NYT's David Brooks: 'I Smoked Marijuana. It Was Fun'

Can you imagine the slightly-right of center yet seemingly always stoic New York Times columnist David Brooks smoking pot?

No, I can't either, but found his piece in Friday's Times on this subject rather bold for a supposedly conservative pundit to come out of  the weed closet in order to denounce its legalization:

For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.

But then we all sort of moved away from it. I don’t remember any big group decision that we should give up weed. It just sort of petered out, and, before long, we were scarcely using it.

Brooks proceeded to tell readers why he believed he and his young friends moved on from smoking pot.

This might have been due to embarrassing moments for them when they were high, including an incident for Brooks when after smoking pot during lunch, he found himself unable to do a scheduled presentation in English class.

"It is still one of those embarrassing memories that pop up unbidden at 4 in the morning," admitted Brooks.

Another reason they quit is because one of their friends "became a full-on stoner. He may have been the smartest of us, but something sad happened to him as he sunk deeper into pothead life."

It seems a metaphysical certitude that virtually every member of the Baby Boom generation has such a friend or school acquaintance that fell so hard into pot addiction that he or she became a barely functioning part of the society.

In my high school, we called them "burnouts," and they strolled our hallways stoned from opening bell to closing bell largely making fools of themselves.

To this day I wonder whether they shook themselves of pot and ever became successful adults.

From there, Brooks spoke about how most of his friends "graduated to more satisfying pleasures. The deeper sources of happiness usually involve a state of going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning more about something, overcoming difficulty and experiencing a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment."

But most importantly, Brooks and his friends concluded "smoking weed was not exactly something you were proud of yourself for."

Indeed not. That's why I find it odd when folks such as HBO's Bill Maher brag about their pot use as if it's something to be admired.

A new episode of Jerry Seinfeld's online program "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" featured Louis CK talking about how when he doesn't have his kids, he likes to get stoned and go to IMAX films.

I bet his children are so proud of their father for this.

So what was the point of Brooks's coming out party? To oppose marijuana legalization:

We now have a couple states — Colorado and Washington — that have gone into the business of effectively encouraging drug use. By making weed legal, they are creating a situation in which the price will drop substantially. One RAND study suggests that prices could plummet by up to 90 percent, before taxes and such. As prices drop and legal fears go away, usage is bound to increase. This is simple economics, and it is confirmed by much research. Colorado and Washington, in other words, are producing more users.

The people who debate these policy changes usually cite the health risks users would face or the tax revenues the state might realize. Many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use because that would imply that one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.

But, of course, these are the core questions: 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.

In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. 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.

I admire Brooks for coming out of the weed closet to condemn its legalization. This isn't something you'd expect at the Times, especially from a right-of-center columnist.

However, I question whether or not it's government's role to encourage socially-beneficial behaviors and discourage socially-detrimental ones.

Isn't that largely at the heart of ObamaCare, especially the individual mandate?

For the past three months, we've had White House officials and their supporters claim that people losing health insurance as a result of this law were being tossed off "junk" policies and thereby forced to buy what the administration deemed were "better."

But in many cases, we know this to be another in a series of lies tossed out by Obama in order to get this pathetic law passed.

Another part of this law dealing with birth control is forcing a progressive philosophy regarding such onto religious institutions that oppose it.

This was temporarily stayed this week by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but perfectly demonstrates what happens when government is mandating what it believes are socially-beneficial behaviors.

Would our Founding Fathers and constitutional Framers support such a thing?

I highly doubt it - pun intended.

New York Times David Brooks
Noel Sheppard's picture