A Philosopher's Blog

Mexico & Drug Violence

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 27, 2009

While America’s economic woes have been dominating the news, Mexico has been wracked with terrible drug violence.

One thing that really struck me about the coverage of the violence in the US media is the emphasis on how the drug violence might affect Americans. For example, one commentator remarked, at length, about how US college students should be careful about going to Mexico. Naturally, a clip prominently featuring hot American college girls dancing around in their bathing suits was played. While I took this as an ironic contrast to the seriousness of the violence, no doubt its intended purpose was quite different.

While warning college students is certainly a good thing, the emphasis on how the drug violence might impact Americans does seem to show us as being rather selfish and self-focused. After all, while other people are being murdered, it hardly seems decent to be worried primarily about whether college kids will be able to party wildly in Mexico in safety. In another bit of irony, some college students no doubt help fund drug operations in Mexico by purchasing drugs.

While exact figures regarding criminal activity can be hard to determine, it seems likely that a major consumer of Mexican drugs are Americans. Americans have (or perhaps had) the money to buy drugs in abundance and also the appetite for them. Of course, we also like to preach against drugs and take self-righteous stands as well.

As a nation that consumes a significant amount of these illegal drugs, we would certainly seem to bear some moral responsibility for the drug violence in Mexico and elsewhere. As long as the drugs are in demand and are illegal, then we can certainly expect drug violence to be a relatively common occurrence-not only in Mexico, but elsewhere (including the United States).

People have long called for the legalization of drugs and have contended that doing so would significantly reduce drug violence. After all, the argument usually goes, we do not see beer dealers shooting it out in the streets (unlike during prohibition) nor do we see tobacco companies engaged in violence. The standard counters against this argument tend to be moral in nature.

One moral argument is that drugs are simply immoral and hence must not be tolerated. Of course, the strength of this argument depends on whether drugs are immoral or not (or rather, whether the currently illegal drugs are more immoral than the currently legal drugs).

Another moral argument is based on an appeal to the moral harms of drugs. The contention is that legalizing drugs would create significant harms and harms that presumably exceed the harms caused by keeping drugs illegal.

For example, it might be argued that the damage done by drug using people to themselves and others would exceed the damage done by the problems stemming from drugs being illegal. After all, it could be argued, alcohol is legal and is still involved in many deaths (often automobile related) and health problems. Just imagine the damage that would arise if marijuana, heroin, and such were made legal.

Of course, it would have to argued that drug use would spike dramatically if such drugs were legalized. After all, people already use drugs and those harms are already occurring while drugs are illegal. Perhaps use would spike-if so, this argument might be reasonable.

Another way to cut down on the drug violence would be to significantly reduce demand. If little money could be made from illegal drugs, then there would be far less incentive to engage in such violence. Of course, this would require that drug users give up drugs-or at least cut way back on their consumption. This, however, seems rather unlikely. While most people do not like the violence, it is difficult to imagine people giving up their drug use.

The most likely thing is that people will keep using drugs, they will remain illegal and drug violence will continue in up and down cycles.

13 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on February 28, 2009 at 6:19 am

    “Of course, we also like to preach against drugs and take self-righteous stands as well.”

    Yes, I do. And I’m fully qualified to do so.

    Did drug legalization quell violence in Afghanistan? On eprovince alone in Afghanistan provides 50% of the world’s opium.

    Mexico is on the verge of becoming a failed state. There’s nothing anyone can do to fix it. Some things must be allowed to die, so they can be reborn. 7000 people died as a result of the drug cartels in Mexico, last year.

    I honestly believe that drugs are as much a symptom as a cause of corruption. Mexico’s corruption is legend.

  2. Omnesion said, on July 12, 2009 at 11:25 am

    If you would like to read more about legalizing drug’s and why we SHOULD, I have a post on my blog specifically for that discussion…and it has a link to a site by law enforcement agent’s who feel the same way. Anyway, here’s the link to my blog: http://dougbond.wordpress.com Peace!

  3. david halbstein said, on August 2, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Although I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up, I firmly believe that if drugs were made legal, nothing would change in terms of usage. Drugs are illegal now, and there are plenty of users – adults, teenagers, college kids, gang members, employed, unemployed, white collar, blue collar, and of every race and gender. I think that very few people make the decision to use or not use drugs based on laws.

