In a recent article, Christopher Cantwell calls out the recent major heroin ring bust in the Keene area and reveals, through simple economics, how it will likely make things worse.
Odds are, prices will go up, and junkies will have to steal and rob even more in order to fund their habit. As Cantwell points out, the dopers won’t quit just because their supplier disappears. All Keene police have done is create a business opportunity for the entrepreneur willing to take some risk. Plus, those stepping in to fill the demand in the market may provide product of questionable and even dangerous quality.
Keene, the city I today call home, is a quaint little town near the New Hampshire/Vermont border. Dominated by Democrats, it is perhaps the least free place in all of New Hampshire. While a far cry from the statist hellhole I came from in New York, the people here still wholeheartedly believe in the power of government.
So perhaps I should be less than surprised that Dale Vincent at the Union Leader hailed a recent large drug bust as the “end of a heroin era” as if drug busts actually did anything to prevent the import, sale, and use of drugs. After all, these folks aren’t used to seeing this kind of thing happen. So perhaps I can inform them a little bit about how this works, as I come from a place where large drug busts happen all the time. In my experience, and the experience of most people in the real world, these things do the exact opposite of what is touted by law enforcement, and their propagandists.
Per the story in the Union Leader;
Keene Police Chief Kenneth Meola said he expects the arrests of Gould and members of his ring to reduce property crime in the area, as many thefts are committed to pay for heroin.
It is quite unfortunate that police chiefs are rarely economists. Perhaps if they were compelled to have such an education, Chief Meola would better understand what restrictions on supply do to prices. In any case, one would hope he understood the nature of crime better than to think that an increase in heroin prices was going to reduce crime in his jurisdiction, which I’ll make the case for shortly.
Some backstory for my readers outside of Keene not familiar with the story. For at least a year, a team of drug dealers has been importing heroin and other drugs into Keene, NH. Keene not being the most exciting of places to live, I don’t find it at all shocking that the drugs became wildly popular, especially amongst young people. The drug ring, which has resulted so far in 8 arrests, was bringing in heroin by the kilogram, which is a pretty big deal. A kilogram of heroin is approximately 10,000 doses, before adulterants, and officials estimate the ring brought in this much dope every 10 days.
Heroin is a terrible substance. I’m not here to make the case for drugs. In New York I saw countless lives quite literally destroyed by heroin. The lucky ones ended up in prison, or hopelessly dependent on methadone clinics for the rest of their lives. The unlucky ones died, be it from accidental overdose, killing themselves to end the suffering their addictions brought, or by the hand of another in drug and gang related homicides. I watched a heroin epidemic sweep through my well to do hometown of Stony Brook, making zombies and criminals out of entitled rich white people, and the most traditionally downtrodden alike.
If I could push a button to end heroin, I would blister my thumb pushing that button. Alas, such a button does not exist, and the violence of the KPD, the Department of “Safety”, and the Federal Government are no alternative.
This self congratulatory nonsense by law enforcement and their media propagandists amounts to little more than cheerleading. Heroin addicts do not cease to be heroin addicts when people go to prison. Heroin addicts require heroin whether their dealers are on Main Street, or in the house of corrections on Route 101. Heroin did not cease to exist when Chief Meola’s colleagues threw the local dealers in prison, it only increased the challenges for the addicts to score the next hit, which would necessarily be required inside of 24 hours.
One of two things necessarily happens as a result. Either some other supplier steps in to fill the demand, or the addict ventures outside the jurisdiction to find their next hit. Chief Meola had best hope it is the former, because while gas prices are far lower than they were 6 months ago, a heroin addict who steals to pay for the heroin he buys in Keene, must necessarily steal more for the heroin he buys in Boston.
In economic terms, an otherwise successful business that easily brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars a month just went belly up without any regard for demand. Their customers are still out there, and literally sick with desire for their next purchase. There is enormous incentive for anyone willing to take the risk, to enter the heroin trade and provide Keene residents with their drug of choice. An ambitious minimum wage earner could turn a week’s pay into an empire. All it takes is somebody with nothing to lose, and a hunger for more.
Whoever steps up to fill the Keene heroin demand, and mark my words, someone will, gets to walk straight into a market built up by others who have taken the initial risk. The pushers who got Keene residents hooked are in prison. Their marketing campaign solidified the demand for the product. Whoever steps in now, lacks the necessity of capital investment in marketing heroin as a commodity.
He also lacks competition, since the primary suppliers to the area now reside in cages, incapable of carrying on their business. In a market economy, competition drives performance and customer satisfaction. Particularly when it comes to the drug trade, that means offering a relatively safe product at an affordable price, to keep customers alive and buying. Lacking competition, the next dealer is free to sell his product at whatever price the market will bear. In my own experience, a bag of heroin that went for $10 in The Bronx would sell for $20 in Suffolk County. Ambitious hustlers were known to sometimes make two or three runs a day just to meet demand, taking advantage of the arbitrage and doubling their money on each run (minus travel expenses, of course).
I wonder what impact Chief Meola thinks a doubling of heroin prices would have on property crime in Keene?
Additionally, lacking competition, the next pusher to service the area will have little incentive to provide a quality product. To widen his profit margins, he’ll be free to add whatever adulterants to the product he sees fit. A process known as “cutting”. The problems with this can range from something as innocuous as customers needing to buy more product, to something more problematic like poisoning, infection, allergic reactions, or overdoses from inconsistent strength of the drug.
Which brings us to the topic of consistency. The drug ring that supplied Keene obviously had their act together. Moving weight like that in the heroin trade is uncommon even in larger markets like I came from in New York. You have to be very well connected and financed to buy a kilogram of heroin, much more so to sell one, and much more to do it every ten days. What you can now expect in the heroin trade here is for less organized people, many of them likely addicts themselves, to import a wide variety of products from a wide variety of sources. Variety is a junky’s worst enemy, as a product they take one day might require a dosage of X to get them high, while the product they take the next might require three times that much to achieve the same effect. It is not at all uncommon for a stronger product to arrive in identical packaging, and the dosage that barely got a user through the day last week, now leaves him turning blue from an overdose. Consistent supply makes for longer lasting junkies, and the longer a junky survives, the better his chances of recovery. Disruptions in that supply leads to inconsistency, and inconsistency leads to death.
The end of an era? Sorry Mr. Vincent, but no. This is not the end of anything other than the lives of 8 people who provided a product to willing buyers. It’s just another day in the war on drugs. It’s just more misery, death, and violence, brought to you courtesy of power hungry bureaucrats, economic ignorance, and “news” outlets that serve little purpose other than to perpetuate it all. Chief Meola and his colleagues might feel really good about themselves for taking out some rival gangsters, but they’ve done nothing to improve anyone’s quality of life, and it certainly won’t do anything to reduce crime. New York’s prisons are literally overflowing with drug dealers and addicts, and things get worse there by the day. Speaking as someone who left his friends and family and pets and career behind to find a better quality of life here in New Hampshire, I must say, it leaves me on the verge of tears to see this beautiful place make the same mistakes.
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