An interesting piece about the prevalence of crystal meth in the modern US1:
Suppliers of drugs, consumers of drugs, and even drug addicts have long been known to be “rational” as a group — yes, rational, but stick with me. They respond to changes in prices; they respond to quality differentials and to changes in quality. They also respond — rationally — to changes in risk. So if drug users select their drug of choice using a rational decision-making process, what explains this “march to the bottom” and the emergence of meth in illegal drug markets?
The answer is that crystal meth is a cheap date; it has been referred to as the poor man’s cocaine. Cocaine and meth are both stimulants, so it is reasonable to assume that they appeal to the same subset of drug users. During cocaine’s heyday, meth was nearly extinct on the illegal market.
This changed with Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” which was effective in raising prices for illegal drugs by imposing greater risks and thus higher costs on production, distribution, and consumption. The initial shock of the war on drugs sent black-market entrepreneurs back to the drawing board; they needed to reduce their risk and their costs. What they came back with included highly potent marijuana, crack cocaine, and crystal meth.
It doesn’t take much to figure out that the War on Drugs, just as any other government program, is a very lucrative means used by bureaucrats to transfer extorted money to friends, lobbyists, and themselves.
The United States is the world leader in terms of the percentage of people sitting in prison. Yes, there are more people per 100,000 citizens incarcerated in the US than in China, Russia, or Iran!
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 2.2 million Americans that are currently incarcerated, 21.2 percent of them are non-violent drug offenders. That’s about 466,000 people serving time in rape rooms and mandatory labor camps without having violated anybody else’s rights.
When you make it risky to obtain a substance you drive up its price to ridiculous levels. When you drive up its price you make it immensely profitable for dealers to get people hooked on drugs through free samples or even forceful inducement. Obviously it’s in the dealers’ best interest to keep such policies going.
Then there are prison companies, such as the Geo Group, who are contracted by state and local governments, getting paid based on how many people they imprison, and whose stocks are traded on Wall Street. So their investors and banks have an incentive to keep this racket going by lobbying politicians who vote in a favorable manner.
There are law enforcement agencies with agents, police officers, sheriffs, prison guards who all benefit from such policies because their budgets are increased.
There are pharmaceutical companies whose drugs have been proven to kill or cause long term depression and mental disorders in more people than marijuana would ever even come close to. In fact, there are zero deaths reported as biochemical results of marijuana use. There are more people dying dying from Tylenol, Aspirin or Advil per year. Meanwhile marijuana has been proven to provide many of the desired pain relief effects at much less cost, people can even grow it at home! So obviously the huge pharmaceutical lobby, representing about 50% of Wall Street profits, has an enormous vested interest to invest in Congresspeople who will keep the drug war going.
There are Alcohol and Tobacco companies who were the main sponsors of the anti drug campaigns of the 80s. Alcohol and Tobacco combined kill over 500,000 Americans a year. So you can imagine how much of an incentive they have to ensure that their big competitor, marijuana, remains expensive.
The C.I.A itself was and probably is still trafficking drugs into the US because the business has become so lucrative. There is evidence and testimony from several former federal agents confirming this. You can find more on this in the movie American Drug War – The Last White Hope.
So there are all these people, all from completely different walks of life, unknowingly pulling on the same string to protect their own interests.
In a stateless society such people would have no vehicle to implement their destructive agendas.
It is the existence of a state in the first place, that allows them to bring these plans to fruition.
So long as liberals and other statist drug war opponents don’t understand this simple causality and relentlessly start pointing at the root cause of the problem, they need not be surprised if things won’t change for the better one tiny bit.
- Mark Thornton (2011) What explains crystal meth? Mises Daily
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