Drug War

Markets for Meth

Breaking Bad never shied away from the violence of large-scale drug operations, but it also worked from the assumption that those operations were essentially businesslike

|

Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad

AMC's much-lauded series Breaking Bad, which concluded in September, chronicled the rise and fall of a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a meth kingpin after he is diagnosed with cancer. In addition to the personal story of a family man succumbing to his dark side through hubris, it painted a striking picture of big-time meth production on America's southern border.

Breaking Bad never shied away from the violence of large-scale drug operations, but it also worked from the assumption that those operations were essentially businesslike: There are startups, mergers, and small businesses competing with big corporate entities. (One meth titan is also a successful fast-food baron.) When violence inevitably occurs, it's usually because of the perverse incentives involved in an illegal, black market trade, not the use or abuse of the drug itself. The emphasis on incentives, and the understanding that drug sales work much like many other markets, was part of what made Breaking Bad so good.

Advertisement

NEXT: 18-Year-Old Says $1 Million in Bitcoin Stolen From His Bank, Doesn't Want to Go to Police

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I was expecting something…longer.

    1. He went too long without a fix.

    2. Yeah, it should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

      Minimum.

      Half my comments are longer than that.

    3. I suspect there was a technical glitch or something.

      1. Some dirty teabagging rethuglitards sabotaged this article in order to discredit cosmotarianism.

        1. These comment boards need a Like button.

          1. These comment boards need a total overhaul. They are barely web2.0. Does anyone ever comment at SBN? THOSE are some Cadillac comment boards.

            1. Sports Blog Nation?

              I’m kind of partial to disqus, but I wouldn’t want those types to be able to comment here freely without at least having to sign up.

            2. One would expect the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology to know how to build a comment board people like.

    4. Maybe Suderman.

      Phoned this one in?

      1. Doe he need to reach his quota of articles before leaving for Huffpo?

    5. The abrupt end after just two short paragraphs left me wondering if someone forgot to post the rest of the article.

  2. This new show sounds wonderful. When does it air?

    1. Right after the new Game of Thrones episode where we find out that Tyrion has actually been a ghost the whole time. Oh sorry *spoilers*

      1. That whole “Tyrion is a ghost” canard was so last novel.

        Oh, I apologize to those who only watch the tv show for the spoiler, there.

        1. Fuck them, the books have been out forever. Daenerys Targaryen is Kaiser Sosse people, get over it.

          1. Sounds interesting. When will the books be published?

            1. Are you the same John Galt that posts on Hotair.com?

      2. Theon wins.

    2. Daenerys’ tits!!!

  3. The government can wave its magic wand and eliminate demand. It’s silly to deny it.

  4. The next Breaking Bad show will be about a chemistry teacher who makes artificial trans fats.

    It won’t end well….

    1. Yeah, the last scene will be a pullback from close-up to overhead of our anti-protagonist, lying on on his back on the floor next to the doughnut deep-fryer, eyes staring straight up, glazed in death and with telltale powdery white patches of confectioner’s sugar spotting his face.

  5. Haven’t watched BB, but I’m listening to NPR in the backgound and some woman is going on about how her mother doesn’t like certain boring topics discussed in polite company – health, periods, etc. I mean, the woman is going on and on about stuff that’s too boring to talk about, so I’m bored by it. How meta is that?

    1. I’m bored by you talking about how bored you were by this boring woman talking about boring topics.

      Even more meta.

      1. Well, that joke was boring, too.

        1. I fall asleep every time I scroll past this part of the threadaj;l knbfiljbcccccccccccc

    2. I’m somewhat unbored by the idea of someone not liking impolite topics because they’re really just boring. /ends the meta

      1. It was an interesting show.

  6. Tried watching an episode of BB, but it was so relentlessly negative and full of people without redeeming qualities that I let it go.

    1. Don’t even attempt watching Sons of Anarchy, then.

    2. Huh.

      I always thought of the Brady Bunch as rather cloyingly upbeat.

