You get more of what you pay for
Posted by aogThursday, 02 September 2004 at 09:50 TrackBack Ping URL

Instapundit asks

While I’m (sort of) on this topic, why doesn’t the United States address the Afghan opium trade by just buying the stuff up? Presumably, farmers would be just as happy to sell their poppies to us, and that would keep them off the market, as well as depriving bad guys of a revenue source.

Moral hazard, basically. This would work for a while but would fail long term.

If the price paid by the USA is high enough to be effective the end result would be a country that grew almost nothing but opium. This doesn’t happen now because there are risks to growing opium which tends to discourage it. If, however, the buyer is the USA then the USA is effect subsidizing the production in reducing the risk premium. Eventually we get either

  • A completely captive economy in Afghanistan that’s dependent on Congressional budget priorities
  • A collapsed economy in Afghanistan when some firebrand makes his political career by saving the taxpayers money in shutting down the program.

Neither seems like a very desirable outcome. There’s also the minor problems of secondary sources springing up, or suborndination of the program staff (that’d be good - the USA buying the opium on behalf of the drug lords). It’s not like Afghanistan is the only place one can grow poppies, it’s just the handiest at this point in time.

On the other hand, it would be a perfect “pass the problem (with interest) to the next Administration” solution so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Dave Sheridan Friday, 03 September 2004 at 20:26

Doesn’t sound like Glenn thought this one through. In fact, the dilemma you lay out makes Afghanistan an ideal place to grow opium, at least under current conditions. We can’t and shouldn’t buy it, for the reasons you raise. We can’t afford to see their economy collapse. We don’t want to upset the tribal lords who protect and control the cultivation. Also, Afghanistan has been so comparatively isolated for so long that the opium trade is probably their only developed agricultural export market.

M. Simon Wednesday, 08 September 2004 at 16:40

Uh. The drug problem is a very simple one.

People take drugs for pain. Currently pain relievers are not indicated by current medicine for PTSD. Obviously drug users find them effective. The demand for drugs is pretty inelastic because who would give up pain relief?

We will not solve the “drug” problem until we deal with the pain problem. We act like the drugs are the problem and make zero headway.

The opium growers are not tthe problem. The problem is people who refuse to accept human nature.

You might want to look up Dr. Lonnie Shavelson for more info on the subject. Or google - M. Simon drugs - I have written extensively on the subject with research to back up my point of view.

Alcoholism and much overeating stem from the same cause.

Some day we will have a “unified field theory” of “addiction” in the mean time we get to suffer from stupidity. And we get to punish people in pain and those who would suply them relief. How moral of us.

Chronic drug use is caused by chronic pain. Duh.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 08 September 2004 at 17:57

Ah, M. Simon, we meet again :-).

I think you’re misinterpreting my point, which is that regardless of how one views prohibition, buying up opium production is a dumb idea.

Personally, I tend to be anti-prohibitionist.

End of Discussion