But it's not all dry facts; the yarns spun by Schlosser about the black market's cast of characters speak much louder than statistics. In a way that often escapes the business writers and academics posing abstractions from one side and the prurient hype-mongers on the other, Schlosser hammers home his lessons by juxtaposing personal closeups of people caught in the system with a larger picture of the shadow economy. From small-time potheads crushed under the boot of federal mandatory sentencing guidelines, to the mostly nameless migrants who literally slave in the strawberry fields of California, to the scions of the secretive porn world, Schlosser's words hit home because they are real stories of real people who run afoul of (or unprotected by) America's often capricious laws.
For Schlosser there is no getting around the problems of a system that publicly condemns while it privately, and prodigiously, consumes. From the first essay to the last, his reporting plucks at the tension between private vice, public condemnation, and, ultimately, corporate co-option. And it's this tension that leads Schlosser to the central lesson of his book, that we must "confront an awkward, underlying truth: sometimes the price of freedom is what freedom brings."
When our government kills thousands to bring "freedom" while striking back-room deals worth billions to rebuild what it destroyed, the moral contradictions in Reefer Madness perhaps won't shock as much as they would have in the past. For a book about hypocrisy, it's amazing that the word never appears. But it doesn't have to. Every time we get high, watch pay-per-view porn in a hotel room, pay a housekeeper in cash, or slice a strawberry into our breakfast cereal, Schlosser insists that we must confront the unpleasant consequences that underlie our actions and meet head-on the laws so out of touch with what freedom has brought.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.