David Brooks on Pot: Because This Is Not to My Taste, No One Else Should Be Able to Enjoy It



Matt Welch makes a couple of important points in response to David Brooks' amazingly obtuse anti-pot column in today's New York Times: Declining to ban something is not the same as endorsing it, and there is nothing "subtl[e]" about using violence to stop people from consuming psychoactive substances that you fear will prevent them from realizing their full potential. I would add that the judgment Brooks pats himself on the back for passing (since "many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use") cannot possibly justify the arbitrary distinctions drawn by our drug laws, even if you share his paternalistic premise.

"I don't have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time," Brooks says, but "smoking all the time" is "likely to cumulatively fragment a person's deep center, or at least not do much to enhance it." He thinks people should not smoke pot so much that they forgo the "more satisfying pleasures" and "the deeper sources of happiness." Instead they should be guided by "reason, temperance and self-control."

As I point out in my book Saying Yes, the same could be said of any enjoyable activity that can be carried to excess. Drinking is the most obvious example, but any pleasure can be the focus of an addiction that crowds out more meaningful aspects of life. That is not an argument for abstinence, let alone abstinence enforced by law. It is an argument for temperance, in the original sense of the term. Like most drug warriors, Brooks makes no effort to explain why the possibility of excess justifies the prohibition of marijuana but not the prohibition of alcohol and every other fun thing. His argument brings to mind Marge Simpson's case against mixed martial arts competitions: "Call me a killjoy, but I think that because this is not to my taste, no one else should be able to enjoy it."

That is the impulse underlying marijuana prohibition, which is fundamentally a matter of taste. David Brooks is not satisfied with railing against pot from his perch at the Times. He needs to impose his pharmacological preferences by force. Because he used to smoke pot but does not care for it anymore, he wants to lock people in cages for supplying it. There is nothing moral about that demand.


NEXT: Thousands of People Continue To Line Up To Buy Marijuana in Colorado

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Brooks can’t imagine a world where high-salaried liberals gather in trendy “bars” to sample fine weed from around the world.

    Brooks only sees low-lifes chugging Schlitz in between tokes.

    1. “Brooks only sees low-lifes chugging Schlitz in between tokes.”

      Which is the real bug up his ass. All this is him saying that the untermench (screw the umlaut) are just begging to be controlled.

      1. Which is the real bug up his ass. All this is him saying that the untermench (screw the umlaut) are just begging to be controlled.

        There is no umlaut in ‘untermensch’ but there is an ‘s’

    2. Millions of f—ing liberals, conservatives, and low-life morons, plus Tea Party types, and so called libertarians smoke the shit, so what the Hell!

      States will gain revenue from sales, and the police will be able to make more revenue by stopping people for DUI and pot.

      Looks like it will work out for all concerned, not to mention those who don’t like it, and will have a job preaching against it.

  2. “They should be guided by “reason, temperance and self-control.””

    And a few cops with rubber gloves, amirite, Dave?

    1. You know who else was guided by reason, temperance and self-control?

      1. Carrie Nation?


      2. Amy Winehouse?

      3. Jesus Christ?

        1. Almanian,

          Not funny. No reason to bad mouth Jesus Christ.

          1. Lighten up. Jesus.

            1. F— off, a– chunks. He’s never going away, s—head. NO ONE IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO DEBATE HIM!!!


              2. SugarFree

                I thought you were brave enough to debate me? Ha!

      4. Jim Morrison?

  3. likely to cumulatively fragment a person’s deep center…”

    How high was he when he wrote this op-ed?

    1. No, he is this stupid all the time.

  4. Like all drug warriors, I will take David Brooks seriously once he reports to jail for 180 days (the jail time for simple possession in DC where Brooks lives). That should give him the chance to “nurture[e] a moral ecology” so he can “be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

  5. ABSTAINER, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.

    Ambrose Bierce

  6. many all people NYT editors these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use state action

    FTFY, asshole.

  7. In which Brooks advocates the establishment of Sharia law:

    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.

    Allahu akbar, Brookise, Allahu akbar!

    1. Isn’t adultery pretty damaging? And so is per-marital sex for that matter. I think society would be spared a lot of harms if no one had sex until they were married and no one ever cheated on their spouse. I bet Brooks would agree. So why not go back to making adultery and pre marital sex a crime?

