Friday, November 19, 2010

Reducing Violence

The cover of Nexos this month features the headline, How to reduce the violence. I've not yet read the cover story, but this, rather than, How to win the war on drugs, is the right way to approach the issue, and I commend the editors for recognizing the distinction. Aside from being a pipe dream, "winning" the war on drugs also has various and contradictory implications in the short term. Do you want to make the country less violent, or do you want to weaken the gangs that do exist? In all likelihood, these can't be achieved simultaneously in the short term, so it's important to be precise about which goals are being pursued with a given set of policies.

You hate to get overly focused on semantic details, but when you talk about winning the war on drugs, whatever ideas you have, regardless of their merit, are inevitably going to fall short, and you set yourself up for failure. It kind of reminds of me Jeffrey Sachs' writing, in that sense.


boz said...

For those people looking for lessons from Colombia, I would think this would be an important one. Colombia over the past ten years is considered a "success" because they managed to significantly reduce violence, not because they changed metrics on drug production and trafficking.

pc said...

Agreed. Although I think people make the same mistake with Colombia, saying they "won" the war on drugs. Whatever side of the argument you're on, a little more specificity is called for.