We know that drug dealing is violent but, why? It is the market at work, right? Or, isn't it? The market wants voluntarism. Force is anathema to the market. So, why does violence attach to the illegal drug trade?
Attempts to explain this usually involve clichéd attacks against free markets by describing them as cutthroat by nature. A typical "intellectual" explanation for drug violence goes as follows: Keeping an item off the legal market increases price due to scarcity. Unsavory characters, willing to sell the evil substance and do other dastardly deeds to get rich, enter the market. Initially, suppliers use force to "push" drugs at a loss to get people addicted and gain market share. Cartels develop that epitomize the basest nature of the uncontrolled market. They shoot it out at every turn and rip each other off to eliminate competition, control the trade, and keep prices up. Besides gunning each other down, they like to kill cops and they also spray bullets indiscriminately at uninvolved persons killing them to set an example that they are not to be fooled with. It is the cat-eat-dog nature of uncontrolled trade.
This type of explanation is ultimately used to pair up an enhanced justification for state force with corollaries derived from flawed modern economics that conclude that all markets need government oversight to function properly. An illegal market is portrayed as an example of a market that is failing massively by trying to operate without government oversight and licensing schemes. The logical next step is a discussion on how to bring state force to bear against the human refuse in that market that has been identified and marginalized by the passage of a law preventing consumers from getting what they want. The pigeonholed participants are, by official definition, all violent thieves who kill and steal rather than make efforts to produce an acceptable product and satisfy customers. We can then happily know that this uncontrolled free market scum is conveniently in one market sector ready to be excised like a cancer via government surgery. The corralled deviants can be rounded up without further thought and crushed like cockroaches under a boot. Of course, we are also to fear that all this chaos and violence would happen with milk and tooth paste if the government wasn't controlling those markets as well.
Theft is the Reason that a Security Response Arises in the Market
Even "illegal" markets are looking for voluntarism. Real market participants are looking for quid pro quo. Producers and vendors want to serve and please their customers to ensure repeat business. Customers want what they pay for. Neither the production side nor the consumption side is looking for violence. They work to avoid it and end it whenever possible.
Government explanations for violence in illegal markets miss the point. Theft is the reason that a concern for security enters the marketplace.
Theft, with its violence, is bad for business. Countering it consumes resources that could be used to build infrastructure, acquire additional inventory, meet customer needs, and provide profits for owners. If theft risk is viewed across different industries on a continuum from low to high, a corresponding increase can be seen in the need for security investment when moving up the scale of theft risk. The expense on security is undesirable because it raises costs. Entrepreneurs don't like rising costs because they raise the price of merchandise. If an entrepreneur cannot find a way to lower costs, in this case by reducing or eliminating the need for security expenditures, he will lose market share to a thriftier competitor.
Security Response in Legal Industry
To give an example from legal industry, a store owner in a bad part of town wants to serve his customers despite the hostile environment. He doesn't want to leave the market. There are people who want to trade voluntarily with the store. There are people to serve and money to be made. Then, force enters the equation. Some people in that neighborhood want to deprive the owner of his merchandise, his store fixtures, the profits from his sales, and his capital for future investment. This causes the owner to increase his expense on security measures, i.e. counter-theft measures or counter-force measures. He, at first, may try to meet the forces of thievery with preventative measures. He may use subterfuge and hide his main cash box while leaving a nearly empty cash register on the counter. He does the minimum in the security realm to preserve the functioning of the voluntary market. As theft pressure increases, he may install a visible security camera system as a deterrent. Further increasing pressures may require him to erect a bullet resistant plexiglass booth around the cashier. The external force exerted by thieves may go further and require him to utilize a security camera system, a bullet resistant booth, and a highly visible armed guard.
Sometimes, if more peaceful preventative measures no longer work, active defiance of thievery via forceful measures may come into play. Merchants may act to protect their merchandise and fire on hoards of thieves or individual thieves attacking their businesses. The more efforts required to repel the unwanted thieving elements that have exerted themselves against the merchant, the more money that is required. This increases costs and increases merchandise prices. The increasing prices are noticed by would-be competitors who wish to share the bounty. They enter the market and try to reduce security expense by various means. Maybe a new competitor provides delivery service and dispatches deliveries from a warehouse located in a secure neighborhood. That increases the need for delivery drivers who can handle themselves and who are ready to deal with hoodlums in an armed fashion if necessary. Maybe another competitor maintains a very low profile and incurs no security expense at all because he does business out of his house after vetting individual customers. Different tactics to keep the market going while reducing security expense are always tried in order to decrease costs and increase profits. The market always tries to exert downward pressure on security expense; the expense of countering the force exerted by thieves.