      1. We should be grateful to Brooks, though, for his succinct Progressive credo, while acknowledging that Cicero was even more succinct with the maxim salus populi suprema lex esto. They truly believe it moral to attempt to change/manipulate/control human nature through legislation backed by the threat of violence.

      2. Brooks can’t agree as he never had sex, with another.

    2. In those societies, government subtly encourages subsidizes the highest pleasures stuff that makes wealthy white people feel good about themselves, like enjoying the arts paintings of Jesus being pooed on or being in nature building windmills in rural areas, and discourages lesser pleasures beats the shit out of people, especially brown people, who want to engage in icky poor person pleasures, like being stoned.

    3. What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage?

      Well, prohibition “encourages” all sorts of violent, anti-social activity, from black marketeers right through various enforcers.

      Brooks obviously wants our government to encourage violent, anti-social activity.

      1. The simple fact that he thinks “our government” can “want” something is disturbing.

        1. Anytime I hear someone say “the governemnt wants…” I reflexively reach for my wallet.

          1. By “wallet” you mean “holster” and/or “pistol magazine case”, right?

            1. That expression always catches me off-guard. I’m like, reach for your wallet? What, to give it to them more easily? I mean, I guess it’s better than someone sticking his hand right in my pocket, but still…

              1. “You reach for your wallet” in order to check that it is still there.

                1. Reach for your wallet and you might get shot.

  8. David Brooks is not satisfied with railing against pot from his perch at the Times. He needs to impose his pharmacological preferences by force.

    “But why did you do that? Now we’re both going to die!” cried the frog as he was sinking.
    “Because,” replied the scorpion, “that is what I do!”

    That is what leftists do. Even if it kills them.

    1. That is what leftists do. Even if it kills them.

      It’s too bad David Brooks won’t be killed by this, or hurt in any way whatsoever.

  9. Got a kick out of this:

    “Paul Krugman is off today.”

    Brooks filled in admirably, I say.

    1. He had to go double his normal stupid to make up for Krugman’s absence.

    2. Isn’t Krugman off every day?

      Mentally, that is.

  10. Is there a single argument here for which the argument would fundamentally change if you replaced “marijuana” with “Ho-Hos”?

    1. What about “having a kid when you only have a minimum wage job”? I mean, if we’re supposed to be guided by “reason, temperance, and self-control,” it seems that we should immediately ban anyone who only has the skills to get a burger-flipping job from pumping out a couple of kids before they get out of their teens.

      1. It’s true, progressive reasoning can be used for a lot of evil things (such as limits on reproduction).

  11. Instead they should be guided by “reason, temperance and self-control.”

    See Brooks is explaining his position on MJ with the utmost “humility”

  12. cumulatively fragment a person’s deep center


    1. He had the munchies, and was thinking of the deep chewy nougat center of the candy bar waiting by his desk.

      1. On time Brooks got high and put a whole 100 Brand Bar in his mouth and nearly choked so no one can have weed because dangerous.

  13. I’ve always thought Brooks was The Times’ token caricature of “The Right”. Their readers just laugh at him smugly.

  14. “This process usually involves using the powers of reason, temperance and self-control…”

    And dammit, if you can’t use those powers, we’re get send some gun-toting thugs to kick in your door, trash your house, drag you off to jail, take all your belongings, and make sure you are a societal pariah for the rest of your life.

    1. Don’t forget the dead dogs. Can’t have a truly successful drug raid without greasing a few mutts.

      True story: my Oldest Dog ™ is a rescue dog. Her mother was killed during a raid on a crack house. To be fair, kicking in a door on a mama pit bull is going to result in a “her or me” type situation every single time, so this was actually a good shoot (given the totality of the circs). Props to the cops for rescuing the puppies.

      1. Way to support the drug trade?, RC! Rescuing their dogs only encourages the dealers to get MOAR dogs, perpetuating the cycle.

        I hope you’re ashamed, even as I know you don’t have the heart to be…

        /D. Brookstardian

  15. This is the same individual who wrote the piece “Strengthen the Presidency,” a couple of weeks ago. I’m amazed at how many bad ideas can flow from one individual onto the NYT, and how they unabashedly publish these heaping piles of dung.

