We buy their drugs and sell them our guns

US responsibility for Mexican drug lords cont.

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, I expand upon viagra without a prescription canada an argument I began in an earlier post about the United States’ moral responsibility for the vicious Mexican drug lords.  In the Monitor I wrote:

Mexican drug lords exist to feed the US drug market. And they get their guns through the US weapons market. We give the bad guys their money by buying their drugs; we sell them the guns that enable their continued existence; and they threaten a fragile young democracy of more than 100 million people at our border.

I’d like to discuss the notion of moral responsibility for democratic nations a bit more.  It seems that it can take one of at least two paths.

The first depends upon a conscious choice by an elected leader acting in his official ca

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pacity. When a President wages war, it’s useful to say that “We (America) went to war with country X today,” and that “we” are responsible for any good or bad that may result. The nation as a whole may not support the decision, but they support the process that empowers the President to have and use his war powers.

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The second, more gestalt sense of national responsibility occurs when some sufficiently large subset of the population, operating within our collectively maintained political and cultural system, achieves some notoriety, such that we can say, “We (America) created Rock-N-Roll” or “We (America) give

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$39 billion a year to drug lords.”

Our responsibility south of the border is more of the latter case, since no leader supports the illegal drug purchases and weapon sales. But it quickly shades over to the first type when we see that our government does little to combat the problem.  As I wrote earlier, a national government can be responsible for inaction, too.




11 Responses to “We buy their drugs and sell them our guns”

  1. Charles on September 2nd, 2010 5:17 pm

    Is it really appropriate to construe the U.S. government’s attitude as “inaction,” though? The thriving black market is entirely a function of the fact that there is a War on Drugs instead of a legalization/decriminalization regime in the United States.

    The violence is entirely the result of the cartels operating in a high-risk, high-reward industry without any lawful recourse to insure property rights, valid contracts, etc.

    Drug lords get money and guns because there is a War on Drugs and the government insists on continuing it.

    We are indeed responsible for the drug wars in Mexico -just as we also are for having the world’s largest prison population (in both absolute and relative terms -scary and shameful).

  2. Lorenz Weiner on September 2nd, 2010 9:33 pm

    Are we responsible for Mexico’s drug problem? I think the answer to this question is way more complex than your analysis suggests. I am an attorney in Mexico with years of experience in the Mexican criminal justice system. You make no mention of widespread and deeply-rooted corruption in Mexico which plays a major role in the violence. You make no mention of the deal Salinas de Gortari made with Colombian drug traffickers in the early 90′s (they get access to smuggle drugs to the gringos in return for cold cash). You make no mention of the high demand for drugs among Mexicans living in Mexico. You make no mention of the drug supply’s role in increasing demand. You make no mention of Mexico’s criminal justice system, where prison directors are among the richest people in the nation and act as key players in the drug trade.

    I suggest you re-think your simplistic, rather academic approach to take into account hard-core realities. Although it’s true that American demand for drugs plays a major role, there are other key factors that are absent from your analysis.

    In sum, US drug demand is highly influenced by supply. If the Mexicans didn’t get their guns from the US weapons market, they’d get them elsewhere. The Mexican authorities give the bad guys access to our markets in return for bribes. The Mexican authorities proved free passage to traffickers that enables their continued existence; and this (along with American demand for drugs) threatens a fragile young democracy of more than 100 million people at our border.

  3. Frank on September 3rd, 2010 1:28 am

    Very nice propositions by mr Jacob but It’s all about the money.The drug industry is a 39 billon dollar industry and this underground money sooner of later ends up in both countries legal economies
    Both governments know they profit from this illegal industry so naturaly there will never be any sincere will to demolish this industry. Because when it comes to money there aren’t many men or governments that do not succumb to it.

  4. TPP Weekly Rewind | The Public Philosopher on September 3rd, 2010 1:45 am

    [...] On Thursday, Charles disparaged the suggestion, from people like the recent hostage taker at the Discovery Channel headquarters, that human civilization needs to dismantle in the name of the environment; Luke continued his investigation of CEO salaries and lauded politicians’ recent decision to require companies to release the pay ratio between CEOs and normal employees; and Jake expanded on his piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor by considering America’s moral responsibility for the Mexican drug war [...]