The above example shows how theft is the action that injects force into the marketplace. The market tries to dodge this force, reduce expenditures and losses, and move towards conditions of less force. The market doesn't like force. Force wastes resources that could be used in trade. The quality of life can be increased on both sides of voluntary transactions if security expense is not in the equation.
Two Types of Theft Result from State Action Against the Illegal Market
Theft is the same force that injects violence into the illegal drug trade. The drug market tries to dodge the force of theft and move to conditions of peaceful trade by using techniques like subterfuge. Diversionary tactics are put into place to sidestep the deployment of thieving force against it. Disguise is used. Secret compartments in vehicles are used. Pseudonyms are used.
Illegal markets are doubly and probably triply affected by theft pressures. First of all, they are affected by normal theft that tries to find its way into all industry. Secondly, they are affected by a reduced ability to track who the thieves are versus the real market actors, since state pressures make market participants anonymize themselves. This increases the efficacy of normal theft pressures. Then, finally, there is the government sponsored theft. The government wants to deprive the "illegal" industry of its inventory, profits, infrastructure, and capital for reinvestment. These three theft pressures cause a turn in the industry towards a concern for security. Security expenditures increase, even though entrepreneurs would prefer that they didn't. Sometimes the pressures are slight and the security expenditures are small. Sometimes the pressures are immense and the security expenditures are large.
In an illegal market, producers and vendors cannot come out in the open. They become unidentifiable and cannot promote their reputations. Quality and consistency diminish as thieves enter the marketplace. The thieves cannot be identified separately from the entrepreneurs. The thieves are happy that they can disguise themselves as market participants. They dilute merchandise or reduce the effectiveness and value of a service. Real market producers and vendors value their reputations with customers and want to preserve their customer base. The market is hampered since market participants cannot openly invite examination of their reputations and offer clear cut delineation and tracking of product quality, price, and safety.
Merchandise often becomes nondescript. Labels are non-existent or vague. Many illegal market participants try to provide quality products but, a thief can anonymously pop into the equation posing as a producer, middleman, or vendor and adulterate a portion of the batch with no traceable way to discern whether the product came from a real producer or vendor or a thief disguised as a producer or vendor. The quality can easily be dimished by these unscrupulous market "participants." They are thieves disguised as market participants. A quality producer can have his product diluted by a thief posing as a vendor. The thief may use look-alike substances in the dilution process that may also be dangerous. The poor quality can rarely be traced back and attributed to the thief "vendor" or the reliable producer because of attempts to not leave ownership traces to avoid state force. Conversely, a reliable vendor can have his reputation compromised when he receives and sells merchandise "produced," i.e. counterfeited, by a thief posing as a producer.
The reduced ability by the market to track obscure producers and vendors also results in a confusing array of low and high potency products. Lack of labeling makes them hard to distinguish. Low potency products result from adulteration by thieves. High potency products result from concentration of the product so that it may be shipped in more concealable quantities to avoid detection by those who would take it. Consumers often cannot easily distinguish product potencies with a visual examination. This can result in accidental overdosing. Although the higher potency product may not have developed naturally or become economically viable on a legal market, it may become the primary product used by consumers in the long run as they become accustomed to the stronger product available during the prohibition period. This is an unintended consequence of prohibition
This also occurred during alcohol prohibition. Prior to alcohol prohibition, consumers preferred the lower alcohol content in such products as beer and wine. During and after alcohol prohibition, which encouraged concentration for concealment purposes, consumer preferences shifted towards more concentrated products which had become standard fare during prohibition. Whiskey and white lightning moonshine came into common usage along with other more potent products like gin and vodka. If an alcohol importer was going to incur the risk of bringing a truck across the border from Canada into the U.S., the importer could get more of the valuable commodity imported for his buck if the product was nearer to 100 percent alcohol than 6 percent or 12 percent.
