Monday, March 30, 2009

How to f**k over Mexico's violent drug lords

Mexico is making headlines again, but not the good kind of headlines, like you want. They're not even making headlines because they're taking American jobs (although in this case they kinda are, but more on that later).

No, Mexico is all over the news and the Secretary of State's lips because of violence. And a good portion of that violence is concentrated right up next to our border, and sometimes spills across it.

Secretary Clinton blames this violence on America's insatiable demand for illegal drugs. But it isn't the insatiable demand that causes the violence. America has an insatiable demand for lots of things, but they rarely lead to violence. America's annual demand for illegal drugs has been estimated at $40-$55 billion in recent years. America's demand for legal drugs is ten times that amount or more. America's demand for beer, wine, and liquor also outstrips its demand for illegal drugs. Tobacco, also consistently outperforms the illegal drug industry in annual sales.

I know some people in the pharmaceuticals industry, and none of them worries about a rival from Pfizer planting a bomb in their car. Anheiser-Busch has never tortured anyone to death. So what's different about cocaine, heroin, and marijuana?

The answer, of course, is that Anheiser-Busch and Pfizer are allowed to operate legally. As such, there are tremendous disadvantages to violence. If they were to resort to violence, everything they have would be taken away. But these narco-traffickers are already underground. If the mere existence of their business comes to light, they will be arrested. So a murder to keep that a secret or to maintain their control over a market is not at all unthinkable.

It is not America's demand for drugs that fuels the violence. It is America's attempts to squash all legal attempts to meet that demand. These narco-traffickers would be put quickly out of business by efficient and honest purveyors in a free market. Mexico's best bet is to legalize the production and wholeselling of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. It would likely lead to a terrible increase in drug addiction in the country, but taxation of drug profits could fund treatment centers. Far more devastating would be America's likely trade reaction, as self-righteous Congressmen attempt to embargo Mexican goods to retaliate for their defiance of American drug policy. But even so, I think it would be good for Mexico. And good for America to see some defiance to our drug-war imperialism.

For more reading, check out this editorial in The Economist, or this one by the late William F. Buckley in National Review. Anti-establishment agitators indeed.

UPDATE: These guys say it better (hat tip, H&R).