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

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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.