Efforts by Illegal Drug Trade to Dodge Theft / Violence
The market cannot fully explore the quality of merchandise provided by market "participants" when thieves can effectively misrepresent merchandise and provide poor quality as if it were high quality. The customer base cannot usually locate or make a claim against unreliable market "participants" (thieves) because market participants must remain in the shadows. A vendor may deny knowledge of dilution (or lethal concentration) of the product. Is this vendor a real market participant who is ignorant of the product because of the anonymity imposed on the market or, is he actually a thief that is lying about his knowledge of the diluted product? On a small scale, as in a single neighborhood, a thief disguised as a market participant may become known but, on a larger scale, customers as a whole will continue to be fooled by the untraceable thief moving within the market. Disputes break out over misrepresentations of quality. Customers would like to concentrate their business with the reliable producers, which would eliminate most of the thieves but, they cannot effectively track them.
When the thief posing as a market participant can be tracked down, he may be held to account by his customers while they have access to him temporarily. The market seeks balance by addressing thievery and regaining lost assets. There is the desire to correct the wrongs that are not being naturally excised out of the market as a result of tarnished reputations. This living in the shadows and consequential inability of the market to efficiently track reputations can usually only exist in a market in an "illegal" good (Note: The exception is when it occurs in markets involving crony capitalist state-protected "legal" goods such as fluoride). The anonymity is created and forced on the market by the state. Otherwise, entrepreneurs would value their reputations and try to increase their sales by enhancing their reputations with safe high quality products and good price. This would allow them to expand their profits. A broad based consumer vote of no confidence against a thieving "vendor" or "producer" has little effect because that thief can continue to insert himself anonymously into various parts of the illegal market.
Market participants will rise to the forefront if allowed to come out of the shadows and be transparent with their reputations. They will actively improve their product, its safety, its price, its delivery speed, and dispute resolutions related to the product. They worry about public image and claims of contamination or negative health effects. They worry about customer reviews on Amazon. They worry about things like Angie's List. They worry about the private media and consumer groups. They worry about letters to the editor. If they didn't, then they would be driven from the market as people vote with their money for better treatment from their competitors. Thieves don't worry about these things because they enjoy being anonymous and don't want their actions tracked. The market's reduced ability to track the actions of individual entrepreneurs, versus thieves in their midst, is a source of chaos and resulting violence in illegal industries.
Government Theft Pressure
One of the main theft pressures in the illegal market comes from the state entities that enforce the illegality of the good or service. The enforcers use violence to act against market participants at all levels whether they be producers, middlemen, vendors, or consumers. Laws are enacted to allow the enforcers to take goods and to seize capital without remuneration. The market still wants to avoid this theft and other associated violence. It does not want to interact with this force but, it doesn't want to be deprived of its merchandise and means of production. It doesn't want to exchange force for force in pointless battles and violent encounters that waste resources and cause carnage. This is diametrically opposed to the market's desire to serve its participants with peaceful voluntary exchanges.
As the enforcers mobilize, they make sporadic or organized violent deployments against the market. Perceptive entrepreneurs conduct very efficient trade route tracking in an attempt to predict and avoid the violence of theft and reduce costs associated with directly countering violent attempts to appropriate their goods. Shipping methods are continually monitored and studied to find techniques that will most likely result in product delivery to the consumer while reducing the entry of force into the market.
Underground Crony Capitalism Implemented to Avoid Violence
This strong attempt by the market to preserve voluntarism and eschew violence to conserve resources that would otherwise have to be expended on security efforts often results in an underground form of crony capitalism. The market participants try to keep the products and services moving to the consumers that want them by creating avenues to circumvent the use of force introduced into the market by the state. Entrepreneurs would rather invest resources in bribing the government than repelling violence with violence. This expenditure, creating a peaceful voluntary market solution, makes merchandise more expensive but, it is a preferred result over a violent chaotic market. This technique is even in widespread use by U.S. businesses when dealing with foreign governments that try to impede trade.
In these crony capitalist arrangements, the bribed facilitators often turn out to be unreliable. When the arrangements break down, the market is impacted, merchandise is taken, and violent encounters may occur between state officials and market participants. There is often a purging of crony capitalist arrangements made by other state elements who oppose them. Wholesale violent actions are often undertaken by a higher centralized level of government trying to reestablish forced feeding to the higher level in the pyramid scheme from asset seizures that it desires to be made at the local level.
Market Security Action Increases if Peaceful Methods Cannot Preserve Voluntary Trade
When the enforcers use more intrusive and harsher techniques, the market still tries to survive so as to provide the products or services desired by its customers. Efforts by enforcers beyond random merchandise seizures and corresponding caging of participants, may involve false flag operations and undercover agent provocateur operations. The harshest efforts may even include wholesale mechanized warfare actions by the state.
