The Spectacle Blog

This is Your Brain on David Brooks

By on 1.3.14 | 3:34PM

I'm going to avoid wading too far into David Brooks's latest anti-marijuana column, since countless bloggers have already trudged through the worst parts. If you missed it, Brooks admitted he used to be a pot smoker and once inhaled so much as to become completely incoherent in every one of his columns front of his English class. If you support marijuana legalization, the column will infuriate you, and if you oppose marijuana legalization, the column will make you wish you supported marijuana legalization. Dave Weigel has an excellent response, including a spot-on condemnation of "clueless Acela Corridor pundits who think a lot about 'society' without bothering to explore it."

For my contribution, I’ll just say that it seems like Brooks is shooting himself in the foot. Consider his confessional:

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.

We didn’t give it up for the obvious health reasons: that it is addictive in about one in six teenagers; that smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed; that young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests.

In other words, Brooks managed to grow up and retire his bong without Thought Leader technocrats battering him upside the head with fearmongering commercials and sociological studies. This sounds like an argument for personal responsibility and maturation, rather than prohibition. Brooks later writes that states that have recently legalized pot are “nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.” But to be that hardy person, we have to confront our weaknesses and addictions, not be sheltered from them by government. A strong moral ecology must be populated by strong individuals.

Marijuana legalization is an issue that’s torn conservatives for some time, placing our twin pillars of traditionalism and libertarianism in opposition. For a more convincing anti-pot case, read Peter Hitchens’s essay from our February 2013 issue.

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