      1. Dont you remember the episode where marsha turns tricks to support her heroin habit?

        1. It’s funny, but that was the very episode I was actually thinking of. Too gol-durn “happy happy, joy joy” for my tastes, but YMMV, I guess.

        2. In real life, Florence Henderson caught the crabs from New York Mayor John Lindsay.

          http://www.nydailynews.com/ent…..e-1.132683

          1. WTF?

            “Lindsay, ever the politician, sent Henderson flowers and an apology letter….

            “[said Henderson:] “He must have had quite the active life. What a way to put the kibosh on a relationship.””

            http://www.nydailynews.com/ent…..z2kBQv0oB4

            This is the guy who beat William F. Buckley, Jr?

            1. Alternate joke: Henderson got off easy, look at what he did to all the other New Yorkers. They’d be *begging* for crabs instead of what they actually got.

        3. “Say my name!”

          “Marsha, Marsha Marsha!”

    3. I managed to get through two seasons, but their relentless sandbagging of themselves was more than I could take. Good show, but if you’re going to be that fucking depressing, you’re going to lose me.

      1. Watch season three–the Gus Fring arc is one of the most well-done I’ve seen on TV in quite a while, and the character himself is great.

        I agree that it gets a little tough to watch after that, but I’ll still finish the series out when it comes on Netflix.

        1. Follow Esposito over to Revolution. He’s doing good work over there.

          1. I’m watching Revolution… just to see where the story goes at this point. But wow, really you’d recommend anyone actually watch that show? Aweful acting, really aweful acting. Ridiculous characters with ridiculous inconsistancies. Miles is sold as this walking death spirit, kills 20 guys single handedly in the first season but now has trouble fighting one or two. And can we please have a protagonist who isn’t a petty whining fucktard? Please?

    4. You sound like a fan of Glee.

      1. Those have got to be fighting words.

    5. Yeah I watched a couple episodes and couldn’t get into it. He was a whiney idiot and his wife was a whiney whore.

    6. It was horribly depressing.

  7. This must be the “Please move all your Breaking Bad discussions here” open thread invitation.

    So….

    Walter White was the villian, not the hero. Discuss.

    1. I think I read an interview of Vince Gilligans that said as much. He really doesn’t consider WW a good guy at all. I just think he was trying something relatively new by having the bad guy as the protagonist. (though not totally new because wasn’t Star Wars supposed to be about Vader?)

      1. Or the Sopranos?

    2. Walter White was the villian, not the hero. Discuss.

      I thought this was made explicit in the first season when he gets offered money to have his cancer treatments by his rich ass friend. Because of his narcissism and pride, White declines the offer and decides to keep cooking meth instead.

      The point of that scene is to show that his rationalizations about why he’s cooking meth are a total lie. He just wants the power, excitement, and control, and uses his cancer as an excuse to get it.

      1. I agree. Walter Whites primary motivation was really his envy of his ex-partner’s success – both in business and in love.
        Note that the ex-partner is married to Walt’s ex-girlfriend. So he ended up with both the money and the girl, and Walt is just furious about it.

        I think it is also implied that Skyler is kind of a rebound. He just married her to prove that he was over his ex.

        And … Walt adopts Jesse as surrogate son because he can’t stand that his biological son is disabled.

        1. And … Walt adopts Jesse as surrogate son because he can’t stand that his biological son is disabled.

          I never got this from that show. I always felt that he cared about and loved his son.

          I think he cared about Jesse because Walt wasn’t totally evil. He’s more like a Greek tragic hero. His villainy and willingness to hurt and kill are the result of a single personality flaw, namely his extreme arrogance and need to prove that he’s a man.

          1. Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind that Walter loves his kids. He just has trouble relating to Flynn on any emotional level, so he latches on to Jesse for those type of connections.

          2. Greek tragedy is right. Walt is all about hubris.

          3. Not just to prove he was a man, but that he was superior!

  8. Why not just make it a television criticism thread?

    I think that Merlin, far from being the “wisest warlock who ever lived”, was a complete ass, and caused all the trouble he was trying to prevent.

    1. Ok, seriously, who thinks that United States Patriots are the good guys in Revolution? I feel a little bit cynical for suggesting it, but I just don’t think they are. More might be revealed next week.