When private contractor government informants and agent provocateurs are in common usage by the enforcers, their existence also becomes a focal point when illegal market participants choose to divert the forces of theft away from their camp. The elimination of these informants is often seen as restoring voluntarism and reducing violence to a greater extent than allowing their continued infiltration. This action by market participants also intentionally sends a message to other would-be agent provocateurs that they should avoid that line of work and allow the market to function. Once again, this is an attempt by market participants to remove the forces of theft and to move the market more towards voluntarism.
This brings us to a seldom seen grand use of force against illegal markets that appears to be exclusively in the realm of U.S. funding and influence. The enforcers may bring to bear military style mechanized warfare against the market using such things as military equipped troops using explosives, belt-fed machine guns, mortars, and helicopter mounted gatling guns to conduct search and destroy missions. Wholesale death and destruction against the market may be rained down from the skies and sprayed across the land by air, ground, and naval forces. Producers may have entire crops taken from them via eradication by chemical spraying, mechanical cutting, and burning. Sometimes, as has happened in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Thailand, and Afghanistan, the militarized government anti-drug operations, which exert a theft pressure on the industry, become so huge that they produce a similar large security response by the illegal enterprise. Market prices go up causing more entrepreneurs with lower visibility and lower security expense to enter the market to reap the higher profits which brings prices back down. This befuddles the government which sees many new market participants after a particularly bloody series of scorched-earth raids which were supposed to send shockwaves of fear through the illegal market, discouraging participants. Taking merchandise from the market and removing people from the market by killing or imprisoning them, if it does anything, only makes prices go up temporarily which encourages the entrance of more participants in the market to reap the rewards.
The market participants, mimicking the government strategy, may conclude that shocking displays of violence will intimidate government forces that are dead set on violently crushing every market participant. Participants may decide that peaceful trade can be maintained more easily with these tactics than countering the continual pressure of military style assaults with direct all-out warfare. Resultant grisly market actions are usually an attempt to scare government forces into committing less theft and using less violence against market participants. Once again, they are efforts to secure a market path with less overall force, violence, and security expense. Informants, government employees, and other forces of theft may be killed in grand spectacles so as to deter troops and others from attacking and taking merchandise and assets from the illegal enterprise. It is, once again, a decision that attempts to restore voluntary trade between sellers and buyers free of theft forces. These grandiose spectacles of violence are made in an attempt to intimidate enforcers and reduce theft pressures allowing continued voluntary trade with a lower expenditure on security and lower overall participation in violent encounters. This option is usually not exercised though, except when the market is experiencing immense militarized pressures from the state. In most cases where all-out warfare is not levied against the market, the participants avoid this tactic because it is likely to attract the attention of less involved government enforcers resulting in increased force exerted against the market.
Market Never Chooses to Shut Down
The other never chosen option would be for participants to abandon the market in a wholesale fashion, due to fear caused by state terror, with no further involvement by any participants. As long as demand exists, potential profits would escalate if supply is reduced by any participants choosing to exit. The remaining participants, and new participants, would be willing to continue to develop methods to keep merchandise flowing around and past thieving influences due to the huge profits to be made.
Non-Enforcement Improves Quality and Price
Market responses continually apply themselves to mitigate force, i.e. thievery, and to move towards peaceful trade where low prices and good quality allow producers to preserve and increase market share. The government's participation aggravates against this and pushes the participants toward security actions. In cases where illegality is not enforced, as is the case in many third world open air markets where no one pays taxes or obtains state licenses for their activities, quality improves and prices diminish. This is due to the ability of individual producers and vendors to identify themselves and to associate themselves with a solid reputation due to their continued presence in the market. In this case, the government has given up on enforcing regulations and prohibitions that remain on the books. Widespread peaceful economically viable trade ensues. The activity may remain illegal officially but, the lack of enforcement effort reduces security expenditures in the industry and allows market participants to come out of the shadows and to serve the public with a closer connection between the entrepreneurs and their reputations. This can occur even in the United States when large ethnic districts develop that have customs and language barriers that the regime does not want to deal with. The lack of enforcement in these markets can cause a great increase in product quality and value for the money. This is due to a diminished need to pay layers of parasites in the government or to focus on security expenditures to dodge the thieving actions of the state.
