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Reefer Madness

Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
Written by: Eric Schlosser
Narrated by: Eric Schlosser
Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
Categories: Business & Money, Commerce

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Publisher's Summary

In Reefer Madness, the best-selling author of Fast Food Nation investigates America's black market and its far-reaching influence on our society through three of its mainstays - pot, porn, and illegal immigrants.

The underground economy is vast; it comprises perhaps 10 percent - perhaps more - of America's overall economy, and it's on the rise. Eric Schlosser charts this growth, and finds its roots in the nexus of ingenuity, greed, idealism, and hypocrisy that is American culture. He reveals the fascinating workings of the shadow economy by focusing on marijuana, one of the nation's largest cash crops; pornography, whose greatest beneficiaries include Fortune 100 companies; and illegal migrant workers, whose lot often resembles that of medieval serfs.

All three industries show how the black market has burgeoned over the past three decades, as America's reckless faith in the free market has combined with a deep-seated Puritanism to create situations both preposterous and tragic. Through pot, porn, and migrants, Schlosser traces compelling parallels between underground and overground: how tycoons and gangsters rise and fall, how new technology shapes a market, how government intervention can reinvigorate black markets as well as mainstream ones, how big business learns - and profits - from the underground.

With intrepid reportage, rich history, and incisive argument, Schlosser illuminates the shadow economy and the culture that casts that shadow.

©2003 Eric Schlosser (P)2003 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.

What the critics say

"Like Fast Food Nation, this is an eye-opening book, offering the same high level of reporting and research." (Publishers Weekly)
"Schlosser's precise outrage is as compelling off as on the page." (AudioFile)

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Qbook
  • 2004-11-23

Not What It Could Have Been

This book does not live up to the standard Schlosser set in Fast Food Nation, which I read last year. Made up of three essays, one on Marijuana one on illegal immigrant labor, and one on the porn industry. The premise of the book is that Schlosser will describe the underground economy of which these three topics play a major role. But the essays actually tell nothing about economics and right away get into political topics on which Schlosser is not at all shy in stating is own preference. In each topic, Schlosser actually use one or two case studies, but the overall point of these case studies is not at all clear.

By far, the most interesting topic is the porn industry, if only because this topic is just not covered much. Rather than an economic study, it should be relabeled a history of the porn industry. Even here, though, the material is not really a complete history, but rather a couple cases that Schlosser has followed up on, and the central topic is the government's war against porn producers. Schlosser's own reading is also uninspiring, but I think that is really just a result of material that is neither academically rigorous nor exciting or relevant as investigative reporting (which is what Schlosser is really aiming at).

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Boulderite
  • 2003-06-25

Great Investigative Journalism

Nearly all of us eat fast food, but it took Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation for us to learn what it means in American Society. Reefer Madness is similar, looking at ways in which our society has gotten far off track. I thought the black market was a problem for post-Soviet Russia. Through insightful investigative journalism, Schlosser shows the problem exists -- and thrives -- right here at home. His essays exposing the vast reach of the underground economy read like novels, with engaging characters, as he exposes some basic, ugly truths at the core of our society that have not received the attention they deserve. Schlosser holds a mirror that helps us see our culture more clearly, warts and all.

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • reggie p
  • 2003-12-11

so what's the point???

This book is full of information on the underground market surrounding migrant workers, drugs, and porn but there is very little synthesis or analysis of what should be done to stem these actvities. In each of the three essays, the author details the issue's history and lists numerous facts about the topic, but then fails to come to any solid conclusion about what should be done to end this madness. After the first hour or so I just kept thinking, "What's your point?". I thought that he would wrap things up in the end so I plowed on through hoping for a conclusion. Unfortunately, this never happened. He listed several plausible reasons for decriminalizing marijuana and porn but never went beyond saying that it was working in European countries. It left me feeling unsatisfied. After all the research that went into this book, I expected more in the way of a conclusion, a suggestion or a plan for dealing with these abominations, but got none.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Kevin Dorff
  • 2004-11-30

Content good, reader boring

I listened to and really enjoyed Fast Food Nation which prompted me to get this one. Eric writes an interesting book full of facts and details. The problem with Reefer Madness is that it has a different reader (Eric reads his own book this time) -- this is a problem because his voice puts you right to sleep -- it has a soft, almost monotone reading, no dynamics in his voice whatsoever. The content is very interesting, although to me it felt like it could have been a fair bit more focused - he seems to repeat himself a lot instead of taking thigs a bit more logically, I think - it may be intentional, I suppose.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel
  • 2004-05-07


This is another of Eric Schlosser's brilliant works - one of those where I didn't want to get out of the car. Whereas other reviewers are asking for conclusions to be made by the author, I had absolutely no problem interpreting the author's conclusion or moreover, coming to my own, and I believe this is the author's intent - that the reader/listener SEE the destruction created by the goverment's witch hunts and failed policies.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eric
  • 2003-11-03

Insightful read/listen

Eric Schlosser's expose on the controversial black market commodities that continue to be argued over time and time again by supposed "experts" is a prime example of just part of what is wrong with America.

While the drug wars in other countries have taken a more proactive and rehabilitive approach, America stands idle, sometimes moving in reverse of a policy that actually work. Meanwhile cheap labor continues to be a profitable tool for the wealthy while blame gets displaced on disparaged immigrants trying to survive in a system that is focused on corporate greed and class and economic warfare. And pornography? Well, as the books theme comes full circle we learn an important value in our society. The more our government doesn't want us to have something, the more we want that something.

Schlosser takes a hard look at three very important parts of our economy, although small in comparison to most of the economy, large in our culture. I am really looking forward to Fast Food Nation!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • 2003-09-20

Valid wisdom

America is a country of stark inconsistencies. From our divergent policies to our hyprocritical personal behaivor. Eric offers thought-provoking criticism and common sense alternatives for our flawed logic. It is a great book for anyone who likes to form their own opinion and does not take an issue at face value. My only complaint is that the author/narrator can be a bit flat. In his defense, it is his material and he knows how it should be presented.

This book tackles our marijuana policy, illegal immigrant labor, and pornography. An alarming chapter mentions the staunch anti-drug politicians. It is suprising to hear how these politicians change their tune when their own children are incarcerated on drug offenses. It is my opinion that freedom loving patriots should join together and revoke the current political system, it's participants, and install a democracy.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Victoria
  • 2003-06-10

and so...

this book was very informative, but it was sadly fatalistic in tone. while I am now well informed as to the workings of the black market, I feel as though Schlosser, although not endorsing pornography, at least views it as an inevitability against which we have no weapons. drugs and migrant workers are two other complex and socially distructive problems which are dealt with, but again, with no solid conclusions reached. as I have already stated, I am now well informed, but a little more hopeless.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • imagoii
  • 2004-11-03

Excellent, Thought Provoking Book

I thought this was a great book. It is well researched and presented topic which I have not seen presented elsewhere. Some people have complained about the repeating. However, the way the book is set up a ffew stories are used to link the sections of the book. The repeating is to recap the story. I think the recapping and use of the stories of various people make for better push in the book.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 2003-10-14

Excellent book

A beautifully researched book. Don't miss this one.

2 people found this helpful