Monday, July 10, 2017

How Much Police Corruption Would There Be Without a Drug War?

Speaking of dysfunctional culture is only stereotyping when it's applied to all members of the group and/or if the claim isn't grounded by evidence - which is why it's imperative to dig deeper into how a given dysfunctional culture got to be so dysfunctional. 

I am now firmly convinced that the core of the problem is the political economy of the trade in forbidden substances. The trade in forbidden substances provides a broad-based source of economic sustenance that no other criminal activity can match.

The trade in forbidden substances provides advantages - or at least the appearance of advantages - that grant it the power to present an alternative path to upward mobility.  The dope game provides instant economic gratification without the lengthy effort and remote reward process linked with academic achievement. The dope game eliminates the uncertainty around future employment in the  non-criminal economy.  Honestly, without our current zero-tolerance drug laws, outside the trade in forbidden substances,  how many career opportunities exist in crime?  

Doing what, as muggers, burglers, bank robbers, car thieves?

Political discussion of the drug war/drug prohibition focuses exclusively on the phenomenon of forbidden drug use rather than on the economic dynamics of markets for mind-altering substances.

Think about that for a minute. 

Political discussion of the drug war/drug prohibition focuses exclusively on the phenomenon of forbidden drug use rather than on the economic dynamics of markets for mind-altering substances.

But the cost and consequences to society are not so much rooted in the use of forbidden substances, as they are in the existence and proliferation of a complicated multi-generational criminal supply chain operated by career criminals servicing a lucrative , high-demand market. Those socially corrosive consequences are concentrated in impoverished communities, and they don't assume the same level of significance in economically stable or affluent ones.

The appearance, growth, and maintenance of illegal drug markets in the present day begins in the middle schools and high schools; across the board, rich or poor, it's been that way for around 40 years. But there are crucial differences, the main one being that in economically stable communities the teenagers dealing the drugs don't view it as a means of upward mobility, a career path, or a means of supplementing household income.  They don't have to. 

The more affluent the community, the more this tends to be the case. Because necessity doesn't play the same role that it does in a low-income or impoverished community, there's much less violence associated with the illegal drug trade. There are many fewer pretexts for feeling the need to engage in violence when there are no issues about customer payment, minimal threat of holdups, or home invasions by rivals. There's no need to form organized self-protection syndicates to contend with those sorts of problems.

Drug dealing money is side money, and middle-class or upper-class retail dealers are mostly in it for status and access to free supplies of product. Because problems of theft and violence so seldom arise, drug dealing in more affluent communities receives less notice from the police. And because drug dealing is nearly always viewed as a sideline, most middle class retail drug dealers give up the business at some point between their notice of admission to college and their graduation. There are problems, occasionally serious ones, but they mostly center on teenage drug use, not gun play in the streets associated with drug sales. The drug trade doesn't just take over, and run the neighborhoods.

Is this because middle-class drug dealers are inherently virtuous? Of course not. Is it a function of economic privilege? Almost entirely.

In a community in economic stagnation or decline, it's usually a much different story. Dealing illegal drugs presents itself as a multilevel marketing scheme that holds out the promise of a pathway to economic success. Like practically all multilevel marketing schemes, that promise is realized in only a handful of cases. But it still works more reliably than any legal multilevel scheme I can think of, especially in the short run. 

Age is no barrier to employment. In fact, in this dope game, minor status has distinct advantages. So it's easy for teenage kids to view illegal drug dealing as a career path. Except that it's a gravely serious business, with perils and implications that teenagers- particularly teenage males - have trouble appreciating. The risks are of an entirely different magnitude than they are in wealthier parts of town. 

By the time a teenage drug dealer turns 18 and becomes eligible for adult criminal penalties, it's often too late to get out of the business. Too many bridges have been burned to simply reset the counters to zero. At that point, jail and prison enter into the mix in a big way. And if you don't think there's any such thing as dysfunctional culture, consider the prevailing effects of jail and prison. The culture of confinement, violence, paranoia, mistrust, and anti-sociality tends to move out into the streets after a lot of people experience it firsthand. 

When these carcerally corrupted and now thoroughly dysfunctional people have children, the children assimilate that prison-culture dysfunction - just like children do everywhere else. That's a whole lot of multi-generational ugliness concentrated within a community. (and no Bee Dee, it's not the result of IQ-75 limitations)

Is this state of affairs racist? Yes. Because it didn't have to happen. 

Now that the rural white majority in this country are beginning to truly experience the same combined stresses from criminal syndicates, prison culture, street criminals, punitive policing, and the courts - as the law-abiding majority in low-income black majority neighborhoods have experienced over the last 40 years - there is a glimmer of hope that the drug prohibition may have to give.

Bottom line, however, this isn't a race-related problem. I'm not talking about a "Black thing" or a "Mexican thing." At least not since the bottom dropped out of a lot of majority-white regional economies in this country. Economically stressed white neighborhoods and rural small towns now deal with the same problems related to the political economy of the illegal drugs trade: 
  • breakdown of social trust
  • theft among neighbors
  • violence
  • family abuse
  • high rates of incarceration
  • loss of employment eligibility due to criminal convictions or addiction
  • increasing rates of self-harming behavior
The problems of having a huge chunk of the local economy reliant on drug money- and, yes, the type of welfare that advantages non-working people at the expense of their employed neighbors- begin to merge with harder and harder drugs use over time, as those communities, schools, and families spiral into dysfunction and desperation.  White kids are now increasingly subject to the same impacts - all of which works to put them in the same deplorable corner - as long as they can see and think clearly enough to suss out the analogous experience across race lines.

Oops, I almost forgot about the police corruption problem.  Severe police corruption has existed as long as the Drug War/Drug Prohibition. Matter of fact, police corruption has been a rapidly growing and metastasizing aspect of the larger societal dysfunction, and it threatens to dismantle the social contract between authorities and the communities whom they were formerly sworn to protect and serve.

So far it's 67 very long pages, with new stories added every week. Coast to coast. City and country. Judges, DEA, FBI, city police chiefs, county sheriffs, entire "elite" drug squads, small-town police officers, forensics scientists, prison guards... this list of stories is far from complete, and, it doesn't take into account the corrupt law enforcement people who never got caught, or who haven't been caught yet.


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