    Perhaps usage might spike temporarily due to curiosity seekers and the small minority that might be intimidated by the law, but I believe that spike would level out when people make their own decisions on their own terms.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if legalization actually REDUCED the rate of drug use. How many users are there who just use because of the thrill of being bad- flaunting the law because they can?

    I think it is entirely possible to take a moral stand against drug use without changing the laws. The moral argument against drugs is about respect for yourself, your family, your employer, to society, it is about not becoming a burden and being responsibility. In some communities it is about defiling your body in the eyes of God. In fact, arguing against drugs from a legal standpoint is decidedly amoral (unless, of course, you make the case that one has a responsibility to one’s family to not incur heavy legal fees or fines, or get put in jail).

    • ronster12012 said, on August 3, 2016 at 9:08 am


      There is too much money being made for them to be legalized. US soldiers are protecting Afghan poppy fields…nothing new, if I recall, that sort of thing goes back to the CIA drug running during the Vietnam war.I also note that the DEA is currently teamed up with the Sinaloa cartel.

      Perhaps the answer is simply that a certain proportion of any population will be inclined to use drugs of some sort and that it is counterproductive to try to eliminate it. The Prohibition Era is a good example of what happens when one tries. Puts mafia into power, corrupts cops and judges, reduces respect for the law etc.

      Life was so much simpler when all we had in the way of drugs were alcohol and tobacco…

      • david halbstein said, on August 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

        Sadly, I share your cynicism. My comments were addressing the morality of legalization from a consumer point of view, regarding the argument that if drug use were legalized there would be a spike in usage (which I don’t believe).

        You bring up a good point, though – there is another moral argument to be made in FAVOR of legalization, which would be to undermine the drug lords business (and I’m not just talking about those who operate outside the law), and their ability to profit from the imposed misery of others.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 3, 2016 at 4:37 pm

          I’ll take a corporation operating within the law over a drug cartel; at least corporations have to appear to follow the laws.

          • david halbstein said, on August 3, 2016 at 5:01 pm

            Me too. I was actually implying that our government tacitly supports the cartels – I would not be surprised if there were some kind of cash flow keeping drugs illegal.

            • ronster12012 said, on August 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm

              How else would ‘black budgets’ get replenished?

    • WTP said, on August 3, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      How many users are there who just use because of the thrill of being bad- flaunting the law because they can?

      So if we legalize, where will such people go to get their thrill?

      • David Halbstein said, on August 4, 2016 at 10:52 am

        I don’t know. I’m not one of them – but they will go somewhere. When I was a teenager many of us would break curfew not because we wanted to be out at night, but because we wanted to challenge the system and get away with it. Many shoplifters do the same thing (though I do acknowledge that some are motivated by need and others by disease).

        That is very much beside my point, though – which is to say that I don’t believe that the law really has any bearing on the rate of usage one way or another. The comment you cite above is, in my view, just a musing,

        • WTP said, on August 5, 2016 at 8:05 am

          I agree with your general point. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps societies need a few ostensibly silly laws and/or rules to give the (generally male) youngsters something benign to test their mettle. Drugs are a bad option for this and my fear is that with legalization of Mary Jane, if we continue to outlaw other more dangerous drugs, e.g. meth, heroine the market will move there. But try selling the idea of legalizing those two drugs and see how far you get.

          • david halbstein said, on August 5, 2016 at 8:49 am

            Maybe. Your last point, however, is the one that strikes me as the most powerful. I believe that the legalization of Marijuana’s time should have come 25 years ago – but then, as it is today, there was no one to rally the cause in the House or Senate. It’s a political hot-potato, and not one that is important enough for a career politician to risk his career on.

            Meaning, of course, that the right path, the moral path, or even the path that is supported by a majority, is not necessarily the path that our lawmakers will take. They go for the safe path – the one that has good selling power, one that represents the least amount of risk for the maximum positive exposure. I’m sure that cash flow also has something to do with it, but that kind of money is difficult to follow and I don’t want to go beyond a casual speculation here.

            I’m not trying to make a sweeping moral judgement about marijuana or any other drug here – only to say that regardless of the relative merits of a change in legislation or popular support, no politician has had the courage to take it on. Times are changing, states are adopting different laws and, as is the case with so much legislation (in my view), it is fitting and proper for individual states to decide where they want to be on this issue, and the federal government should respect that and stay out of the way.

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