      1. You had to have missed several episodes to think that, just because they wear stars and stripes patches, the “Patriots” are the good guys. My money says they are Neocons who had infested the US government and left like rats deserting a sinking ship after the blackout.

    2. Person of Interest: A little too on the nose?

    3. How the hell is NCIS so popular?

      1. Good question. How the hell are any of the endlessly repetitive and derivative police procedurals so popular? They’re literally the same thing every single episode. They’re just unbelievably terrible, yet tons of people watch them.

        1. As far as NCIS LA goes, some people like watching underwear models solve crimes. It’s kind of a modern-day Silk Stalkings.

        2. “Take this semen to the lab for questioning.”

          1. Only if YOU play good cop.

        3. Screw you, I like procedurals.

        4. That’s actually why I liked watching it while I was in school. Do a full day of programming and 2 or 3 ChemE classes, then come home and watch something that is absolutely formulaic for an hour.

          1. Yes. Crime shows are fun and relaxing. And most of the time you don’t have to worry about being “caught up”; they are largely self-contained.

      2. It’s a product on our society turning its back on the traditional Roman gods. NCIS could not possibly survive in a society where civic piety to Minerva was consistently followed.

        We must return to a time of fearing and respecting the gods so that Phoebus and Ceres may show us favor and Jupiter might guide us rightly in our television viewing.

        1. A soap opera set on Mt. Olympus. It’s brilliant!!

          1. Make the gods angsty teenagers (not like that’s a stretch for the Classical gods) played by 30-somethings and pitch to The CW. I think we have a winner.

            1. “Hugs and kisses, Gossip God.”

      3. I’ll admit I liked the Hawaii 5-0 remake for about two and a half seasons.

        The show knew how to cast hot women.

        1. Which makes me wonder why The Arrow’s love interest, Laurel Lance, is so friggin weird looking.

          1. Don’t watch that show, but looking up the actress I don’t think she’s bad looking.

            Although she’s not who I’d picture as Black Canary.

            1. In the show she isn’t. The black canary is her character’s sister.

              1. Who is also odd looking.

    4. That show had far more homo-eroticism then necessary.

      Also in the first season Merlin was a friggin ninja acrobat, dodging swords hoping around escaping guards by over turning vegetable carts ect…then as the show progressed he became more and more physically inept.

  9. I so wanted Flynn to get kneecapped. Fucking self-righteous crippletard.

    1. I cried when Ram died. Just a little, inside my heart.

      1. I love my dead gay son!

        1. It’s never the wrong time for a Heathers quote.

          1. Okay, I’m lost. Part of the problem is that I failed to stick to the “television” meme, and referenced a cult Disney movie, instead.

            What show is this?

            1. Hmm. I thought you were referring to Heathers. Then again I assume any mention of Ram(dead) to be about Heathers.

            2. I will involk the statute of limitations on spoilers here:

              The “I love my dead gay son!” quote (AFAIK) originates from a scene in Heathers. The protagonist in the film kill two dumb asshole football jocks and set up the crime scene to make it look like they were gay and killed each other in a suicide pact.

              So at the funeral, the tearful father shouts “I love my dead gay son!” from the pulpit while delivering the eulogy.

              1. Hey! I might have wanted to watch that!

  10. Contrary to Suderman, I did not think that BB “worked from the assumption that those operations were essentially businesslike.”

    To the contrary, anyone who came anywhere near meth was portrayed as a burnout, addict, homicidal maniac, or murderous psychopath. They were not portrayed as victims of the drug war as much as greedy bastards who were drawn to the business precisely because it existed outside the bounds of respectable society. And everyone except Pinkman involved in the trade died from non-natural causes.

    there was a message to the series it was reflected in the “Meth = Death” sign that opened one of the early episodes.

