Pubdate: Sun, 20 Feb 2005
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2005 The Observer
Author: Luc Bovens
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


The Big Issue: Drugs And Ethics

Antony Barnett's report on the cocaine market is a powerful argument that 
there is a moral imperative on cocaine users to kick their habit given that 
the drug trade in Columbia incurs serious cost in human life.

A comparison is made to drinking South-African wine during apartheid. There 
is an important difference: the cost in human life in the war on drugs 
comes about because of massive First World involvement in containing the 
cocaine trade. A cocaine user has no qualms about using cocaine and favours 
a free trade, unhampered by law enforcement. In what they consider to be a 
morally ideal world, their cocaine habit would not cause any human 
suffering but would provide a livelihood for Colombian farmers.

Suppose the US theocracy starts banning all biology textbooks with 
references to evolution. A Canadian black market takes off. In smuggling 
the works across the border there are arrests, detentions and suspects are 
subjected to inhumane interrogation. There is much infighting to control 
the market.

Should I, as a committed US biologist, stop purchasing the contraband 
because my reading habits cause suffering to Canadian citizens? I would 
remain unconvinced by this moral argument. Similarly, I fear that a 
committed cocaine user will remain unconvinced by Barnett's argument.

Luc Bovens, Professor of Philosophy London School of Economics and 
Political Science London WC2
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