    1. Just imagine if you had a job writing shit that the average moron would read every day.

  16. stop people from consuming psychoactive substances that you fear will prevent them from realizing their full potential.

    Full potential as what? A worker drone? Or a human being?

    Lots of people take psychoactive substances BECAUSE they find it personally fulfilling, in terms of exploring the full range of human experiences.

    It would be a sad life indeed if the only legitimate concept of “potential” was limited to the amount of productive output one was capable. Not that there’s anything wrong with being as productive as possible, but maximizing production is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Enjoyment of life is the end.

    1. You’re allowed leisure, too, Hazel, but only if you use it for looking at art or enjoying nature. In specific, preapproved ways, of course.

      1. I’m morbidly curious as to what Brooks would consider “art” or “nature”. I’m guessing “art” would be one of those Chagall paintings where it looks like he threw up on the canvas and “nature” would be driving through a national park while looking at a mountain far way while remarking to your frigid spouse that it looks like one of those Ansal Adams photographs on the Sierra Club calendar that is hanging in your kitchen.

        1. Brooks is upset that the Toke-atarians would have that read:

          …remarking to your frigid spouse whorish girlfriend who’s had children from four people before you that it looks like one of those Ansal Adams photographs Thomas Kinkade paintings on the Sierra Club Burger King calendar that is hanging in your kitchen.

          1. I wouldn’t mind a Burger King calendar if it had coupons.

        2. I’m assuming dancing naked and body-painted around a bonfire while high on LSD doesn’t count as either “art” or “nature” to Brooks.

  17. Oh, and the best part of the article was at the end, where it says “Paul Krugman is off today.”

    1. Today? I thought Pauly Krugnuts was a “off”* every day.

      *In the sense that a fish left out in the sun is “off”.

      1. I was thinking more along the lines of “Paul Krugman is off today, so we had to enlist David Brooks to fill in for him”.

  18. Anyone post this yet:

    I smoked weed with David Brooks.

    There were other frolics, of course. Not with girls?Dave wasn’t much for the girls, all fumbly and mumbly and the pot just supersized his nerdiness. But culture and politics, those great interminable debates. Beatles or Stones, pipes or papers, negotiate over the hostages or send in the troops. Dave had a way of starting off all reasonable, usually talking about how both sides were equally bad. But the stoneder he got, the more opinionated he became, and his opinions?well, let’s just say that when Dave wrote this morning that in a healthy society “government subtly encourages the highest pleasures” I remembered a time we were parked out at French Creek and he stood up on top of the Vista Cruiser and gave a speech to us about what Jefferson really meant by the “pursuit of happiness,” and how a government should uphold our right to get as high as possible, and how George Washington grew pot and old Edmund Burke must have smoked it, and I wondered if Dave was sending his old posse a secret message.

    He also talks about David Brooks toadying up to a police officer when they get caught. Kind of foreshadowing a life to come.

    1. Dave got the bright idea to blow the smoke into the register. “That’ll make everyone up there one of us!” he said. And sure enough when we went up to class the whole floor stank and the vice-principal was hustling up and down the hallway, wrinkling his nose like a bloodhound trying to figure out where the smell was coming from, and then he went into the boys’ room and dragged out one of the only two black boys at Radnor High, yelling at him for smoking pot in school.

      I remember the guilty look on Dave’s face when he saw Mr. Santangelo with the kid by the collar. Later on, he told me that he was tempted to confess, but he also happened to know that that boy did smoke pot, that he was a full-on stoner, so if he got in a little trouble, it might be good for him


      What a fucking piece of shit.

      1. Apparently it’s satire

        “Please note: What follows here is satire of the Juvenalian variety. I thought I embedded enough tipoffs, but then again I forgot how much stranger than fiction truth can be. So to those who thought it was real and suffered pain as a result, I apologize.”

        Still hilarious though

        1. Oh. I don’t know if he put that up after I posted it or I just didn’t notice the first time.

        2. Ah. Still a piece of shit, though.

      2. Is Brooks really from Radnor though? Because he would be one of them Main Line sonsabitches.

  19. The drug war was always driven by callous disspassionate people.

  20. Davey, here’s what a true Conservative said about marijuana. Did he know you?; “Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy … and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with ‘scientific support’ … fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. … The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.”
    — William F. Buckley,
    Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

    Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?…..ot.307901/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.