Repeat after me, David Brooks: Repealing a prohibition on something is not the same as endorsing it

The absence of prohibition is not the presence of government sanction. There are a countless number of perfectly legal activities I may find personally abhorrent—giving money to a major-party politician, driving at the speed limit in the fast lane, rooting for the Boston Red Sox—but keeping them legally permissible is not a case of my values being trampled by the state. If anything, the opposite is true: The more government uses laws to shape behavior, the more it is likely to offend your core values, whatever they may be…

The Drug War is to “subtly tip[ping] the scale” as a firing squad is to gentle discouragement. “Healthy societies” don’t throw millions of people into human meat lockers to satisfy the moral urges of social engineers. It is “a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be” after you go to jail for engaging in the same recreational activity as a teenage David Brooks. The “moral ecology” got a whole better on Jan. 1, and will get better still when people stop using the criminal code as a laboratory experiment on their fellow human beings.

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