Different governments impose different levels of legality for different substances. Production of coca leaves, opium, and marijuana is legal in some places and not in others. Price, quality, and mechanisms to deal with customer dissatisfaction improve when the industry is out in the open. The same is seen with alcohol when comparing legality and illegality in different areas and periods throughout history
Monopoly and Cartel Arguments Dusted Off as the Crisis Within the Crisis
An interesting aspect of the drug war is how the worn-out assertion that monopolies and cartels develop in private industry is used to intellectualize the whole drug war debate. The hoped-for reaction from the masses is that no further explanation is needed. "Oh yes, private cartels exist and they are evil. The feds will designate them. Say no more." Belief in this drug cartel argument is so prevalent that even many libertarians accept it as true. They don't believe it when something visible like Microsoft is designated a monopoly or when governments complain about a supposed wheat cartel but, they will believe in a murderous private drug cartel even though the designation is made by the government, is based exclusively on government reporting and copy-cat media reporting, and pertains to something not discernible to the public. "Cartels" are not the reason for death and destruction in the illegal drug market.
The government routinely proclaims that monopolies, cartels, and cartel heads exist in industry or a sector of an industry even though these are inventions by the government to justify enhanced use of force. In the case of the drug war, it is the crisis within the crisis that the government wants us to swallow. It is the presumed nexus of truth that is, in actuality, total fiction. The assertion of private monopoly tendencies within the illegal industry is one of the deceitful elements of a grand fabricated crisis invented by the court intellectuals that justifies the use of state force against the kingpin target within an illegal industry that everyone can love to hate. If you pull this "kingpin" piece out of the complicated machinery, the whole machine will shut down and fall apart. Yes, without Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, the Colombian cocaine trade was supposed to stop or be severely hampered. Without Osiel Cardenas, the Gulf Cartel was supposed to die and drug trafficking stop in eastern Mexico. Links to the du jour cartel become the reporting mandate within federal law enforcement and funds are not appropriated for investigations if they don't create a link to a cartel. These links are sent up to Washington where they are consolidated and forwarded to Congress to show how a dastardly violent cartel is dominating the drug trade in a certain broad geographic area. Whole sectors of federal law enforcement are told to link all drug seizures to the appropriate geographic cartel so that funds can be procured. The links are made easily via a box checked on the report. The current federal drug enforcement notion being sold to Congress is that the drugs cannot be stopped except by chopping off the head that controls everything. This worn out theory has been used over and over. It never turns out to be true but, it is still accepted by Congress as a reason for more funding.
Cartels and Kingpins Used for Funding, Sentencing, and Victory Declaration
The idea of cartels also functions to fit federal sentencing rules where leadership points and kingpin points are tallied up to give larger sentences. Sometimes multiple individuals in the same case are sentenced as kingpins or leaders even in smaller regional drug prosecutions.
The government can't possibly eliminate an entire sector of the economy that is desired by the public, so it focuses on a few individuals and invents a concept that promises to declare future victory in the drug war when those individuals are captured, killed, or driven into hiding. Government paid informants, witnesses, agent provocateurs, and line agents are instructed to attribute all drug activity to them. Paid informants learn what government interviewers want to hear. When asked if a seized load of drugs pertains to the John Doe cartel, the informants initially respond that they have no idea who John Doe is. But, after a while, they realize that the government interviewers all try to attribute drug loads to John Doe and that they will be paid more money more often if they finagle explanations about how individual loads are or could be tangentially related to the John Doe cartel. The cartel connections become such vague things as the route used, the ethnicity of an arrested smuggler, or the modus operandi, e.g. "he used a tractor trailer through the Brownsville Port of Entry which is the preferred technique of John Doe's cartel." The cartel names become very prominent because of mandated linkages in government reporting. Soon, every witness learns that the infamous Kingpin John Doe is the donkey that the tail should be pinned on.
U.S. minimum mandatory sentencing laws and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines have been written to focus on this supposed "kingpin" nature of the illegal business. Federal sentencing rules are set up to give heavier sentences to "leaders" and even heavier sentencing for "kingpins." This model has been developed and used by all federal law enforcement agencies against alcohol, drug, arms, and terrorist "kingpins." It is an easy way to proclaim a focus and to declare victory after war is declared against a large poorly defined portion of society, e.g. war on drugs, war on alcohol, war on terror, or the nascent war on guns.
