Tyler Bashing, Installment #34

It seems Tyler Cowen, my good friend Megan McArdle, and some others were pontificating on the drug war. I don't know if Tyler held this view, but one school of thought (or "model" in this apparently stuffy party) argued that legalization wouldn't do much:

Under one model, local gangs have a more or less fixed ability to terrorize a neighborhood....In this model, legalizing drugs doesn't do much good. The local gang either shifts its monopoly to another area (milk and sugar, if need be), or de facto the gang's local monopoly on the drug trade continues. The gang busts you if you try to get your supply of crack cocaine from Merck. I call this the Rio de Janeiro model; no, drugs are not formally legal there but I don't think it would much matter if they were.

Now I've never been to Brazil, so I was giving Tyler the benefit of the doubt. Surely, I thought, if he's going to test whether the drug war affects drug gangs, and one of his data points is a place where "drugs are not formally legal there but I don't think it would much matter if they were," then he must be talking about a place where the drug laws aren't actually enforced.

So I set out to show Tyler et al. how much the police must be doing in Rio to enforce drug laws. I thought I would spend 10 minutes or so trying to find their drug budgets, maybe look at number of arrests, etc.

I simply googled "Rio de Janeiro" and the first hit was a news story titled, "Brazil police kill 11 in Rio de Janeiro slum raid."

Here's the short article:

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Police killed at least 11 people in a raid on Friday in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) slum, made famous in a hit film of the same name about Rio drug gangs.

Law enforcement officials said 10 of the people killed were suspected drug traffickers and one was a woman who lived in the neighborhood.

Two women were also wounded during the shootout between police and the suspected traffickers, who had taken refuge in a house in the slum after fleeing from authorities.

Police seized six automatic rifles, five grenades and drugs during the raid. Authorities also sent reinforcements after the raid to prevent retaliation from drug gangs or protests from residents of the neighborhood.

Rio police are notorious for rough tactics against drug gangs that control many of the city's shantytowns.

I wonder if U.S. foreign policy came up at this party. One school of thought might say that foreign occupations don't affect the amount of violence in a country, and point to Iraq as evidence. Sure, formally speaking Iraq has an occupying force there, but I don't think it would matter one way or the other if US troops left. So I will point to present-day Iraq as evidence of what happens when the U.S. military leaves people alone.


  1. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

  2. Not only drug laws are enforced here in Brazil, but the result is a total war between the police and the drug dealers that control the slums. Enforcement is somewhat more relaxed towards the users, but even then there is enforcement.

  3. Tyler Cowen has been saying some things lately that make me think he's lost all connection to reality.

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