October 23, 2020

Gen Z Conservative

The thoughts of a young conservative on political issues relevant to all ages

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel


Many people in America have heard of the Mexican and Columbian drug cartels. We’ve heard of how they send armed gunmen to the border to facilitate shipments of drugs into the US. Or how they’re one of the main reasons why border security is crucial for national security. However, few people know how a drug cartel works. In Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, author Tom Wainwright teaches just that.

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I was intrigued when I saw Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel because the subtext of the title is “what big business taught the drug lords.” While that is certainly an element of the book, Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel is about so much more than that. It exposes how a modern cartel actually operates and makes its money, and in doing so starts to tackle the difficult question of how to tackle those cartels. Anyone with an interest in the drug war, the opioid crisis, or general geopolitics would enjoy reading Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel.

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Summary of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Like I said in the introduction, I was expecting to read about similarities between big business and the cartels. Frankly, I thought it would be little more than a unique take on the dangers of corporatism argument. Luckily, Wainwright really did his research and wrote about far more than that.

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel covers almost every aspect of the drug war. He writes about the atrocities the cartels, especially the warring Mexican cartels commit. He writes about the government responses to those cartels and what has and hasn’t worked. Prohibition, for example, hasn’t worked and never will.

Also, he writes about the drugs currently on the market, what they do to the mind, and how the cartels are able to command such a high price for them. And, of course, he writes about the similarities between big business and cartels. The similarities between how both do mergers and acquisitions were particularly interesting.

Legalizing Drugs to Win the Drug War:

Much of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel is interesting. But, in my opinion, the most important (and interesting) part of the book was the section on how to win the war on drugs. As a guest writer wrote about in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, drugs are ravaging our nation. Conservative values help addicts, but those values can only do so much. And the illegal drug trade has led to huge murder rates in many neighboring nations. So how do we win and end it?

In Wainwright’s opinion, the answer to that supremely important question is legalization. When drugs are legalized, two main things happen.

One is that the government steps in to regulate the substances being sold. While I am generally against regulation, ensuring that dangerous substances are properly labeled seems like one of the few proper roles of government. With regulation, at least people will know what they are buying.

The second thing that happens is revenue streams dry up for criminal groups. With anyone in America growing and selling regulated marijuana, drug cartels will no longer be able to rake in profits from selling it, which is part of the argument about policing surrounding George Floyd’s death. Once legalization is expanded to other groups, cartels could be dealt a potentially devastating blow.

Wainwright spends a significant amount of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel discussing how properly done legalization could help win the war on drugs and drug cartels. And, because complete prohibition is impossible, I’m inclined to agree with him.

Overall, Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel is a wide-ranging and very interesting book. It will teach you a lot about how cartels operate and why they’re so dangerous. But it will also teach you how to defeat them.

Analysis of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

As I’ve mentioned a few times already, I thought Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel was incredibly interesting. I devoured every word and wanted to learn more.

At the same time, it was frightening. Through reading the summary of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, I had heard about how destructive illegal and legal drugs were to America. And cartels are obviously dangerous groups. But, I knew little about the immense misery and suffering they inflict on citizens of the countries they operate in. The level of torture and violence they inflict on those communities is staggering. In my view, it’s almost as bad as the tyranny of the sadistic Middle Eastern dictators described in The Great War for Civilization.

I was also quite ignorant of the economics of the drug war and drug trade. Wainwright devotes a not inconsiderable amount of time discussing how drug seizures are reported. When drugs are seized, their value is often reported at street value. Unfortunately for those seeking to find what damage is actually being done to cartels, that is a completely useless metric.

Drugs skyrocket in price the closer they get to the consumer, so seizure of even large amounts costs the cartels relatively little. That means when you here the police seized drugs and dealt a “$10 million” blow to a cartel, in reality, the actual loss is far less than that. Trying to cut off supply is ineffective.

And that realization is what helped bring Wainwright (and me) to the conclusion that legalization is the only effective way to beat the cartels. By cutting off the cartel’s access to consumers by allowing regulated products to be produced here, we would drastically reduce the amount of revenue a cartel could conceivably bring in. And, theoretically, at least, that drop in revenue would crush the cartels.

I despise drugs and those that sell them. But if legalizing and regulating them would crush the cartels, that seems like a small price to pay for bringing peace to our neighbors. Furthermore, America is a nation that has historically respected individual liberty. That’s why bans on specific firearms or products such as E-cigs are unconstitutional. I don’t see why the same wouldn’t apply to narcotics.


Read Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel. You’ll enjoy it and learn a lot from it. There’s far more in it than what I’ve summarized and analyzed here; I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the highlights.

The legalization question is obviously a contentious and emotional one. But I think Wainwright does a good job of approaching it in an academic and data-driven way. Let me know in the comments what you think of his argument!

By: Gen Z Conservative

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