripping in full public view and catching imaginary "flies" on the corner.

But on to the other issues - if you have no job access in large area, any economy/money there is will go underground or black market, and that begets violence.

So you have a war on minorities and/or the poor in two ways - the incredible incarceration rate as a the severe punishment for leveraging the black market economy (which is really just a punishment for not accepting their raw deal and being happy shit job workers, a direction large segments of the entire society are now heading towards with YUMM and McDonalds being the top American employers instead of GM and ATT), and the pernicious circular effect of the resulting violence on the day-to-day education and lives in that neighborhood.


Gregory Stipe said...

There's nothing wrong using it as long as it is not over used
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