Of course, you need an organization before you can designate an evil monster "leader" for targeting and prosecution purposes. Al Qaeda was a fictional invention of the FBI created for sentencing purposes since an organization was needed so that "leaders" could be designated for enhanced sentencing purposes. Federal law enforcement hierarchy and Assistant U.S. Attorneys pressure federal agents to come up with organization names when a new case is opened. There is pressure to designate all new cases with special federal organized crime labels such as "Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force" (OCDETF) category cases or "Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization" (RICO) category cases. Meetings are had with the U.S. Attorneys Office kicking around possible organization names. How about the "Westside Boys?" No, wait a minute, the "Westside Connection" sounds better; more like The French Connection. Yeah, let's go with that.
These criminal "organization" cases get a lot more funding. The case agents and prosecutors can receive significant funds from special congressional pots of money if their cases are designated as such. They use the money to pay overtime, travel, fund communications intercepts, and purchase new gadgets like Ipads and spy gear. Most proactive cases are put in the pipeline to receive organized crime designations for funding and sentencing purposes. These designations require an operation name against such-and-such organization. Organizations are drawn up such as Al Qaida, the Cali Cartel, the Medellin Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel. "Kingpins" like Pablo Escobar, Chapo Guzman, the Rodriguez-Orejuela brothers, and Osama Bin Laden are targeted along with associates who are also designated as "kingpins" or "leaders."
The New York Mafia's "Five Families" that supposedly "controlled most organized crime" in the entire U.S. is another example of this fiction. It fit the FBI's desire to gain funding for themselves and enhanced sentences for "leaders" under RICO and other statutes but, the claimed scope of criminal influence of the families was laughable. The super exaggerated mafia concept allowed federal agencies to get enhanced funding by creating a crisis that needed to be dealt with by new specially focused law enforcement sections. After all, how could you do telephone intercepts on Martin Luther King, Jr. "looking for mob connections" if you didn't have mafia organized crime funding to pay for them.
The prosecutor and agents seek to sentence someone with an enhanced sentence by assigning "leader" points to the individual in the sentencing calculation drawn up by federal Pre-trial Services in conjunction with the investigating agency and U.S. Attorneys Office. This points system for sentencing is supposed to reduce the discretion of judges who may sporadically decide to unclog jails or who fail to see the justice in the drug war. It results in attempts by the prosecution to check the boxes in every special category to gain a higher point tally and consequently higher sentences. Federal law enforcement agencies explain to Congress and the public that their apprehension of the "kingpin" will shut down the industry. It doesn't. Government agencies know that they cannot sell the idea that they can eliminate an entire sector of trade if the people want that product or service, so they concoct a bite-size enemy. They then set out to describe a monster that can be tracked, monitored, captured, or destroyed. Simply keeping the evil dragon out there for years also works to keep the money coming. It also saves the agencies the trouble of writing up more paperwork to designate a new Doctor Evil.
Hundreds of additional operation names and organization names exist at the local levels of federal law enforcement. In a small town federal case, even Billy Bob cooking meth behind his trailer will have "leader" points added to his sentence calculation since he "directed" other people in the enterprise. He asked his wife to get some cold pills at the dollar store on her way home from work that he then used in the process. He asked his brother-in-law to come along to Wal-Mart to get some ground beef and soda for dinner while he also picked up some lithium batteries needed to cook an ounce of meth in a mason jar with his neighbor in the backyard. Billy Bob, his wife, the brother-in-law, and the neighbor are now all part of the criminal organization that gives Billy Bob his leader points enhancing his sentence. Sadly, the paid agent provocateur riding along that suggested the enterprise, scheduled the activities, and paid the expenses, cannot be included as part of the organization, confusing the jury who wonders how the most culpable member that they keep hearing about from the other defendants is not charged in the conspiracy and sitting at the defense table in the courtroom. The agents, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Pre Trial Services then add up the sentencing points gained by designating Billy Bob as the leader of the "Brothel Bandits" organization, which is the name the agents came up with over lunch. A guy and his wife in a trailer don't tend to assign themselves a criminal organization name, so the state has to do it for them.
After doing hundreds of interviews of individuals participating in all aspects of the drug trade, drug agents come to realize how phony and laughable this "organization" theory is but, it persists because it fills a government need. There are actually market pressures against forming organizations since arrested individuals are routinely pressured to be witnesses against their associates. The far more common situation is the lone trafficker who carries around what he hopes is the latest of the ever changing phone numbers of a wary buyer or seller, known by a common replaceable pseudonym like "Gordo," that he may be able to do business with when he gets some merchandise or some spare cash. An extensive organization is actually abnormal, illogical, and very dangerous to market participants who would fear that the others would turn them in to save their own skins when faced with 20 years in prison.
