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on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 12:34 pm by Radley Balko
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21 Responses to “23 Seconds of the Mexican Drug War”
I’m sorry, Radley. I normally agree with you about the War on Drugs and the Andrews article makes me want to puke. But when you have violet psychopaths like this, I think they are going to find something to murder and maim for. If drugs were legal, they would not be complying with the law but still fighting over territory. I believe in legalization, but the idea that it is some kind of panacea is a bit of a reach.
I would like to see much more on what the situation was like before the recent war erupted. Did Mexico City have de facto legalization? Was it in an unsustainable peace between violent criminal cartels? I don’t think pointing at the violence and screaming “War on Drugs!” cuts it.
The reason to back off the war on drugs is so that we can concentrate our resources on the truly dangerous violent people rather than arresting harmless dealers and users. I have to believe that any system of law and order would be cracking down on these guys.
There are many cases where someone who is not predisposed to violent crime can be enticed to it because of the amount of money involved. The large amounts of money that drugs represent only exist because they are illegal.
There is a reason the vast amount of home burglaries don’t include a murder of the home owner. Because your VCR isn’t worth killing a person over. If you are home they don’t bother, or if discovered, they run. The value of that VCR isn’t worth the risk. But if that VCR was worth a quarter mil, it is much more likely the same criminal would be willing to kill you for it.
Whether it is Mexico or the inner city, drugs represent an easy way out of a hard life of poverty. Many of these guys start as look-outs or delivery boys, making much more money than the ever could otherwise. Well, once you are in, you are in. When you reach a point where the leaders of the drug ring will kill you, or your family, if you try to get out, You will now agree to kill some people in a jewelry store if told to do so. You have no choice.
The idea that all of these people would just be finding other reasons to kill people even if the money drugs represent wasn’t present doesn’t hold water for me.
Mike,I agree that many of these people would be crooks,but,they would be petty crooks.Name one illegal activity that is as profitable as drugs.Robbery,murder,shop lifting?The guns and influence are bought by the huge profits of a black market.I also point out that many people that would never rob,steal or murder ignore drug laws every day.In my circle of friends,doctors,pharmacists,small businessmen,ect,almost all have done some illegal drug at one time.A few still smoke pot once in a while.When other wise law abiding people ignore a law it’s time to change it.Mexico is now 1920’s Chicago writ large.
There’s money in legalizing marijuana for the U.S. government and for taxpayer programs that a tax on legalized MJ would create, but that’s pie-in-the-sky, in-the-distant-future money, at best.
Besides, the U.S. gov’t is profiting off MJ RIGHT NOW in the form of getting lots of taxpayer money to fund the DEA, INS, local, state and federal cops.
This provides cops with jobs and gets more and more cops hired; right-wingers LOVE this “paradigm.”
Also, the cops get part of the seizure property, money, goods, etc. What could be sweeter? Why ruin a good thing? Besides, the “bad” guys (dealers) are making tons of money too! It’s great for everyone… except the citizens of the USA and Mexico.
You can legalize all vices to take them out of the black market and that would be great. But that still leaves protection rackets, extortion, kidnapping, public corruption, union corruption and on and on, and some of these activities involve turf.
Michael Pack |
December 7th, 2008 at 3:18 pm
Z,Yes it does.It returns the law to what it was meant to do,punish harm to others.All those examples were of one person harming another.Truth is ,there’s not as much easy money involved and you have a actual victim Plus ,in those crimes ,theres less chance of police corruption or people looking the other way.Not to mention the money free up for real crime solving.
’m sorry, Radley. I normally agree with you about the War on Drugs and the Andrews article makes me want to puke. But when you have violet psychopaths like this, I think they are going to find something to murder and maim for. If drugs were legal, they would not be complying with the law but still fighting over territory. I believe in legalization, but the idea that it is some kind of panacea is a bit of a reach.
I don’t think legalization would be a panacea, only that it would be better than what we’re doing now.
And I don’t agree that people are born violent. A few maybe. But this is a response to incentives. You don’t see liquor store owners killing each other over turf. You don’t see casino owners in Vegas murdering one another over customers. You primarily see this kind of violence with black markets.
Agreed, there would still be crime, but there is a lot more work for a lot less money in all of the crimes you cited. The other major difference between drug crime and other illegal ways to make money, is the attitude of the public towards said crime. Compare how people feel about kidnapping for ransom on the one hand, with how they feel about smoking a doobie, or even how they view ‘the guy’ who supplied the contents of said doobie on the other hand. There is no comparison between them. Many people who become involved do so because they don’t agree with the prohibition laws, so it is easier for them to justify. Take away the justification, and the gangs would have a much tougher time recruiting membership, as well as a tougher time earning enough money to retain them. Crime is a business, with costs and benefits same as any other business. Take away the huge money from drugs and you reduce the numbers of criminals, the same as happened following repeal of alcohol prohibition. Crime is opportunistic. Take away the opportunity, you take away the problem.
