Book Review (and Rant): Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness - Eric Schlosser

I just got done reading the somewhat unfortunately titled “Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market” by Eric Schlosser, which showed up in my stocking this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the author, he is better known for writing the book “Fast Food Nation.” This particular title is a few years old now, but it’s a great read none the less, and still quite relevant.

In it, the author targets three sectors of the American economy that currently are or have fairly recently been havens of black market economies that account for billions of dollars of trade. One of the focuses that the book tries to show is the human cost of misguided regulatory policy over these industries. This manifests itself in quite a few ways throughout the book, including vivid accounts of harsh deprivations of liberty for innocuous crimes such as possession of marijuana or distribution of pornography, the tremendous strain and cost to the court and prison systems as a result of enforcement of laws against such behaviors, the disgusting mistreatment of a huge population of migrant laborers, and more. To be sure, it’s a fascinating read, but not one that is of a passive or benign nature.

The theme that comes out throughout the book is that one of the greatest threats to liberty are the imposition of a moral authority over a populace. I can’t say that I disagree with any of the conclusions that the book came to in that regard. I certainly don’t feel the need or the right to take away someone’s liberty because their personal behavior offends me, and I’d certainly be wary of those who do. In addition, it pushed the idea that the rules aren’t the same when you’re a large corporation that has lobbying power or a person of considerable influence, such as a politician.

Just reading through this book makes you upset at how the system functions today, and how many lives it’s just destroying for no good reason. Sometimes I can’t really remember where reason and intelligence went, and how it came to be that real intellectual debate is less present every day. Generally, a lack of reason in the political process foster these situations, where rhetoric and propaganda (if not outright lies) are allowed to shape national and local agenda. Times may be rough now, but there’s certainly hope for the future, of course. It’s always the worst before a tipping point where reason returns to society and real progress can be made. Either way, thumbs up to the book – definitely grab a copy if it’s your cup of tea.