The organized crime warriors become part of the cadre of court intellectuals that manufacture crisis in the form of kingpins and cartels that the government needs to deal with. The kingpin is the manufactured crisis within the manufactured crisis (cartel) within the manufactured crisis (drug prohibition). D.C. prompted reporting from law enforcement agencies routinely says that kingpin so-and-so controls ALL of the drug traffic going through some broadly defined corridor like central and western Mexico or the western Caribbean. The absurdity of the notion never seems to faze Congress which keeps handing over more money to attack the kingpin who supposedly ruthlessly displaces (or collects tribute from) all competition in a large geographic area.
This whole concept couldn't be further from the truth. Official three-letter agency reporting for congressional consumption will say that X cartel leader controls all the drugs crossing the border in a particular area. (Feel free to substitute the words alcohol, guns, or aliens for drugs at will depending on which agency is doing the reporting.) It will be stated that every participant in the drug trade has to get permission from such-and-such big bad monster before he can cross drugs via the gulf route, the central Mexico route, or the pacific route. For funding justifications from other parts of the world, substitute the words Colombia, Golden Crescent, Afghanistan, etc. and you will hear the exact same argument. This theory ludicrously suggests that a certain "cartel" leader, a figurehead, is the super duper evil dragon that must be slain in that area. You could also call this the Al Capone Theory; the Theory of Public Enemy Number One. The truth is that a player in the market, even the illegal market, cannot and does not violently displace all competition. The government can't displace everyone in the illegal market with all its efforts and Al Capone couldn't do it either. If you investigate fully the drug seizures in a supposedly "kingpin controlled" corridor, you will find that it is totally incorrect to even tangentially attribute any drug movements to a designated kingpin in 99 percent of the cases. There are some bigger trafficking backers that stay mostly to themselves and deal in larger amounts of drugs with very few clients but, almost all drug production, transportation, and trade involves random profit-motivated individuals that pop in and out of the market and loose associations that are fluid and change continually. There is no overarching controller that pushes the buttons in the drug trade in a region and that prohibits all others from moving drugs. This is the government line though.
When sentencing "leaders," (and others) paid informants fill in the gaps making generalized blanket statements to agents which the agents then summarize to the judge in sentencing hearings where hearsay is allowed. Yes, generalized hearsay information, including speculative information about total drug movements, is allowed in federal sentencing hearings. A simple statement that "X defendant moved 100 kilos of cocaine a month for the past 10 years" results in a mathematical calculation giving the defendant a life sentence. Throw in, via paid source hearsay, introduced at the sentencing hearing that he "directed" the killing of everybody that was killed by anybody in the cartel's supposedly locked-down area over the past 10 years and you have multiple life sentences given to the defendant. The alleged shipments representing the total are not proven and are not even documented individually. This type of calculation based on hearsay results in a large umbrella sentence based on a speculative composite picture of aggregated generalized criminal acts of an individual that may have only two drug movements that can be specifically attributed to him with case evidence.
Federal defendants have invented the term "ghost dope" for these sentence calculations. They ask their attorneys incredulously how they can be sentenced on "ghost dope" that no one has ever seen or documented much less seized and analyzed.
The bottom line is that the "crisis" of criminal organizations and cartels was created to fill government needs. They are not the reason for violence in the drug trade.
Multiple Paths of State Violence Affect the Market
Of course, the market's reaction to state force is not always based on state pressure in one area. The market juggles many different issues with a greater ability to seek outcomes and solutions than our ability to analyze it. For example, in Colombia, extreme militarized state force exerts pressure against the drug market. But, state paramilitary pressures have also been exerted, with U.S. sponsorship, in Latin America against left wing political groups for decades. The complexity of the force equation can result in something like Colombia's triangle of force where the state is trying to take things from the market, the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) are trying to oppose the U.S. sponsored right wing government to gain a foothold in state tax feeding and to attain Boliviarian anti-colonial goals, and private interests are trying to protect themselves from thievery by both via security services provided by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Of course, both the FARC and the AUC have been designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S., so they are now also part of the war on terror.
