Americans who posture about immigrants and drugs crossing from Mexico into the U.S. ought to consider what moves in the other direction
. It's easy to get drugs in Mexico. It's easy to get guns in the U.S. Drug smugglers want guns to protect them from law enforcement. Guess what they can trade?
Incidentally, it's not just a North American Secret Trade Agreement issue. It's easy for soldiers to score heroin in Afghanistan
. Soldiers have some even more impressive technology to trade for drugs. I wonder how many steps it takes for the Taliban to get their hands on American military toys.
Drugs, guns, and gems
form the tripod upon which international crime stands. They can be mutually exchanged without tax or easy tracing, easily concealed and transported, and are highly desired by the those who use them.
Dealing with the problems of weapon, drug, and diamond smuggling is not easy. I suspect that legalizing drug use and possession would take a lot of power away from the criminals: nobody packs heat and smuggles fruit into the U.S. because it can be legally imported or grown locally. The expenses of growing marijuana in California, shipping it to Missouri, and paying sales tax at a strip mall probably are probably lower than the cost of growing marijuana in Guatemala, shipping it to the border, bribing officials, smuggling it through the desert, and letting every dealer it passes through take a cut. Legal drugs may be safer and healthier.
Demand-side changes could also affect the profitability of diamonds, and therefore their usefulness to international criminals and African warlords. If diamond consumers chose man-made diamonds
on the grounds of price, social responsibility, and environmental impact, the (cartel-driven) artificially high price of diamonds would drop, making them far less lucrative as a black market currency. As a side effect, it might make your computer faster, too.
But I don't think a purist market approach is a complete solution. Guns are readily available in the U.S., but they still cause problems where they're legal and illegal. Just as the mob moved in on legal gambling in Nevada, I don't expect well-armed, well-paid drug smugglers to take undercutting lightly. And sudden legalization of drugs, especially easily overdosed ones like heroin and cocaine, without a simultaneous public health and education outreach could easily kill more folks than smuggler/DEA conflagrations and drug dealer turf wars.
Undercutting the diamond trade isn't so simple either. A significant portion of the value of a diamond is its price
. People buy diamonds to show that they can afford to buy diamonds. If everyone could afford to buy diamonds, rich people would buy something else hard to find. And if it's hard to find, criminals are probably willing to kill for it.