Wednesday, September 21, 2005

All hell breaking loose in Mexico

More terrible news from Mexico, where violent cartels are openly battling the government and one another for access to markets fulfilling the seemingly bottomless American demand for illegal drugs.

Drug-related violence is spreading far beyond the border. Troops were sent to patrol resort-town Acapulco recently after a spate of police-officer killings, and Saturday the civilian overseer of the police force in Michoacan, a coastal state in central Mexico, was
assassinated in a crowded restaruant.

he Fox government appears to be doing what it can to resolve the Sysyphian dilemma with brute force, but access to vast profits from the drug trade make the cartels powerful, well-armed foes. After 46,000 drug arrests in Mexico as part of a full-blown crackdown, the supply coming into the United States hasn't lessened. It likely won't. The source of the problem is US demand, without which there would be no market for drug suppliers. That's beyond Fox's control: America's addiction problems can't be fixed from the southern side of the Rio Grande.

God help Mexico. It seems like nobody else is going to.


kaptinemo said...

All we are witnessing is the penultimate stage of capitalism, just before final monopolization: the smaller competitors have been wiped out or subsumed, and the strongest remaining ones now battle for supremecy.

The militarization of the US police beginning in the 1970's was ostensibly caused by the threat of heavily armed drug dealers able to purchase anything they wanted thanks to illicit drug sales. One could argue that this is just a self-serving prophecy being made manifest...30 years late, and none of it necessary, as the narcos wouldn't have any money had the trade been legal and regulated. Any cops, US or Mex, dying from this latest outbreak of violence, have their politicos to blame, not the reformers.

Cliff said...

kaptinemo, your observations are dead on, as usual. I look forward to reading your comments every time I see your handle. I have always felt like Mexico was on the verge of a revolution, and it looks like it is happening right before our eyes. Very sad and tragic.

demophoenix said...

Yup. The problem ain't "demand". It's prohibition.

You can argue that there are a lot of things we could be doing here, like improved treatment, like alleviating poverty, like treating mental illnesses, that would be good for the country and would have the added side effect of modestly reducing demand. But all the really nasty aspects of the drug trade are due to prohibition.

kaptinemo said...

Cliff, many thanks, but all I am doing is belaboring the painfully obvious.

I think of the corruption engendered by the illicit drug trade as if it were hydrofluoric acid; so strong it has to be kept in stainless steel containers. And even those fail. It is just so reactive, it just eats its' way out of anything you put it in.

The corruption of the trade has eaten out the core of Mexican law enforcement. Arguably never strong thanks to decades of one-party state engendered political corruption, the added burden caused by the narco trade has rendered any positive efforts the honest cops make nothing short of Pyrrhic. I can't blame them for accepting plato when the threat of plomo is both real and immediate.

Against what amounts to the rawest, truest form of laissez faire capitalism on the planet, no government anywhere can hope to stop it. Not even one as repressive as China. An embarassing fact that free-marketeers tend to hope doesn't get mentioned very loudly.

Scott Chaffin said...

Most free-marketeers are more than willing to mention it. Like me, for instance. My free-marketeer brain says "Legalize it and tax it all, and let the idiot users burn themselves right down to the ground." Total Darwinism.

Then the free-marketeer, this one anyway, thinks a little harder and ponders all the collateral damage. You couldn't build orpanages fast enough. Being a free-marketeer, and all, I'm not too thrilled with that. And I know that the dope-legalizing libertarians aren't.

Anonymous said...

Come on, Scott! Anybody who wants to get high can right now. And this country is full of drug war orphans with incarcerated parents. The foster care system is bursting at the seams. All the terrible "collateral consequences" you fear have already come to pass, but they're mostly a result of prohibition. Nobody's shooting up Nueveo Laredo over booze.

sandy b

kaptinemo said...

