Tuesday 3 February 2015

Breaking Bad

Me at The Spinoff on economics and Breaking Bad:
The most successful anti-methamphetamine campaign ever run in the United States came in 1995, resulting in a short-run tripling of the price of meth and a drop in purity from 90% to 20%: the Drug Enforcement Agency successfully threw a spanner into supply conduits.
Economists Dobkin and Nicosia documented the results in a 2009 article in the top economics journal: the American Economic Review. For a short while, meth-related hospital admissions halved. While felony methamphetamine arrests also halved, there was no evidence of any real drop in property crime or in violent crime. Within four months, meth supply was back to normal. Within 18 months, it was as though the Americans’ most successful anti-methamphetamine campaign had never occurred.
Here in New Zealand, the government decided to make life a lot worse for cold sufferers back in 2009: they made any cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine prescription-only. Knocking out the precursors to P would make it harder for meth cooks to produce their product, increasing price and reducing consumption.
Twice a year, The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet releases reports documenting the policy’s utter failure. In 2009, 1000 ContacNT capsules cost $12,000-$16,000. That price dropped to $9,000 by 2013-2014. It is now cheaper for methamphetamine producers to get ContacNT capsules for making P than it was before the government made it next to impossible for the rest of us to get them. And the price of P has held steady from 2008 through 2014.
It makes you wonder why the drug warriors bother; every bust simply makes room for the next supplier, like Walter White: chemist, high school chemistry teacher, and, when financial need called for it, meth producer.
It continues through marginal deterrence and reputation in illegal markets. Enjoy!

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