Everybody has had at David Brooks for what he wrote about marijuana in today's column. I'm not going to add anything new or interesting or amusing to the mix.
Instead, I'm just going to talk about this Brooks assertion:
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.Does Brooks think this describes our society? Really? Or even our society if we just worked a little harder to make it better?
Our society doesn't seek "to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship" -- certainly not on the part of our most prominent citizens. Our society wants aggressive sociopaths who would run over their own grandmothers to earn an extra .001% in quarterly profit, with the "self-governing" part being limited to making sure that only the have-nots experience the ill effects of the aggression. You want to package metaphoric toxic waste as triple-A-rated investment instruments and sell them far and wide until the global economy collapses? No problem! Just keep the profits flowing, and when it all blows up, let us know if you suffer any damage and we'll stake you again so you can repeat the process. And don't worry, we're working on naming that wing of the children's hospital after you.
And does Brooks actually believe this society "subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature"? I know this comes near the end of his column, and he's apparently trying to fill it out as if he's writing the world's most awkward personal ad. (It's not the column's only rough spot: several paragraphs up, Brooks writes about his high school stoner friends falling in love and, desperate for an original way of describing their emotional state, tells us that they "got thrills from the enlargements of the heart." This made me wonder if he was referring to coronary disease.)
But seriously: who around the large Applebee's salad bar that is America has been encouraged to pursue "the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts"? "The arts" are for un-American wussies. Same with nature, unless it involves extreme sports. America isn't that society. America is about football and fart jokes and expensively generated CGI low culture involving massive amounts of explosions. America isn't about "temperate, prudent, self-governing" citizens -- it's about narcotized citizens working to make the hyperaggressive few richer and richer.
So, since America has nothing in common with Brooks's ideal polity, those of us who choose to might as well get baked, right?