Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In defense of clear cutting drug kingpins

no, really.

Black market, black heart:

Another reader asks my opinion of Hilzoy's piece on Cambodian destruction of the environment to produce ecstasy.
Apparently, the workers who distill the sassafras oil also eat and sell endangered species. Great.
Back in the day, when I was more attuned to these things, people didn't seem to think much about the social and environmental effects of illicit drug use. That always seemed to me to be an odd blind spot: I knew plenty of people who worked for various good causes by day, and supported organizations that helped to destroy inner-city neighborhoods by night, for instance, without noticing the conflict between their principles and their use of cocaine. I suspect that that has changed. I hope so.
This is an easy one, right? E is a very bad drug, in that it's really fucking bad for you, albeit fun, and destroying endangered forests and critical habitats so South Asian drug gangs can make a few more bucks is kinda easy to take issue with.
But not for Megan
More to the point, it's not enough to note that this is bad; you need a reasonable picture of the world absent the drug trade. And it's not clear to me that it's better. First of all, the high profitability of the sassafrass oil is undoubtedly making some Cambodians richer. I've been to Cambodia. They live in dire, appalling poverty, and making them richer is something we should all be trying to do by whatever means come to hand. So I'd say you have to weigh their welfare against that of the rare trees. My instinct is to side with the poverty-stricken humans.
Fuck you, you stupid asshole. The Cambodians being made richer are quite certainly the ones who were already wealthy thanks to illegal and exploitative business ventures. As with coca and opium the real money is unquestionably made by everyone but the people doing the actual physical labor. It's more likely than not that working conditions in this "industry" are beyond appalling.
Second, you went to Cambodia as part of your tourist trip to Vietnam sponsored by businessmen looking for seed money to further exploit the locals, Megan. And you were dismayed by how few sweatshops there were in both countries. Fuck you a whole bunch more. Finally, what do you think happens to those poverty stricken humans when the rare trees run out? I don't think illegal drug cartels offer pension packages. Stupid asshole.
As to whether one should trade in US black markets for drugs, knowing that those markets create violence--well, I'm somewhat skeptical that Hilzoy is acquainted with many of the people who frequent the really violence-prone drug markets, which tend to specialize in crystal meth and crack. I know people who have done both, but not more than once or twice, because they had plans that didn't involve sleeping in a squat in West Baltimore. The market for marijuana, the drug of choice for most well meaning young leftists, is not quite the same as the drug markets in The Wire.
The stupid just won't stop. To begin, neither crack nor meth play any role in The Wire. It's heroin and cocaine. Crack is much less common these days because the cost of powder cocaine has plummeted post 9/11, for whatever dark, backroom deal, reasons. How the fuck can you watch the whole run of The Wire and get that wrong? Most of the drug world plots in the damn show revolve around the heroin supply.
But Megan knows the drug world, through thrill seeking friends who spent a night slumming, and us foolish pot smokers need to recognize we're not in the same market as homeless junkies, despite our desire to glam up our toking with the scent of urine and scabies.
The stupid keeps flowing, but I can't keep going. Don't take E, folks. It's an amphetamine, and it's really bad for you. Go with some shrooms or acid instead, whichever your stomach prefers.

10 comments:

clever pseudonym said...

"I'm somewhat skeptical that Hilzoy is acquainted with many of the people who frequent the really violence-prone drug markets."

And I'm sure some of Megan's best friends are inner-city crackheads.

Clem said...

The good news is that her increasingly outrageous and indefensible positions are signs of creeping Coulterization, i.e. irrelevance. The bad news? She's too dumb to stop.

Chad said...

They live in dire, appalling poverty, and making them richer is something we should all be trying to do by whatever means come to hand.

What's sad is that Megan's argument is shaky even from a Libertarian, economic-sans-ethics perspective. The cultivation and trade of often-outlawed and widely reviled drugs is hardly a stable industry that encourages growth in other regional economic areas (the reverse, if anything). But I suppose realizing this, and that it does matter how people get rich, would require a more sophisticated understanding of economics than, "Getting rich is good! Capitalism is never its own worst enemy!"

NutellaonToast said...

OMG. though, E is so much fun. It's the only drug I miss.

It's actually pretty safe if you know what you're doing but, of course, most e takers don't know what they're doing.

brad said...

Nah, Nutella, it's very bad for your brain, like all amphetamines, even when pure and well made (tho less so in that case).
Therapeutic use could be justified, but it's just too bad for you to be recreational.

Clem said...

McArdle likes Ecstasy because it makes total strangers smile, take her hand and say "We like you." That could never happen without E.

NutellaonToast said...

It is bad for your brain, but you can minimize the effects of that in various ways.

Pot and alcohol also hurt your brain in ways, but if you do them right that's fine.

Living hurts your brain. Your brain slowly dies. That's fine.

brad said...

Pot doesn't cause brain cells to die. THC can be absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain, but it does no actual damage. Anti-drug zealots focus on either weak studies showing depressed people tend to self-medicate or loaded studies claiming there's all sorts of bad shit in pot smoke using results derived from burning wet ditchweed.

spencer said...

So I'd say you have to weigh their welfare against that of the rare trees. My instinct is to side with the poverty-stricken humans.

Of course, those poverty-stricken humans will generally only benefit in the short term, until the resource is exhausted. Then what? And that says nothing of the cost to society of environmental damage, much of which is indirect and thus invisible to myopic corporatist tools like Megan. Who's going to be on the hook for that? Hint: it won't be the drug gangs.

F.P. said...

This is why I hate libertarians.