Selective Enforcement

Mark Kleiman writes apropos the drug wars in Mexico: “Any organization that is just dealing drugs, and isn’t shooting at cops and journalists and citizens, needs a good leaving-alone.”

This seems wise. Policy in both Mexico and Afghanistan seems not to appreciate the extent to which drug interdiction has zero-sum characteristics. If you reduce global demand for illegal drugs, that hurts all drug suppliers. But if you hurt one drug supplier’s operation, that helps all rival drug suppliers. If Apple started taking its profits and using them to assist the Taliban or kill Mexican police officers, we wouldn’t “crack down on tech companies,” raid Google and Microsoft, and declare that we’d just struck a blow against high-tech malefactors. In both Mexico and Afghanistan there’s a need to identify a particular set of bad behaviors and target specifically the organizations involved in those activities. That will help rival, less malign organizations and create incentives for all drug traffickers to avoid maximally pernicious behavior.