Yet as a parent of three, two exiting adolescence and one entering, I’ve found that the argument that makes the biggest impression is: “Marijuana is illegal. Stay away.” I think many other parents have found the same thing.
When we write social rules, we always need to consider: Who are we writing rules for? Some people can cope with complexity. Others need clarity. Some people will snap back from an early mistake. Others will never recover.
“Just say no” is an easy rule to follow. “It depends on individual risk factors, many of them unknowable in advance” — that rule is not so easy.
Uh, if Frum thinks “marijuana is illegal, mmmmkay?” is the best argument he has to discourage his kids from trying marijuana, he is badly deceiving himself.
His larger point, though, is worse. His argument is that it’s simpler just to ban bad things and make decisions obvious for people rather than provide them with the right to choose their path in life for themselves.
That hasn’t worked very well, apparently, for marijuana use. Despite being illegal, marijuana use is quite high in the U.S., and people’s attitude toward it is generally quite casual. So apparently Frum’s policy prescription hasn’t worked out very well. Or at all, actually.
But what’s more disturbing about that position is that we should make things that could be bad for people illegal. Tobacco and alcohol, clearly, should be illegal as well. Food with excessively high levels of sugar and fat should be, too. Video games? Well, that’s a little complicated, since you could play video games and live a perfectly successful and functional life—but you could also waste time as a kid playing them rather than studying for school, and thus seal your lot in life with one poor choice. So they’re gone, too—that’s too complicated a choice for people to make.
Frum’s arguing that government’s job is to dictate to people what is good and what is bad, and what choices they should make, so people don’t have to—God forbid—make those choices for themselves. It’s a lovely vision he’s created for society where government is our parent and caretaker, forever and always, to protect us from ourselves.