    1. You forgot Badger and Skinny Pete. Still kicking! And mascot Saul Goodman: He got his own spinoff!

  11. I’m jonesing so bad…I just gotta post this story, I just gotta…

    We were so mad when we couldn’t kill our child thanks to the Texas legislature and the Fifth Circuit…so we’ve rescheduled our abortion…no mention of adoption as an option

    Bonus: The boyfriend refers to “*her* decision,” the girlfriend refers to “*our* decision.”

    http://www.texastribune.org/20…..interview/

  12. Breaking Bad: the show where the only Ron Paul-supporting, explicitly libertarian character ***SPOILER*** gets shot in the face.

    1. He is also portrayed as one of the only moral characters in the drug trade and his death directly leads to the down fall of WW.

      1. Yeah, I’ll admit I cheered when Hank discovered the inscription in Leaves of Grass. Gale got his revenge from beyond the grave.

        I also liked how he basically said that the drug trade was going to happen with or without him and he might as well make sure they’re buying a chemically pure product.

        1. ” make sure they’re buying a chemically pure product.”

          Since when do the black marketeers in the drugs trade care about the purity of their product? I don’t know about meth, but with heroin and cocaine at least, the product is adulterated every time it changes hands. The heroin you buy on the street is maybe 10% heroin and 90% adulterant. It’s these adulterants, rather than the heroin itself, which cause so many health problems with users.

          1. Since when do the black marketeers in the drugs trade care about the purity of their product?

            Pot has gotten more and more potent over the years.

            Anyway pot is probably an exception and I assume you are mostly correct but in the show the meth WW and Gale made was on the street level a desired product. Distinguishable by its blue tint. So at least in the show’s universe Gale’s goal was possible.

          2. It’s actually a major plot point that the meth Walt (and then Gale, when Walt is working with Gus) is cooking is extremely pure, and thus worth more.

      2. Yeah. BB must have had a libertarian on the writing staff because Gale is the best character on the show.

      3. Him and Gus Fring.

        Gus is also a kind of libertarian hero in a Randian kind of way. Essentially a self-made industrialist of the drug trade.

        He had brilliantly built up the perfect drug empire, hidden inside his fast food network. He treated his employees and his enemies fairly, and only resorted to violence after negotiating first.
        Gus was sort of the ideal leader of a drug empire, about as ethical as someone could be in a world where there are no police and courts. He had loyal subordinates and alliances with the local gangs, and he knew and worked within their moral code.

  13. The NY Times is Deeply Concerned that the US was thrown out of the United Nations agency UNESCO:

    “The United States lost its vote at Unesco on Friday, two years after cutting off its financial contribution to the organization over the admission of Palestinians as full members. The move undermined America’s ability to exercise its influence in countries around the globe through the United Nations agency’s educational and aid programs, according to Western diplomats and international relations experts.

    “Under Unesco’s constitution, any country that fails to pay dues for two years loses its vote in the Unesco general assembly. The United States ceased all support for the agency in 2011, in response to a vote at Unesco giving Palestinians full membership. Congress enacted laws in the 1990s decreeing that the United States stop providing money to any United Nations agency that accepts Palestinians as full members.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11…..share&_r=0

    1. *crickets chirping*

  14. Everything after Deadwood feels kinda lame to me.

    1. TV has never been as good as Playhouse 90.

      1. TV hasn’t been the shame since The Man with the Flower in His Mouth

        1. The Queen’s Messenger was so much better.

  15. Also I think the last scene of a Trip to the Moon was a dream of the astronauts as they die in their moon prison.

  16. Which TV show had a more disappointing ending: Lost or Battlestar Galactica?

    1. Can we go back to the time when TV shows didn’t have “endings” so to speak?

      1. Personally, I prefer TV shows with endings. Or perhaps I should say I prefer “stories” that have endings. I avoid shows that keep adding twists and contrivances simply to keep the story/series going. It gets so bad you need to keep a note book to follow the storyline.

        I love creativity and surprises, but at some point you’ve got to settle down and actually have an understandable plot.

        Remember how Twin Peaks fizzled out? I began to smell the creative desperation pretty quick in that series. It’s like you could almost hear the writers smacking their heads on tables wondering how the hell they were going to tie up all those loose ends.

