Brazen Disregard for the Law


DOUGLAS GINSBURG deserved to have his nomination to the Supreme Court shot down because his drug use as a Harvard professor and a Supreme Court clerk demonstrated a fundamental disrespect for the laws it is his duty to defend. A duly elected legislature passed the measure forbidding marijuana use. No judge has ruled the law unconstitutional. Yet for some reason Ginsburg believed that he did not have to obey it.

Perhaps Ginsburg was only imitating his sponsor, a Reagan Administration whose members have brazenly disregarded a Constitution they are supposed to uphold. But the Reagan Administration, and most politicians, professionals and businessmen agree that drugs are hurting the country. They have watched as an increasing drug abuse has forced students out of school, hurt their parents' job productivity, and driven addicts to crime. Drugs have destroyed thousands of lives and engendered a culture of lawlessness--especially among the poor trapped in the cities.

THE UPPER class nevertheless flagrantly ignores the very laws it has passed to control drugs. While they hold the rest of the population to a "Just Say No" standard, well-off adults and their children follow different rules. Stockbrokers and jet-setters snort coke at home while their sons and daughters smoke pot at parties. They know they are breaking the law, but they just don't care beyond their fear of getting caught.

This attitude toward drugs indicates a dangerous trend in the way Americans view the law. People seem to believe that the laws, passed by their elected representatives, ought to be obeyed only when convenient. An atmosphere of evasion--in taxes and business regulations as well as drugs--is replacing a faith that laws are passed for a greater good than mere momentary pleasures.

In the heydays of ancient Greece and Rome, the governing elite set an example in their public and private lives for the rest of their people to follow. And the Greeks and Romans sought to emulate the virtue their leading men practiced in the Senate House and at home.


Today, the politicians, professionals and industrialists who sit at the top of our society set a different example, one more reminiscent of the declining Roman Empire. The emperors' disregard for the law and their immunity from its enforcement produced a widespread lawlessness that disintegrated their society. Hopefully we will not go the way they did 2000 years ago.

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