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The Moral Blindness of BoBo


I hate to waste more time on this, but Charles makes a point about both Brooks and Marcus that desperately needs to be made:

Laws against marijuana certainly have molded our culture, especially profoundly, if you happen to be young and black.

Somehow, I’m guessing that Brooks and Marcus would be rather less sanguine about marijuana criminalization had their youthful experimentation ended up with them in jail and their lives ruined.  It’s pretty easy to use the criminal law as way of expressing vague aesthetic values when it’s not you or anyone you know who will actually pay the price, even when you engage in the illegal activity yourself.  A criminal sentence based on an unequal application of the law or an arbitrary property seizure also constitute ” a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be,” only it’s a hell of a lot more immoral and it’s a lot more than “a bit.”  Marcus at least acknowledges this — even if it drops out of the rest of her analysis — but for Brooks to ignore it entirely is a disgrace.

…Weigel apparently beat me to it:

Marcus and Brooks sound like perfect parodies of clueless Acela Corridor pundits who think a lot about “society” without bothering to explore it. “In healthy societies,” writes Brooks, “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.” That’s a definition of “society” that includes only some people and wishes away—or just ignores—the social damage done by prohibition and arrests. Consequences like sentencing disparities, which collar black teens for the sort of drug use/sale that people who look like me or have my credit rating could easily get away with. Like the mind-boggling police state abuses carried out in the name of catching drug users.


Isn’t this what Brooks is talking about, favorably? If you want to send the message that your society condemns a certain behavior, rendering people homeless because that behavior happened on their porch is one way to do it.

But that’s obviously crazy, especially because the damage done by recreational use of marijuana is so petty.

…Michelle Goldberg is also very good on this.

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