Cuckoo for Coca


New at Reason: If "Market Reforms" murdered Bolivia's economy, why was the War On Drugs spotted fleeing the scene of the crime? Jesse Walker investigates.

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  1. When terrorists attacks against US interest increases and possibly moves into the US out of South America. Rest assured, its only because they hate us for our freedoms and the way we live. Nothing, what-so-ever, to do with the way we conduct foriegn policy.

  2. Somebody in these parts brought up the curious lack of South and Central American terrorists we encounter. It gives pause given the amount of intervention we have in that region.

  3. We don’t see any sub-Saharan African terrorists either, and there’s not much intervention there.

  4. No terrorism in Colombia? No terrorism in Peru? Um…

  5. The terrorist groups in South America don’t have the funding to become world players. Then again, they don’t seem to aspire to be.

  6. I don’t know why we have terrorists in the Middle East and not so many elsewhere. After all, as our President has said, Islam is peace.

    A couple of points about Bolivia: first, unlike some other South American countries its politics have not be dominated by factional or ethnic violence. There has been some of that, but Bolivia is a big place with not that many people, which I guess means you can stay out of everyone else’s way more easily.

    Second, the major coca-producing areas in the country are the lowland Chapare and the more mountainous Yungas in the west. Traditionally coca was grown mostly in the Yungas; production in Chapare only took off with the cocaine boom of the 1980s. Most government anti-coca efforts were therefore focused there.

    Finally the Bolivian economy has a lot of problems besides coca — the country is isolated geographically and historically dependent on commodity exports. And coca doesn’t help much, in fact some rather nasty but cheap coca-based products sold locally are a byproduct of coca production for the illicit drug trade. Actually, if we ended the war on drugs tomorrow it wouldn’t help Bolivia; in a free, legal market for coca there would be many more convenient sources of supply.

    I just mention these points on the off chance that there are some Reason readers who are actually interested in Bolivia, as opposed to drugs.

  7. anon 3:53

    “No terrorism in Colombia? No terrorism in Peru? Um…”

    Kidnapping for money is not the same as terrorism. The acts that are terroristic are not directed at the US in particular, even though there is a large contingent of Che Guevarra wannabes that blame the U.S. for every idiotic thing that happens down there.

    Nothin’ quite like real, honest to goodness commie guerillas.

  8. I wanna know more about this gas export issue and the reasons for its opposition. Who owns Bolivia’s natural gas? The State? What happens to the gas in lieu of export sales? Does it get distributed to the populace, or sold to the populace at below market prices? Who or what gets the money when Bolivia sells its gas? A state run monopoly deciding to sell to other countries would hardly be a “market” reform.

  9. Actually, if we ended the war on drugs tomorrow it wouldn’t help Bolivia; in a free, legal market for coca there would be many more convenient sources of supply.

    That’s a legitimate point, but not a complete one. I don’t think anyone is arguing that legal coca exports will unleash a Bolivian economic recovery. What we are arguing is that the government’s efforts to eradicate coca have been an economic — and political, and human-rights — disaster.

  10. Jesse,

    I agree with you 100% — except that maybe we shouldn’t be suggesting that ending said eradication efforts would constitute a true “market reform” as the Bolivian coca farmers would merely become beneficiaries of an inadvertent protectionism scheme. Unfortunately, the farmers probably associate both the eradication efforts and the pseudo privatizations you described with American influence, causing them to likely oppose anything good we might come up with, as well as hating our guts in general, which I can’t imagine is too good a thing even if we don’t have a Latin American terrorist problem at the moment.

  11. Al Giordano, the journalist behind the recently defunct NarcoNews, did a pretty good play-by-play of the events in Bolivia recently at his new blog,

  12. Interesting conversation.

    Okay, I’ll bite the hook.

    I’ve posted a bit of a response to it here.

    I think Jesse is essentially right on each point he makes. So far so good. Now, take it a step further

  13. Those links should probably be this.

  14. Al Giordano,

    Libertarian theory is indeed usually put into practice in a very selective and piecemeal way, to fit into the strategic agendas of big business and the corporate state. This is especially true of so-called “privatization.” For example, check out what this Rothbardian has to say about the faux “libertarianism” of the kind of privatization imposed by the IMF/World Bank:
    Sean Corrigan, “You Can’t Say That!” August 6, 2002

    The gist of Corrigan’s article is that the Bretton Woods agencies underwrite loans for building the kinds of infrastructure that TNCs need if they are to locate profitable facilities in a Third World country. The loans are paid off for with taxpayer sweat equity in those countries. And finally, the accumulated debt and snowballing interest are used as a form of debt slavery analogous to that of the proverbial “company store,” to compel the country to adopt “market” reforms that include selling off this same infrastructure to TNCs, at pennies on the dollar. As Kwame Nkrumah pointed out, what is called “foreign aid” today would have simply been called “foreign investment” under straightforward, old-style colonialism. It’s just another example of what Rothbard referred to as the State using taxpayer money to subsidize accumulation.

    My proposed solution is to always look at the “Big Picture” in setting a free market agenda, and not let corporate interests pick our battles for us or coopt a faux “free market” agenda for their own purposes (a la Uncle Milty). That means setting our first priority as going after the central structural features of state capitalism–infrastructure subsidies, the M-I complex, patents, R&D subsidies and other corporate welfare, and collusion by the State-as-landlord with mining, oil and timber interests.

    The proper way to “privatize” property and services paid for by taxpayers is what Larry Gambone called “mutualizing” them: devolving them to the most local, decentralized level possible, and then transforming them into the private, cooperative property of their clients.

    I’m glad someone here provided a link to your new site a few days back; when I get through the backlog of stuff I’m working on and have time to update my site, I’ll add links to bigleftoutside and narconews.

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