Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prohibition Will Confuse Our Grandchildren as it Should Embarrass Us: Wainwright's "Narco-Nomics"


This was an interesting book with a good angle - the fact of prohibition drive so much crime both at the source of the drugs and as they are passed along the value chain that prohibition doesn’t work, since these supply-side interventions barely raise the street price and do little to dent demand. Demand is driven more by fads and trends - and in the case of opiates, doctors over-prescribing legal pills that become too expensive so heroin is a cheap choice.’

The book’s subtitle is “How to run a drug cartel,” and I think that may over-sell it. I don’t think that I could go and run a cartel based off of the information in this book. It seems to be misplaced in terms of marketing: the book for the most part focuses on the americas, but there is an interlude about synthetic drugs in New Zealand that is interesting but seems out of touch with the rest of the narrative. It seems the author interviewed one of the synthetic entrepreneurs and wanted to keep that part in even though the bulk of the book focused on the origin of drugs in South America to the ultimate markets in the US and Western Europe (Very little mention is made of Asia, and none of Africa that I can remember, so this is not a global model, but a very western one).

Ultimately, I feel that Wainwright makes a strong case, but I was on his side before I even picked up the book. The current fact of prohibition (especially in marijuana)  is going to be one of those cultural embarrassments in a generation, KIds will be goggly-eyed at that fact that not only was weed illegal, the state would lock up men and women for decades just because they owned some of it. In a nation where owning people was fine for a significant part of its history, this fact is hard to justify - and this book helps show why.