  5. rlm on September 4th, 2010 2:56 pm

    “and they get their guns through the U.S. weapons market”
    Jake, really?, RPGs and 40mm grenades, fully automatic weapons, this is mil grade hardware these cartels are geting hold of, AND…the average U.S. citizen can NOT..NOT!..buy these. I’ve never been to any gun store or show were an average joe can pick up a full auto weapon and just walk out, our own current laws are fairly tight on this. We do have laws on this as you should be aware of.
    How about the hit squad that was operating from a Mexican prison, I’m sure the evidence at those hits showed more American leads, like our gov supplied weapons and ammo, since the squad was using the prisons own weapons to carry out the hits. I’m sure Uncle Sam helped with that, on the straight and narrow..right?
    I’m just guessing, you’ve never hunted a day in your life, never shot a firearm. It’s articles like this that make me mad, I am a gun owner (not a nut!), I teach my children the dangers and uses of firearms, and have never had a problem. But now I have a problem, it’s getting bigger and nastier every year, big city people without a clue as to who they are effecting, telling me that its bad,wrong,unsafe to own a firearm, that all gun owners are rednecked tea partiers slinging lead and beer, and now..becoming straw buyers for the cartels…
    I’m a fairly liberal tree hugger who eats meat that I harvest myself, please keep out of my gun case. It’s this damm WAR ON DRUGS that built this mess, I now have to suffer, thanks.

  6. fsilber on September 5th, 2010 10:17 am

    Well, I see three alternatives to our current course. We can (A) legalize cocaine, heroin and meth, (B) destroy the market for those drugs by exterminating our users, or (C build a wall like the Berlin Wall to prevent trade and traffic between the two countries.

    As for the guns, the Mexican Constitution also lists a right to keep and bear arms. If Mexican drug gangs are getting their guns from us, it is only because the Mexican government is trashing its own Constitution. We have no obligation to help them do that.

  7. Richard on September 5th, 2010 10:47 am

    Let’s get something straight. Mexico has never been a democratic state. It has always been controlled through labor and labor unions through intimidation to the populace. It is a corrupt cesspool that has been built on payola for centuries. That is why the drug king pins thrive. Also, please do not use your high horse to try and justify shutting down gun stores in the USA through zoning. Such a childish notion. Do you not realize that “We the People” will fight you on that one.

  8. Jake on September 7th, 2010 9:23 am

    Good points here, especially by Lorenz Weiner. Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that the US bears SOLE moral responsibility or that the cartels get ALL of their weapons from US sources. It was the smaller point that the US bears SOME moral responsibility for this problem, in a relatively straightforward manner.

  9. Jake on September 7th, 2010 9:25 am

    When we say that someone is “morally responsible” for some thing, we don’t imply that they are neccesarily the ONLY actor who bears any responsibility. I should have been clearer on that point.

  10. Jan B. on September 7th, 2010 12:11 pm

    Directly relevant to the article and comments:

    Nils Gilman is a historian whose main focus is the global illicit economy. This very enlightening talk covers how both moral and economic differences generate the demand and supply circumstances that give rise to trillions in the black and grey markets, how it contributes to the rise of failed states, and how the experiment in exporting democracy generally failed.

    Be sure to hang on for the discussion with Stuart Brand (Whole Earth, Long Now) for the punch line.

  11. rlm on July 27th, 2011 11:46 am

    Ok, so maybe I was a little bit off, there are firearms crossing the fence. Seems that our own law enforcement has also came down with the fever, money fever. Its a sad day when a local sheriff and mayor both use their power to help funnel weapons accross the border. Kinda sucks. Even better was the ATF “sting” in which they were watching straw buys, and then let the weapons go on accross, hundreds of them. It all stinks on many levels, the worst is that now I will be effected, because we all know who gets the short end of the stick, and its never the goverment or the criminals, its the guy who keeps his nose clean, does things by the books, and in the future will have a fine time in trying to get that new hunting-oops-”sniper rifle”. Again, how long is this “war” going to be going on?

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