Why would an economist need a tracking device in his shoe?

Narconomics is a factual book written by an economist Tom Wainwright– how dull can that be?  Well, the opening paragraphs

Narconomics is a factual book written by an economist Tom Wainwright– how dull can that be?  Well, the opening paragraphs describe his days in the world’s most murderous town (Ciudad Juarez) where he’s trying to get a tracking device into his sock but, for some reason or other, it doesn’t work. How will they find his body after he’s been shot?

This is a thorough and informative probe into the world of drug production, smuggling and marketing, dipping into the lives of those involved, explaining how the whole thing operates from an industrial point of view and how the whole mess could be tidied up somewhat by more informed policies; policies that will challenge the majority of beliefs I suspect.

However, it’s clear that we, the general public, are being fed a lot of drivel by the press, whose bent for sensationalism overrides quality reporting in most instances and that is only added to by politicians pushing populist lines that generally have the opposite effect to what they, and the public, expect.

Then again, when you read that over 60 journalists have been murdered in one area in Mexico in a decade (an increase of 51 over the previous decade) you may be inclined to have some sympathy. Murders in this area are now routine and not reported upon.

Another aspect that struck a chord with me was how we non-drug takers appeal to people by saying how harmful they are but, in truth, the death rate is very low. How much better to show graphic illustrations of people’s mutilated bodies in far away countries that came about because of the western world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for illegal drugs?

NarconomicsFrom afar it’s hard to know how to change things around in countries like Guatemala where 50% of all children under 5 are malnourished, people from outside are advised not to walk more than one block from their accommodation and the government can’t raise taxes so basic services are ignored; and that’s only some of the problems!

The book explains lucidly the things and attitudes that need to be overcome and may well leave you in despair of the seeming impossibility of change but it carefully considers all aspects and explains how the World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report is a blueprint for the drug cartels.

It dissects every aspect of trafficking doing a fascinating parallel with franchised businesses, such as a famous hamburger chain, which is what some of the larger drug-dealing organizations have become; franchised businesses, not hamburger chains. It delves into the hierarchy of mediaeval Florence and draws parallels to what’s happening in the cartels. An explanation of the futility of attacking the source is expanded upon and then it goes on to say where we should better spend our resources if the traffic is to be curbed.

He makes a good case towards the end that “Economists Make The Best Police Officers”, which has some salient points though I doubt our local constabulary will take heed. Neither will there be a significant shift to prevention, such as prison education, rather than cure, one suspects, yet this type of attack has had significantly better results than law enforcement.

The book has the one thing I rate above all else when rating, readability.  No sooner has the author dealt with one aspect in detail than he delves into another utilising personal experience and anecdotal evidence and he doesn’t leave you wondering about some aspect that he might have overlooked.

If you want to learn how drug dealing really works, this is a book for you.

Narconomics by Tom Wainwright is available now from Dymocks.

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