Search This Blog

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can the war on drugs be won?

I keep reading articles about the violence in Mexico. I read about outrage in the US. I read about efforts to fight the cartels and the North to South weapons traffic. I read nothing about consumption. I have come to conclude that to fight drugs could be as dangerous as to consume it. Think about this: in 2010 in Mexico alone a study reports that over 15,000 people were killed because of the war on drugs. To this number we should add the hard to quantify figures of drug related homicides in the US. As for the harm… in the US, about 16,000 people die for illegal drug usage.
Compare these figures to those of the legal drugs, 430,000 deaths for tobacco or 110,000 for alcohol.
The war is useless unless consumption decreases. A victory by Mexico, (imagine drug trafficking comes down to zero) would only imply an increase in prices in the streets of US cities. Very quickly, the same market forces that moved textile factories to Asia will move drug trafficking to the next country, say Costa Rica or Canada, soon supply will increase again, prices drop, everyone happy.
This is what happened when Colombia defeated (or controlled) the FARCs.
In an agency world where politicians care only about their gains, the Mexican government should simply help cartels in their move to another country. Instead of fighting them, help them. Up to 2009 the war was costing Mexico 0.3% of its GDP or 2.6 billion per year. Why not create an annuity and make annual payments to cartels contingent on them moving operations to another country? The government could even tax them on that money.
Could cartels be trusted?

No comments:

Post a Comment