Unintended Consequences to Society
Sometimes a massive violent war waged against drugs can even elicit a security response at the societal level that includes unintended consequences like political change towards a left wing candidate who will be less antagonistic to the drug trade which is not seen so negatively by that society. That political change can even include the removal of U.S. counterdrug forces, intelligence forces, and diplomatic personnel.
Another unintended consequence of prohibition wars and other broad front wars against non-descript enemies is the desensitization of society as a whole to violence. If militaries and paramilitaries are continually on the attack, then the people may become desensitized to violence and become accustomed to using barbarous solutions for societal problems that were not used before the wide scale criminalization of a previously legal good, service, activity, or belief in that society. As young men become employed by one side or another in the government's war against the private sector, they learn a barbarous world view. This barbarism may then infiltrate the rest of society as it becomes multigenerational. It infiltrates other parts of government. Violent options, like tasering, start to be used to deal with petty offenses. Former "peace officers" dress and act like military occupiers. Violence in families and communities may increase as government promoted violence and efforts to counter it become common in society. Religious organizations change their philosophies to fit the warlike values of their many members that work for the police state or the military. Books, movies, and games become dark and war-centered rather than celebrating the happiness and excitement of productive pursuits or family and social activities.
Children want to honor their parents' endeavors so they learn to revere their parents' police-state and war-related professions when those professions become prevalent in society. The participation of ancestors in World War I, World War II, Korea, or Vietnam has resulted in a reverence for those wars in the minds of many, regardless of the basis for those wars. They don't want to think that their parents would be associated with something bad. Murray Rothbard insightfully commented about "tradition" in The Anatamoy of the State, saying, "Worship of one’s ancestors, then, becomes a none too subtle means of worship of one’s ancient rulers." War on substances, just like war on anything has blowback and unintended consequences that affect society as a whole.
Solutions to Drug Violence
Solutions to drug violence are obvious. The first part of the solution is to deprive the drug consumer of state money which encourages non-participation in the labor market. His need to be productive will cause him to value the funds received from work and investment. It will reduce the massive funds flowing into the legal and illegal drug industry and will reduce demand for those items. Put more simply, idle hands are the devil's workshop. Persons concerned with the day-to-day affairs of providing a living for themselves will not see an advantage to drugging themselves into starvation rather than working. Churches, families, and private organizations can handle the cases where legitimate need is present much more effectively than the government.
The second part of the solution is to stop the theft pressures exerted by the government on the market. If enforcement pressures stop, then the market will come out of the shadows and reputations can be tracked, even if the crime is left on the books. Thieves will be eliminated by market action to a large extent. Quality will improve. Customer complaints will be more effectively dealt with. It would be best to legalize the substances so that violence does not periodically enter the market via state action and security measures to counter the state's action. Honest open discussions could then be had by consumers and the industry regarding the products and their wholesomeness rather than deferring to government pressures that either subsidize and support certain drugs or prohibit others. If the substances were legalized, the stigma created by the market, which may be massive, would be the factor at work regarding substances that may or may not be harmful.
It is a personal decision for entrepreneurs to consider what markets they want to be involved in. Dealing in a product that has limited demand because it is deemed harmful by society may damage their reputations and will reduce their success in the market. Demand for legal and illegal drugs would decrease to fit the desires and needs of the people if government money and grants of privilege (e.g. subsidies and licensing) didn't promote self-destructive lifestyles or actions pitting one group against another in society. Self-destructive tendencies in the individual often have a root in government action such as warfare and welfare.
Government enforcers cannot stop the supply which is a function of demand. Demand would be decreased drastically if U.S. society wasn't hooked to the Federal Reserve intravenous supply line promoting a worthless catatonic existence.
To summarize, the market wants voluntarism and peaceful trade. It doesn't want to waste resources on security expenditures. Violence in the drug trade is caused by state forces that want to take the possessions of those involved in the trade. Keeping a product or service illegal also drives market participants into the shadows and hampers market tracking of reputations. Thieves gain a foothold in the market disguised as entrepreneurs. Both of these things cause violence and increase the market's security response. The more money poured into state efforts against the market, the bigger the market response grows. There is almost no limit. It is like the Hulk movie which portrays the U.S. government provoking the mild-mannered, hard-working Bruce Banner with greater and greater levels of violence and torture. The Hulk materializes only when the violence is present and grows and grows infinitely but, only to a scale sufficient to counter the increasing force levied against him.
Mr. X was a agent for the feds.