Pubdate: Sun, 20 Mar 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune


Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Tom Wainwright, PublicAffairs, 278 pages, $26.99.

In "Narconomics," Tom Wainwright of the Economist brings a fine and 
balanced analytical mind to some very good research, undertaken 
largely in northern Mexico. By looking at the drug trade as a 
business, Wainwright is able to reveal much about why it wreaks such 
havoc in Central and South America. The issue of violence is not a 
random by-product of gangster culture. It is central to the industry, 
Wainwright observes, as the only way "to enforce contractual 
agreements." To control or police a market like drugs, the cartel 
must be able to wield decisive violence or, at the very least, be 
able to project a credible threat of violence.

Occasionally, Wainwright shoehorns his interpretation to fit the 
conceit: To describe the police as a drug cartel's "regulator," for 
instance, misconstrues the role of law enforcement in a weak state. 
But he also makes an important and too often unnoticed link between 
marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington and 
what could be a profound policy shift across the Western world. As 
long as the production of drugs took place far away, the impact on 
social stability in North America and Europe was negligible. Now much 
production of marijuana and, critically, synthetic drugs like MDMA 
takes place in cannabis grow-ops and labs next door. In the age of 
austerity, strapped police forces do not have the resources to keep 
up with this. "Attacking supply networks is ineffective," Wainwright 
notes. "America has forgone Colombian-style crop eradication programs 
in favor of legalization."

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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom