Major Colvin

Last night, I finished watching season 3 of The Wire. The Wire, which portrays various aspects of life in Baltimore, Maryland, is definitely one of the best television shows I’ve ever watched, possibly the best; it has an unfortunate number of sex scenes and general vulgarity, but it’s also extremely well written, well acted, and manages to pretty much completely immerse the viewer.

One element of the season I just watched, which focused on city politics (while also, as in previous seasons, including the drug trade, police work, and general mayhem). There is one character, a police officer, Major “Bunny” Colvin, who decides to essentially legalize drugs in certain sections of the city. Without informing his superior officers, he tells his subordinates to crack down on all drug trafficking everywhere except the free zones, nicknamed “Hamsterdam”, where they will ignore everything except violence (so, drugs, prostitution, etc, are all OK there).

This doesn’t go over well when people find out about it, as you might imagine. But, should it have? What exactly is wrong with legalizing drugs, anyway?

Consider – if it was somehow proven that, by making murder legal, we would actually reduce the murder rate, would we even consider legalizing murder? I don’t think so. But that’s because we see murder as inherently wrong – it deprives another human being of their right to life. Nothing can justify legalizing it – even a reduction in death. Because as it is now, we see the victims of murder and try to seek justice for them, but if murder were legal, we would just be giving up on those who were chosen to die.

But drugs are not the same thing. Whether or not doing drugs is immoral, it doesn’t harm anyone else for the drug addict to use them. That means we don’t have to make this great stand against drug use regardless of the costs. If legalizing drugs reduces drug use or makes it less dangerous or reduce the power of drug traffickers (since if it’s legal, it can be legally imported), we should go ahead and do it. It’s a prudential decision, really. Not like illegalizing murder – which every society has to do if it wants to at all resemble a just one.


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