Evidently I wasn't clear enough:

This government is comprised largely of those who, in the past, spouted the tenets of the free market, loudly proclaiming that if we would just let the businessmen run the government, we'd have Nirvana. (Remember the Laffer Curve? How about the arguments in favor of deregulation of finacial institutions like S&L's?) That was the mantra from the investment class from the early 1970's onward.

Alright, now they have control of the government. And they have done an even worse job...and largely because they abandoned those principles. They've turned out to have the same degree of corruptibility, cronyism, and hubris, engaging in their own versions of 'social engineering' - which they accused their opponents of applying. In a word, the supposed saviors turned out to be every bit the 'statists' they bemoaned in the past. The core principles, as is usual for the established and officially condoned parties, were jettisoned as soon as they acquired power.

The raw, true, pure form of capitalism that these people were said to favor can be found only in a few places or institutions on the planet. One of them is a major thorn in the sides of the Powers-That-Be, and that is the illicit drug trade. It proves every one of their laissez faire principles correct. Just not the way they wish it would. Rather embarassing for them.

Scott Chaffin said...

You weren't clear at all. You said "free marketeers", when you meant "this administration." Personally, I don't see how it's any more embarassing for them than it is for any other administration in power since the establishment of the office of the Drug Czar, but that's me. Carry on.

Viz collateral damage, you may be right that we've already got "all" the collateral damage we would have without prohibition. I can't say. Maybe meth use would reach the same social equilibrium as booze. Like I say, I'm a free marketeer, so give it a try. No extra government programs for dry-out, rehab, free needles, methadone, etc. Treat them exactly the same as we do the alkies. I'm at least marginally OK with that.

kaptinemo said...

Sorry, I will try again:

I remember Harry Browne (whom I voted for twice) saying once that if he should ever be elected President, on his first day in office he would have begun a paring down of agency after agency. It was an impressive list of bureaucracies and a very large one, giving the impression that it would take years.

But no; he'd pause for effect during his speech, and then say after he had done all that, he would have taken time out for lunch. Remember, this is supposed to be his first day in office he's talking about. That's true conservatism at work. Of course, he got a lot of laughs from his target audience.

But there's a problem, and it's one that has existed since time immemorial: concentration of political power almost always follows concentration of economic power. Rich politicians are the norm throughout history, and poor ones the exception.

Sooner or later, those with economic power acquire political power. It's simple self-defense: the only thing capable of matching or defeating economic power is political force, so those with economic power, thanks to processes like monopolism, eventually must become the government in order to prevent government from exercising its' power via taxation and take by threat of force the means of acquiring economic power.

For proof of this in American history, look to the rise of such organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations. Look at who its' charter members were, and what economic interests they had in common, and why. And note that very few politicians in positions of real power in this country are not members of this (supposedly) non-governmental organization.

It's one thing to be little John Entrepeneur, or Janie Inventor, coming up with a useful service or a clever device that fills the needs of a truly free market, but it's quite another when major corporations receive taxpayer funded no-bid contracts that benefit the very same 'former' CEOs cum politicians who are now 'humble public servants', and then have the effrontery to claim they are no different from other businessmen who do not enjoy such 'connections'.

Those who have acquired that economic and therefore political power have done so through monopolism, yet they make noises about the wonders of the free market. It is this political-and-economic-sleight-of-hand that is forever causing those who truly favor a free market to be doomed with failure in ever actually implementing it, the deck is stacked against it. The closest thing to such a free market that exists today is the illicit drug trade. Was this any help?

kaptinemo said...

I forgot to add that, as I stated in my first comment, it is that same process of monopolism at work in Mexico which makes the illicit drug trade situation so dangerous, now; lacking (ahem) legitimate means of morphing their obvious economic might into political power (from being shut out of the political process due to the nature of their trade), they have begun to use raw force to achieve their ends. But whether the process is overseen by someone wearing a Brookes Brother's suit in a boardroom or a guayabara clad narco in a warehouse in Nuevo Laredo, the resulting accretion of power is the same. As is the effect upon democracy.