Reefer Madness

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2003-05-08
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation, " offers an unprecedented view of the nexus of ingenuity, greed, high-mindedness, and hypocrisy that is American culture. He reveals the vast and fascinating workings of the shadow economy by focusing on marijuana, pornography, and illegal migrant workers.

Author Biography

Eric Schlosser has been a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly since 1996. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, the Nation, and The New Yorker. He has received a National Magazine Award and a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for reporting. In 1998 Schlosser wrote an investigative piece on the fast food industry for Rolling Stone. What began as a two-part article for the magazine turned into a groundbreaking book: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001). The book helped to change the way that Americans think about what they eat. Fast Food Nation was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years, as well as on bestseller lists in Canada, Great Britain, and Japan. It has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Schlosser’s second book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market (2003), explored the nation’s growing underground economy. It also became a New York Times bestseller. In 2003, Schlosser’s first play, Americans, was produced at the Arcola Theatre in London.

Hoping to counter the enormous amount of fast food marketing aimed at children, Schlosser decided to write a book that would help young people understand where their food comes from, how it’s made, how it affects society, and how it can harm their health. Co-written with Charles Wilson, Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food became a New York Times bestseller in the spring of 2006. Later that year, Fox Searchlight Pictures released a major motion picture based on Fast Food Nation, directed by Richard Linklater and co-written with Schlosser. “It’s a mirror and a portrait,” the New York Times said of the film, “as necessary and nourishing as your next meal.” Schlosser is currently at work on a book about America’s prison system.

Table of Contents

The Undergroundp. 1
Reefer Madnessp. 11
In the Strawberry Fieldsp. 75
An Empire of the Obscenep. 109
Out of the Undergroundp. 211
Notesp. 225
Bibliographyp. 284
Acknowledgmentsp. 293
Indexp. 295
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.


THE UNDERGROUND Adam Smith believed in a God that was kind and wise and all-powerful. The great theorist of the free market believed in Providence. "The happiness of mankind," Smith wrote, "seems to have been the original purpose intended by the Author of nature." The workings of the Lord could be found not in the pages of a holy book, nor in miracles, but in the daily, mundane buying-and-selling of the marketplace. Each purchase might be driven by an individual desire, but behind them all lay "the invisible hand" of the Divine. This invisible hand set prices and wages. It determined supply and demand. It represented the sum of all human wishes. Without relying on any conscious intervention by man, the free market improved agriculture and industry, created surplus wealth, and made sure that the things being produced were the things people wanted to buy. Human beings lacked the wisdom, Smith felt, to improve society deliberately or to achieve Progress through some elaborate plan. But if every man pursued his own self-interest and obeyed only his "passions," the invisible hand would guarantee that everybody else benefited, too. Published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations later had a profound effect upon the nation born that year. The idea that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were unalienable rights, endowed by a Creator, fit perfectly with the economic theories of Adam Smith. "Life, liberty and estate" was the well-known phrase that Thomas Jefferson amended slightly for the Declaration of Independence. The United States was the first country to discard feudal and aristocratic traditions and replace them with a republican devotion to marketplace ideals. More than two centuries later, America's leading companies-General Motors, General Electric, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Boeing, et al.-have annual revenues larger than those of many sovereign states. No currency is more powerful than the U.S. dollar, and the closing prices on Wall Street guide the financial markets of Tokyo, London, Paris, and Frankfurt. The unsurpassed wealth of the United States has enabled it to build a military without rival. And yet there is more to the U.S. economy, much more, than meets the eye. In addition to America's famous corporations and brands, the invisible hand has also produced a largely invisible economy, secretive and well hidden, with its own labor demand, price structure, and set of commodities. "Black," "shadow," "irregular," "informal," "illegal," "subterranean," "underground"-a variety of adjectives have been used to describe this other economy. Although defined in numerous ways, at its simplest the American underground is where economic activities remain off the books, where they are unrecorded, unreported, and in violation of the law. These activities range from the commonplace (an electrician demanding payment in cash and failing to declare the payment as income) to the criminal (a gang member selling methamphetamine). They include moonlighting, check kiting, and fencing stolen goods; street vending and tax evading; employing day laborers and child laborers; running sweatshops and chop shops; smuggling cigarettes, guns, and illegal immigrants; selling fake Rolexes, pirating CDs. Economists disagree about the actual size of the underground economy and how to measure it. Some studies look at the discrepancy between the amount of personal income declared on tax returns and the amount of money that is actually spent. Other studies examine changes in currency supply, the velocity of money, levels of electricity usage. Each of these methodologies has its merits. All

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