Will states' rights go to pot?
Even if you legalize it, I can still criticize it.

Reuters

Cheri Hackett, (2nd R) co-owner of the Botana Care marijuana store talks to Colorado Marijuana Enforcement officials (L) just before opening her doors to customers for the first time in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014.

  • Title:

    The Tyranny of Clichés
  • Hardcover Price:

    27.95
  • Hardcover ISBN:

    9781595230867
  • Buy the Book

Article Highlights

  • People who want to live one way vote with their feet and move to places where they can live the way they want to live.

    Tweet This

  • It’s way too soon to know if Colorado’s collective experiment will prove to be a mistake.

    Tweet This

  • I love America’s love of individual liberty. But no good thing comes without a downside.

    Tweet This

On January 1, the Centennial State (it hasn’t yet changed its nickname to “The Rocky Mountain High State”) became the first place in the country to legalize marijuana sales for recreational purposes.

And Brandon Harris is stoked.

The 24-year-old Harris drove 20 hours from Cincinnati, along with a smoking buddy, to be the first Ohioans to buy legal pot in Colorado.

“It’s such a big day in history,” Harris, told the Washington Times. “The fact that we don’t have to be criminals and can just smoke, and not be looked down on, or have to mess with the local police.”

Well, he’s mostly right. Americans are still free — for now, at least — to look down on people for whatever reason we want. Simply because an activity is legal doesn’t mean I am barred from judging you negatively for engaging in it.

Decorating your room from floor to ceiling with Justin Bieber posters is perfectly legal — so long as you keep the paper a safe distance from the votive candles on your Bieber shrine. But if I walked into my doctor’s office and saw such a display, I would search for a new doctor pretty quickly. The same goes if I found out he was a big pot smoker.

Whether you find that analogy insulting probably depends on whether you smoke a lot of pot (or if you’re a “Belieber”).

But that’s okay with me. As non-judgmentalism becomes part of the secular catechism, people lose sight of the fact that the freedom to do what you want must include the freedom to form your own opinions about how other people use their freedom.

Which brings us back to Mr. Harris. He and his pal were so jazzed by the ability to buy pot legally, they decided to remain in Colorado permanently.

“We’re staying,” he told the Denver Post. “We’re going to become residents.”

Now, if I were an employer interviewing young Mr. Harris, I might ask him, “What brought you to Colorado?” If he answered, “The legal weed,” it’d be a pretty major strike against him. Personally, I think letting dope become so important that you’re willing to uproot your whole life just so you can have it legally all the time doesn’t speak well of you.

But that’s me. Others feel differently. And, if I’m going to be honest, I can’t swear that if Washington, D.C., banned alcohol or caffeine, I wouldn’t pull a Harris and ditch the District.

This is the way it’s supposed to work. People who want to live one way vote with their feet and move to places where they can live the way they want to live. It’s way too soon to know if Colorado’s collective experiment will prove to be a mistake. It’s also too soon to know if some Colorado residents will move to states where weed is illegal as a result. But it’s an experiment worth conducting.

Pot-legalization advocates are fond of casting themselves as the avant-garde of a new libertarian revolution sweeping the nation. I generally hope they’re right. But I also hope we don’t lose sight of the collective right of states and other legally recognized communities and institutions to have the freedom to organize their lives the way they want.

I love America’s love of individual liberty. But no good thing comes without a downside. Particularly since the “rights explosion” of the 1960s and 1970s, public-policy debates are too often framed as the individual versus the government. Presented with that choice, Americans are going to err on the side of individual rights. And that’s usually a good thing. The problem is that the rights of a community — a town, a county, a state, a religious organization, etc. — are left out of that formulation. And they matter.

Man is a social animal and wants to live in a community. Hippies want raw milk, evangelicals want codes of decency, Amish want to reject modern technology, the Sisters of the Poor don’t want to pay for birth control under Obamacare. What’s wrong with that?

My objection to both the progressive vision of one-size-fits-all government and some extreme notions of individual liberty is that they both lack the imaginative sympathy required to let groups of people organize their lives in the ways that will let the majority live the way they want to live.

Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? If Colorado wants to legalize weed, fine. If Alabama doesn’t, that’s fine too. Alabamians who disagree can fight it out democratically, or they can follow Harris’s lead and move.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

  •  


    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-7165
    Email: jonah.goldberg@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 14
    MON
  • 15
    TUE
  • 16
    WED
  • 17
    THU
  • 18
    FRI
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

Join us at AEI as the Right Honorable Liam Fox sits down with Marc Thiessen to discuss and debate whether America’s intelligence agencies have infringed on the personal privacy of US citizens.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The curmudgeon's guide to getting ahead

How can young people succeed in workplaces dominated by curmudgeons who are judging their every move? At this AEI book event, bestselling author and social scientist Charles Murray will offer indispensable advice for navigating the workplace, getting ahead, and living a fulfilling life.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.