I take your point. And in some respects agree with it. However, it’s notable that the mob did not disappear after prohibition was repealed. They moved onto other things. Some of this was stuff that should be legal (prostitution, drugs) but some was stuff that should definitely be illegal (loan sharking, protection rackets, extortion, etc.) And they were at their height long before the War on Drugs really got going.
The Netherlands are claiming to have an organized crime problem in the sex-and-drugs part of Amsterdam. Now I think they’re exaggerating the problem out of puritanical motives (and some of their recent actions have helped create the problem). But I don’t think they’re completely making it up.
The horrific violence of that video is not something random, but something organized. It reveals a brutal underlying criminal culture that might continue to reign terror in Mexico long after the war on drugs was ended or pulled back. I don’t buy the idea that human beings are empty vessels who are pushed into criminal behavior by unwise government policy.
The War on Drugs certainly escalates the violence and makes violence, rather than law, the way of solving things. But when I see guys run into a store and mow down four people in cold blood, I somehow doubt that they would be peacefully selling pot on a street corner if circumstance were different.
Let’s not forget the hysteria of many well-intentioned folks the cops/gov’t drug propaganda panders to:
Hysterical parent: “If drugs were legalized, OMG! My 12 year old could go right out and buy DRUGS!!”
Duh, your 12 year old can buy them NOW (and some do) because 90% of the ILLEGAL drug flow CANNOT BE CONTROLLED, even to children!
On the other hand, hysterical parent, if drugs were legalized they could be taxed and controlled like liquor and your child could only buy them when he/she turned 21. Conceivably, you could (more)keep drugs out of their hands until they were old enough to make their own informed decision as an adult.
I’m not saying there wouldn’t still be violence in a world where drugs were legal.
But there would certainly be much less of it. The outbreaks in bloodshed in Mexico keep coming just after the Mexican government cracks down on the drug trade in one or more provinces. The push down on one part of the balloon, and the remaining cartels (a) retaliate against the government, and (b) do battle over the opening of new turf.
Phew! I just had a harrowing experience going out to get a 12-pack of PBR and a jug of whiskey. I almost got shot 5 different times and my family got threatened by the local beer thugs!
Wait…no I didn’t…because liquor is LEGAL.
There is such a thing as the economics of violence. If your only trade is violence, how can you apply violence to get paid? Answer: illegal activities with a strong demand (drugs and hooking).
Legalize that which people want and you at least take the step toward eliminating the violence. Having said that, ending violence is NOT the reason to end the war on drugs…personal liberty is.
As far as organized crime in Amsterdam’s drug/sex trade, may I remind you of America’s history of organized crime in all kinds of legal activities such as labor unions, sanitation, construction, shipping, docks, and…of course…police protection. Economic incentives for legal activity (to go “legit”) are powerful, but they don’t always work overnight…and still not an excuse for limiting personal freedom.
Helmut O' Hooligan |
December 7th, 2008 at 5:59 pm
#14 Nikolai: “Duh, your 12 year old can buy them NOW (and some do) because 90% of the ILLEGAL drug flow CANNOT BE CONTROLLED, even to children”
Thanks for making that point Nikolai. It should be obvious, but many people miss this due to the “sky is falling” rhetoric that drives the war on drugs. In a proper system, 12 year olds would not be able to purchase drugs at a store. Also, adults who choose to purchase drugs in this system could do so in a safe environment (a liquor store and/or pharmacy) and not have to worry that someone dusted their weed w/ PCP or added Fentynal to their heroin. A country’s drug policy should be about respecting choices, education and minimizing harm that can result from drug use. Our policy is a failure on all counts.
This Andrews guy is an ass. It takes a real soulless person who sees success in people’s deaths. Its not just that the drug war produces violence, it produces fanaticism as well. I’m not sure which is worse.
You have seen the movies and the newsreel film. Hits like the one in the video happened quite often from what I know during Prohibition. Then it was tommy guns, now its AK-47s. As long as there is a reason for this kind of activity, it will continue. You remove the reason, and it will vanish. That is why I don’t have to worry about being mowed down by Mugsy with a chopper when I go shopping.
Thank you nikolai & Helmut O’ Hooligan for bringing up the point about hysterical parents. I think we should realize that hysterical parents are not only one of the main drivers of poor drug policy, but poor policies in general.
I have made a promise to myself that if I ever have children, I will not become a hysterical, reasonless ape who must defend his children (from imagined dangers) at all costs! I’m sure it is easier said than done, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. People in favor of rational public policy ought to make a similar pact with themselves.