"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wWednesday, October 06, 2004

HIGH TIMES: Reason today has my interview with Joel Miller about his first book Bad Trip. If you want to comment on the interview, go here. I'll give you all a cut of the smuggling stuff here. Hopefully, you'll be hooked and go read the rest of it:

What were some of the more surprising cases that you uncovered for the chapter on smuggling?

Smuggling reflects the most profound thing about human nature, and that is that human beings will do anything if the payoff is big enough.

And when I say anything, I mean anything: dig under the southern border with incredible tunnels, some of which have been open for years. I mention one in Bad Trip that was discovered just south of San Diego. Authorities estimated that it had been open for 10 or 20 years shuttling drugs through. This thing had lights, ventilation ducts, the whole thing. They found a quarter ton of pot in the tunnel when they got there, which means that the people who were operating it were probably alerted to the fact that there was a raid and all got out fine.

That points to problems with enforcement but it also shows the incredible amount of ingenuity and craft that people will put into their smuggling. It includes things like building submarines, training pigeons how to carry packets of drugs across borders. It includes smuggling substances inside of things, disguising them as other things, including taking opium and soaking blankets with it and smuggling the blankets, taking cocaine and mixing it with plastic and fiberglass resin and creating things out of it like dog kennels and bathtubs, and then extracting the cocaine once it's across the border. There's no way to test for it without testing every single item: you can't smell it, can't see it. The only way cops can get it is if they're actually taking chips out of these products and testing them.

What does the drug trade tell us about how markets work?

It tells us that markets work really well. Faustino Ballvé, the economist, calls black markets the true market, because they're the only markets actually dealing with reality instead of pawing vigorously against it. When people have incentives, people are able to deliver, and there's really no way around that. It's a fact of human nature, and there's no beating human nature.


posted by Jeremy at 5:50 PM