Comment on the drug war

I really liked this comment from the comment thread on the drug war. From Steve Johnson:

I think we’re all talking past one another.

My assertion is that democracy creates the urban paramilitaries and that once they exist, they will seek out profitable markets to dominate so they get more funds. I further assert that there are immutable differences between ethnic and racial groups that will have a large effect on how violent the drug trade is.

The pro-legalization implicit assumption is that profits draw entrants and that black markets participants are violent due to the lack of legal recourse for disputes.

If my assertion is correct then decriminalization will do nothing to eliminate the para-militaries; they exist due to the alliances needed for democratic governments to function (someone has to run the vote banks). Evidence for my assertion is that prohibition was ended and the organized crime that it made famous persisted and the influence of those crime organizations only really faded when they were replaced by a different ethnic vote bank.

Interesting stuff.


10 Responses to Comment on the drug war

  1. sconzey says:

    I was going to reply to this in the original thread, but I’ll reply here. I don’t disagree with Steve that: 1. Where there is a demand for illegal products and services, organised crime profits by providing them and 2. Legalising drugs won’t magically eliminate all organised crime.

    Where we disagree is that I assert:
    1. Both running a paramilitary and shipping illegal goods involves significant economies of scale and
    2. Eliminating the black market in drugs will involve a significant decrease in the size of the black market and thus the level of organised crime so
    3. By (2), legalising drugs will not eliminate organised crime, but is a good first step at a strategic level and
    4. By (1) and (2), shrinking the size of the overall black market and thus the size of the urban paramilitaries should entail an increase in the price of other black market goods e.g. human trafficking and thus a decrease in the overall sales volume.

    Having typed that, I see Steve highlights an element I’d not considered before. I’d been assuming that the political feasibility of legalising drugs was a given. Clearly we know that the urban paramilitaries are heavily involved in politics and so there’s a strong Baptist/Bootlegger dynamic influencing the continued illegality of drugs.

  2. aretae says:

    I think there’s a few points with which I can disagree with Mr. Johnson.

    a) I have a sizeable agreement with Sconzey here.

    b) The two large American paramilitaries have been created by the two giant prohibitions in American history. I think that if you modify the statement to: the creation of enormous black markets (prohibition) creates urban paramilitaries … we’re in good shape.

    c) Immutable is fishy and under-supported.

    • Foseti says:

      b) is only true if you don’t count the older political machines. Tammany Hall may not have been paramilitary, but it wasn’t friendly and it did exist absent prohibition.

  3. icr says:

    The original Chicago machine was built on gambling and prostitution:

    I think Tammany Hall was mostly based on blue-collar patronage jobs. Today’s urban paramilitaries will probably switch to “protection” in its various forms if the revenue from drugs is cut off. There’s not enough money in dogfighting and contract killing is a niche market.

    With the gangs enforcing urban tranquillity there might be a distinct improvement in the conditions that foseti complains about. But maybe blacks are not as efficient in those activities as Italian-Americans.

  4. Those who think the drug war is the cause of all woes for Baltimore and Mexico need to explain why Canada is doing fine. According to the Guardian: “Due to its contraband nature, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much marijuana contributes to the Canadian economy, but a number of agencies and economists have estimated that it is in the range of $20bn per year (£12.5bn), making it Canada’s single largest agricultural product. The bulk of production is based in British Columbia, where it employs a labour force of 250,000, roughly one in 14 adults.”

    I find those above numbers a little bit too high to believe. But even so, it’s clear that Canada has enormous illegal drug industry without city-destroying levels of violence. British Columbia is not a north of the border version of West Baltimore.

    I don’t really think it’s accurate to say that democracy needs paramilitaries. But definitely a good government would have no problem suppressing the paramilitaries without making drugs any more available than they are now. And I cannot see how legalizing drugs would reduce the type of violence that I most care about (which is being mugged or accosted on the street). I can definitely see how black market in drugs causes more murders/deaths among people who trade in drugs. But I don’t see how the drug black market makes me more likely to get mugged.

  5. Modify ‘democracy’ to something like ‘progressive social democracy’, and my agreement with Steve Johnson would be more complete. I tend to view organized crime as a parasitic offshoot of big government (not just, government).

    Steve’s additional idea that there can be symbiosis there had not quite occurred to me, but of course it makes sense.

  6. Tschafer says:

    As I recall, Tammany actually had “Parades” that were quasi-military displays. No, they were not the Bloods or the Crips, but styles in paramilitaries may have changed. As for the durg wars, I personally think that legalization might be worth a try, but I doubt that organized crime would just disappear – there are a lot of fairly smart and very ruthless people involved, and I’m sure that they would find something else to do, possibly something worse than selling drugs.

  7. sconzey says:

    Some really interesting points. Finbarr ( who should post more 😛 ) and icr come at the same point from different angles:

    I can definitely see how black market in drugs causes more murders/deaths among people who trade in drugs. But I don’t see how the drug black market makes me more likely to get mugged.

    With the gangs enforcing urban tranquillity there might be a distinct improvement in the conditions that foseti complains about. But maybe blacks are not as efficient in those activities as Italian-Americans.

    i.e. what, if any, is the link between organised and petty crime? Is it in the interests of the urban paramilitaries to suppress petty crime? This might have been the case when organised crime was running marble and mahogany casinos and brothels, and thus had an interest in making their turf pleasant for their clients to remain in. Today, is the effect opposite, does organised crime promote a general attitude of criminality amongst poor black kids?

    I don’t actually know the answer. Anyone got any ideas on how this can be researched?

    Re: the comments about marijuana, I’m not sure if this is relevant, but here in the UK weed is seen as a white middle-class drug, particularly in rural areas — the kids of the rural middle class make up the majority of the consumers and distributors.

  8. RS says:

    If muggings of ‘civilians’ go up, the populace will tack slightly rightward in general, and, also, a supermajority will favor tough measures on this specific problem.

    Which is to say, mugging differs from drugs in important ways. Neither polls nor thugs can trivially substitute mugging for drugs in their program of positions and activities.

    Lots of people want to legalize at least soft drugs. Few want to legalize mugging. Even crack legalization is probably much less popular than mugging legalization. Plus, a lot of those who favor drug laws just want to keep the stuff away from their kids and know that the laws are not sensible in principle – so their support might be rather soft. (A lot of people look at polls without reference to softness or hardness which is a mistake… anti-immigration feeling is well over 50%, but it is, on average, soft.)

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