        1. I suppose one way to avoid that would be to make more miniseries. However miniseries make less money…

          Also many cable shows have 13 or so episode seasons so that avoids having to throw in too many twists and contrivances in order to keep their serialized storylines going.

        1. Well it certainly is annoying that every show is supposed to have a serialized storyline and an ending that ties all those storylines up. Even sitcoms and procedurals are a lot more serialized than previously.

          Also I’m reminded of the Seinfeld series finale. The show didn’t really have much of an overarching storyline but they tried to give it an “ending” which many of people didn’t like.

    2. Battlestar.

      It might simply be because I liked that show but i think it’s plot also held together over a longer period then Lost did.

      Lost was a fucking mess before the end of the first season and it became pretty evident early on that it was unfixable. Basically I stuck around for the characters i had grown to like and the odd good episode.

      Battlestar on the other hand did not become impossible to manage and one could actually imagine them explaining the mess they had in the last 4 or 5 episodes. Also the answer, “It was god the whole time”, came out of fucking nowhere in Battlestar. At least Lost built up its MacGuffins before they pissed in our faces.

      1. I’ll disagree with that…I actually liked the BSG ending, for the following reasons.

        ***Spoiler alert***

        I heard a lot of cries of “Deux ex machina” when the ending revealed that Starbuck was actually a spirit along the lines of Head Six and Head Baltar, and how the Head characters were basically angels. But if you go through the entire series, it’s completely consistent with the plot of the show and the writers hinted at that ending consistently. I think a lot of people don’t want to accept that it was essentially a religious show…since a great many science fiction fans fall into the agnostic/atheist arena. But it was and they didn’t really hide that.

        I found the ending both appropriate (real Earth was destroyed) and beautifully elegaic (Kara and Lee never get together because their romantic ties were really only about guilt over Zack and Kara loved Anders, Laura Roslin and Adama leave together at the end just as they dreamed of doing on New Caprica, humanity’s ultimate fate is left open to interpretation). It wasn’t along the caliber of Six Feet Under’s finale, but it was a very solid ending that fit with the show.

  17. Also when will Aaron Sorkin get his Star Trek show on the air? Trek needs to go back to its roots as commie propaganda masquerading as science fiction. Lots of speeches about Important Relevant Themes and Subject Matter. And it will be serialized too because all shows have to be serialized, even the police procedurals! And the leads will be dysfunctional assholes who swear a lot because that’s realistic and shit.

    1. Perhaps they can get Paul Krugman to appear on the show in the role of Hari Seldon.

  18. Somehow everyone seems to be forgetting one of the most libertarian television shows that every existed:

    Firefly.

    I miss the Serenity crew, and their daily struggle to live free of the crushing regulatory body that was the Alliance.

    “You can’t take the sky from me!”

    1. I still miss that show too. But you have to ask yourself (and answer honestly): “Our Mrs. Reynolds” in Firefly or Joan in “Mad Men”?

      1. easy answer: Our Mrs Reynolds.

        Though she would have had to become a regular character,

      2. Our Mrs. Reynolds… all day long.

      3. I never caught Firefly until several years after it was canceled. They must have done a super horible job of promoting the show when it was in sindication.

  19. Armageddon is a Criterion Collection movie? I did not know that.

  20. Jack Flash is NOT gonna like that.

    http://www.Privacy-Road.tk

  21. Im making over $30h a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,…. http://WWW.Max57.COM

  22. I want to know when Sci-Fi Channel is going to add more episodes to their mini-series, The Lost Room?

  23. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do……
    http://www.Rush64.com

  24. ??? ????????? I just got paid $858o working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,

    ???????? http://www.jobs53.com

  25. my co-worker’s half-sister makes $81 hourly on the computer. She has been fired for 5 months but last month her pay was $20214 just working on the computer for a few hours. hop over to this website…..
    http://WWW.JOBS84.COM

  26. ? ? ? ? LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY ? ? ? ? ?
    My Boy friend makes $75/hour on the internet. She has been without a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours. Straight from the source———— http://www.Bay95.com

  27. which concluded in September, chronicled the rise and fall of

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.