Criminal entrepreneurship in Mexico's high-tech drug cartels

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Freakonomics had a chapter about this. One of the drug dealers made meticulous records of everything, and the street level dealer would make better money at McDonalds and get some free fries out of the deal.

But, like said above, the chance for the high reward makes the risk worth it to them.

Again, I would implore ending the WOD. Obviously people in the drug trade are not only go-getters and hard workers, but some of them are extremely bright. If we can channel that into something more worthwhile everyone wins. Remove drug dealing as an occupation (or change it to a legit occupation) and I think a lot of the violent crime would be reduced.


One of the missed opportunities of the war on drugs is that we have not managed to siphon off more Randite entreupreneurs away from legal sociopathy to illegal activities. Imagine how much better off society would be if we could turn all those libertarian investors into criminals and throw their asses in jail.



These are not street-level dealers, they’re the Edisons and Bells who work for the cartels.

The comparison with Ayn Rand intrigues me, because people in any criminal enterprise can’t rely on the police for protection. Therefore they have to develop their own, very violent means of protection. Brutality and terror are the only effective tools. Of course Rand would sniff and say they aren’t real Scotsmen Objectivists, but while she was doing that the cartels would have set her up for use as a mule.


Well yes the ones making the submarines and drones are doing different things than street level. But they also aren’t risking their lives at the street level, which the quote refers to.

I wouldn’t compare them to Edisons or Bells. They aren’t inventing, they are just applying stuff already out there and re-purposing. Still smarter than your average bear.

But even street level hustlers show some marketable skills and initiative that can be used in the “real” world for good.


Don’t be so sure that cartel members (and importantly, their families) above street level aren’t at risk of death or torture or kidnapping. They are assets to the cartels and in demand. Headhunting in this industry is slightly different than in Silicon Valley.

It’s important to understand management structure in the current environment. The strategy of the U.S. and Mexican governments has been to take out top leadership. This creates a power vacuum that subordinates are eager to fill, and they begin to fight amongst themselves as well as against rival cartels to control the enterprise. The point is that the cartels are very unstable and the situation is fluid. It doesn’t look like any one group has consolidated power as did, for example, El Chapo.

Cory’s larger point that intellectual capital is being siphoned off is correct, but any analogy with Silicon Valley is shallow and a misunderstanding of criminal organizations.

Ending the WOD would go a long way to ending these criminal enterprises, but that is not politically realistic. There are too many powerful interests in the U.S. that profit from the WOD, not to mention the constituency of “values voters” that must be appeased. State by state marijuana legalization helps remove some of the profitability, but it’s not enough to destabilize the cartels.

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The situation with the criminal organizations in Mexico is complex and its wrongheaded to compare one small aspect with Silicon Valley. While it is true that intellectual capital is siphoned off, Cory’s analysis is superficial and misleading. It’s too narrow and doesn’t even begin to address the systemic causes underlying criminal enterprises in Mexico. It ignores the current reality and the historical development of that reality to draw a false analogy.

I think your comparison is apt, but jailing the law breaking entrepreneurs in the U.S. is a very limited solution. The fact is that corruption in the U.S. is rampant. While different from corruption in Mexico, it is of greater scale. Going after entrepreneurs who break or bend the law is going after the low hanging fruit.

People in the U.S. don’t seem to realize it, but we have normalized corruption at the highest levels of governance—we’ve legalized it. It’s telling that a substantial part of the public wants to put a fox—a guy that brags about stealing chickens—in charge of the henhouse.

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