my personal blog

November 29, 2005

Drugs… A Thing of the Past?

Filed under: news — Alfonso Surroca @ 3:23 am

I came away from reading Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt's recent book, Freakonomics, with a Republican-esque disdain for the (illegal) drug industry. The crack boom helped knock blacks a few decades backward in catching up to white America's socioeconomic status, fuel a crime wave that lasted until the early 1990s, and basically fuck us up humanity in ways we'll probably never fully understand. But, now I'm starting to think that just as the "crime wave" peak of the 80s was followed by a just-as-large trough, we could be seeing the waning popularity of drugs in the coming years.
Why? Let's think about why people sell drugs. People sell drugs because its a lucrative underground industry. Rather, it used to be lucrative. Probably the only thing keeping illegal drug prices up these days is the "war on drugs". In other words, profit margins on drugs just aren't what they used to be, and there are other income sources on the horizon that might just convert no-good drug kingpins into no-good identity theft kingpins.

Yesterday, Yahoo! News (via Reuters) reported that for the first time, "global cybercrime generated a higher turnover than drug trafficking in 2004 and is set to grow even further with the wider use of technology in developing countries".

The article takes a turn toward fearmongering, with a quote from Valerie McNiven, cybercrime adviser to the U.S. Treasury, stating that "no country is immune from cybercrime" and "cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it."

If law enforcement is having a hard time going after cybercriminals, that means it' a lot less dangerous than drug trafficking, and if its slated to become more and more profitable than drugs in the coming years, this underground industry is going to attract a horde of criminals the same way crack attracted every two-bit dealer in the 1970s. It's going to be a criminal goldrush.

As the drug industry becomes less attractive to criminals and they focus their attention on something less damaging to society, like identity theft (okay, it still sucks, but its not as bad as drugs), we'll find that addicts have less sources for their next fix, and that this fix will become more and more expensive as demand exceeds supply. More consolidation in the industry will create more visible cartels, and less business in general will make the job of busting these cartels easier for the D.E.A. There will always be a demand, but, at best we could witness a collapse of this industry in the coming years, at worst, well, it has already hit its peak and is going to be in decline soon.

technorati tags: crime, drugs, news, oped,

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