Until recently, a fundamental reality has been missing from U.S. media coverage of the “drug wars” in Latin America. Time and again, our headlines have pointed to the scary “other” — the corrupt Mexican police officer, the Colombian drug trafficker, the peasant farmer who ekes out a living growing a poisonous crop.
A case in point: Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S. (NY Times)
You don’t have to dig into the article, just take a look at the headline. The scary violence of America’s next-door neighbor is suddenly threatening us.
In this telling, we Americans are the besieged victims — the people who are subjected to a flood of poison from violent smugglers and cartels. But this approach only works if one ignores basic economics. The narrative of “governments vs. traffickers” or “U.S. vs. foreign cartels” misses the point.
The drug war is best understood as a battle of dollar versus dollar — a bloody war between the dollars of U.S. taxpayers and the dollars of U.S. consumers.