a blog with cultural bulimia.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Ethicist

I am a former federal prosecutor who has investigated and prosecuted narcotics traffickers. A few of my friends smoke marijuana and use other recreational drugs, and I have no problem tolerating that. But would it be unethical of me to use such drugs myself, having helped imprison drug offenders? I find it difficult to articulate what I find unethical here, apart from the illegality and feelings of hypocrisy.

A major part of ethics is considering the effects of our actions on others. Yours did real harm to those you prosecuted. If you acted in service of policies you now consider unwarranted, you have an ethical obligation to undo that harm, perhaps by working to free those currently in jail as a consequence of your efforts, perhaps by helping to reform the laws that put them there. When you've done harm in the past -- and your query suggests that you now believe you have -- your duty isn't merely to lament, but to make amends.

The Prosecution Rests