Review of Reefer Madness

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Title: Reefer Madness
Author: Eric Schlosser
Date Completed: 04/02/2004

Rereadability Rating: 3.5
Lifechangeability Rating: 3
Entertainment Rating: 4

This was an interesting book, maybe more so because I read it immediately following “Nickel and Dimed”. It covers the black markets in America in three categories: pornography, drugs (mostly marijuana) and cheap (illegal immigrant) labor. There is a huge amount of money in America’s black markets (possibly 10% or more of the overall U.S. economy). Here’s what I thought about what I learned from the book’s three topics:

  1. Pornography – He pretty much gave a history of the rise of pornography, focusing more on the tax evasion than anything else (it felt like). He discussed the decline of morals in a general sense, but with a sense of resignation and apathy. He didn’t propose a solution to this problem, but he did talk a little bit about how difficult “obscenity” is to define because it’s relative to the culture and therefore location it is staged in. I got the general feeling that Schlosser seems to think adult consentual activities should be ok if they’re done in private (consuming whatever you want). Obviously this is over-simplified (think about the higher crime in areas in the U.S. that are open to rampant pornography, and the exploitation of the people who are the objects in pornography). I also have several issues with him on this point, becuase we’re coming from different worldviews (I believe in absolute morals, he doesn’t appear to).
  2. Illegal Drugs – This was probably the most researched and well-written part of the book. I don’t support using mind altering drugs, but I do find several things very interesting: a) the fact that the punishment for being involved in drug use often doesn’t fit the crime (there are some states where possession can equal a mandatory life sentence, but convicted murderers can have parole in a few years), b) the fact that marijuana is illegal, while tobbacco isn’t (we can talk about marijuana being a gateway drug, but I’m not completely convinced that if it were legal it would be) and c) the whole process of the criminalization of marijuana seems surrounded by things that don’t make sense to me. Schlosser seems to think that we should legalize and tax it.
  3. Illegal Immigrant Labor – This is a tough one. He spends most of his time discussing workers that come in from Mexico to work in the strawberry fields in California. They are treated unjustly and can’t do a thing about it because they are here illegally. This is where I started thinking about Nickel and Dimed (see my review on that) a lot. It’s not fair that they are being treated like they are, but companies are out for the bottom line: efficiency. As long as that’s the case, and companies can continue to hire illegal workers so much cheaper than legal, we’re going to have that problem. Schlosser doesn’t propose much of a solution (that I can remember) and I don’t have many good ideas either.

Amazon Link

Note: This book review has been included in my site for historical purposes. I might not hold the same views as I did when it was written. If I don’t, hopefully I’m more right now…

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