Notes & Quotes - Narconomics by Tom Wainwright

The following are my favorite quotes from Tom Wainwright's Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel.
  1. The high levels of violence in border towns have led to calls from some people in the United States for crossings to be shut down. Yet economics suggests the opposite: by opening more of them, each would become less valuable, and less worth fighting for. True, it would give cartels more opportunities to smuggle their drugs into the United States. But clampdowns on supply have tended to have little impact on the total amount of contraband being smuggled, or on the drugs’ price.
  2. Most countries in the Americas seem to agree: the region has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, led by the United States, where more than one in every 150 people is behind bars.
  3. His phone was being tapped by the Dutch police (who, incidentally, are incorrigible snoops, with a phone-tapping order being issued for roughly one in every 1,000 working phones in the country).
  4. Penal reformers have long claimed that “prison doesn’t work.” This is only partly true: for drug cartels, prison works brilliantly.
  5. Prison is fabulously expensive. Sending a teenager to jail costs more than it would to send him to Eton College, the private boarding school in England that educated Princes William and Harry.
  6. The United States, a country with a proud history of limited government, is so unquestioningly generous when it comes to this particular public service, on which it blows $80 billion a year. Does it really need to lock up five times as many people per capita as Britain, six times as many as Canada, and nine times as many as Germany?
  7. One can only treat members of staff as disposable if there is a steady stream of replacements lined up.
  8. Unlike advertising, PR ignores the paid-for advertising space in newspapers and on air, and instead focuses on influencing the much more valuable realm of editorial column inches and TV news spots. An admiring article in a newspaper carries more weight than a paid-for ad on the opposite page.
  9. One of the first signs of state failure is when people begin to take the law into their own hands.
  10. It is a testament to the success of cartels in laundering their images that millions of consumers buy drugs each year without giving a moment’s thought to the fact that they are funding unimaginable suffering.
  11. Mexico may sometimes seem lawless, but it is like Switzerland compared with some parts of Central America.
  12. The Border Patrol now numbers some 21,000 officers, making it about the same size as Canada’s active-duty army.
  13. Mexican laborers moving to the United States stand to quadruple their real wages, even once the higher cost of living is taken into account.
  14. A paper in Addiction, an academic journal, estimated the quantity of various drugs needed to get an average person high versus the amount required to kill them. In the case of alcohol, it found that the ratio was about ten to one—in other words, if a couple of shots of vodka are enough to make you tipsy, twenty shots might kill you, if you can keep them down. Cocaine, it found, was slightly safer, with a ratio of fifteen to one. LSD has a ratio of 1,000 to one, whereas marijuana is safest of all: it is impossible to die of overdose, as far as anyone can tell. Even with the edibles, there is no evidence that one can die of overdose—you simply have a stronger and longer-lasting effect than you may have wanted. For heroin, the ratio between an effective dose and a deadly one is just six to one.
  15. The quantity of powerful opioid drugs being dished out by doctors is breathtaking: in some states, concentrated in the South, the number of prescriptions made each year is now greater than the population.
  16. By the end of the first year of trading, Colorado’s dispensaries alone had reached about $700 million in cannabis sales — money that the cartels saw as rightfully theirs.
  17. On average, they found, marijuana’s wholesale price rises by $500 for every 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) that it has to travel within the United States.
  18. Running through this book is evidence that official efforts to tackle the drugs industry have been hampered by four big mistakes.
    1. The obsession with supply.
    2. Saving money early on and paying for it later.
    3. Acting nationally against a global business.
    4. Confusing prohibition with control.
  19. Most of the evidence suggests that demand for drugs is inelastic.
  20. The claims of scarce cash must seem odd, though, to anyone visiting the small New Hampshire town of Keene. Keene is not a violent place. Between 1999 and 2012, it saw only three homicides. Yet its police department has spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel carrier known as a BearCat.
  21. When it comes to fighting crime, money is no object—as long as it is spent on enforcement, rather than prevention.
  22. Treatment is up to ten times more cost effective than enforcement.
  23. It is time for governments' generosity toward the police and miserliness toward development to be reversed.
  24. In the war on drugs, it seems, national successes are common, whereas global ones are not.
  25. In Switzerland, whose program is the most well-established, doctors targeted 3,000 hardcore addicts, who made up 10–15 percent of the country’s users but accounted for up to 60 percent of consumption in the country. By providing them with free heroin, which they took under supervised conditions, the government reduced the number of robberies they committed by 90 percent.