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Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market Hardcover – May 8, 2003
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As much as 10% of the American economy, and perhaps more, is comprised of illegal "underground" enterprises, according to author and Atlantic Monthly correspondent Eric Schlosser. And while this segment is never discussed in the newspaper business pages, Schlosser tackles it with the same in-depth analysis and compulsive readability that made his Fast Food Nation a best seller. Reefer Madness spotlights marijuana, migrant labor, and pornography, three of the most thriving black market industries, and analyzes the often-tenuous place each holds in society as a whole. While each of the three could be the subject of its own book, Schlosser keeps his scope narrow by concentrating on the lives of the participants in the underground economy, especially Mark Young, an Indiana man given a life sentence for participating in a marijuana sale, and Ohio porn magnate Reuben Sturman. At just 21 pages, the treatment of migrant laborers in the California strawberry fields is dealt with more briefly but is just as compelling thanks to the first-person narrative of Schlossers investigation. In telling these stories, which are both personal and universal, Schlosser deftly explores the manner in which his subjects are treated (and punished) compared to others in more above-ground ventures. Along the way, he asks hard questions as to what that treatment says about America. Schlosser writing is passionately opinionated, but this is no mere opinion piece: his perspective is amply supported by extensive research and clearly reasoned interpretation of data. His direct and forceful writing style makes the impact greater still. After reading Reefer Madness, readers are likely to be shocked, appalled, and flat-out bewildered by whats happening in the cracks and crevices of American business. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
From the bestselling author of Fast Food Nation comes this captivating look at the underbelly of the American marketplace. In three sections, Schlosser, an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, examines the marijuana, migrant labor and pornography trades, offering compelling tales of crime and punishment as well as an illuminating glimpse at the inner workings of the underground economy. The book revolves around two figures: Mark Young of Indiana, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his relatively minor role in a marijuana deal; and Reuben Sturman, an enigmatic Ohio man who built and controlled a formidable pornography distribution empire before finally being convicted of tax evasion, after beating a string of obscenity charges. Through recounting Young's and Sturman's ordeals, and to a lesser extent, the lives of migrant strawberry pickers in California, Schlosser unravels an American society that has "become alienated and at odds with itself." Like Fast Food Nation, this is an eye-opening book, offering the same high level of reporting and research. But while Schlosser does put forth forceful and unique market-based arguments, he isn't the first to take aim at the nation's drug laws and the puritanical hypocrisy that seeks to jail pornographers while permitting indentured servitude in California's strawberry fields. Nevertheless, this is a solid-and timely-second effort from Schlosser. As world events force Americans to choose values worth fighting for, Schlosser reminds readers, "the price of freedom is often what freedom brings."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
There are three articles here: the first is about the inconsistencies of the drug versus the murder laws, the number of people in jail for marijuana, and the social implications of all this; the second is on the underground economy of illegal workers and profiteering abusive corporations (McDonald's is especially evil in this depiction); and the third is about pornography but with a twist, focusing on how hotels and other major corporations are profiting.
The books ends with a very short but thoughtful observation regarding the need to change the law and punishment so as to back away from life-ending punishments for individual behavior that is merely self-destructive or distastement, and focus the heaviest punishments on those who commit economic crimes against society and entire sub-sections of society.
In each of these three cases, there are other books that are better--Deep Cover by Michael Levine on the futility of drug enforcement and the corruption of Drug Enforcement Agency "suits"; Forbidden Knowledge by Roger Shattuck, on pornography among other things; and The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald, on the sweetheart triangle between national-level white collar corporate criminals, big law firms, and a compliant Department of Justice that lets the richest bad guys off easy.
I would caution the author to not do this again--the next book had better be as good as Fast Food Nation, or he will fall into the second rank of serial writers rather than culture-changing authors, where he deserves to stay.
I would also encourage anyone considering buying this book to do so--it does have useful information--but more importantly, if you have not read Fast Food Nation, go to that page and think seriously about buying and reading it now--as McDonald's gets blamed overseas for being the epidemy of all that is hateful to Islamics, as Kraft Food pays lip service to healthy food in its realization that Oreo cookies are killing kids, what Eric Schlosser did in Fast Food Nation is being appreciated more and more each day--with that book, he did indeed change national consciousness, an achievement that will stand in history as a turning point in creating a healthier America.
Drugs, immigrants and the adult biz are issues covered but I wanted to read much more of each.
This was like an appetizer, I wanted a full course meal.
There are great stories along with facts but this seemed like only 50% of energy was put forth.
Nonetheless, this is essential if you want to know more about taboo topics.
Schlosser is a talented writer and I will pick up his next book.