Who Does Marijuana Legalization Hurt?

In our most recent podcast, "Are We Ready to Legalize Drugs? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions," we discussed drug legalization.  Here's what Steve Levitt had to say on the benefits of legalizing marijuana, as compared to crack cocaine:

So crack cocaine is a really devilish drug because it gives you such an intense high for such a short period of time that your desire is just to get high over and over and over. It’s highly addictive, and it’s really hard to function when you’re a crack addict. But what it makes me think is that this experimentation we’re doing now with policy towards drugs like marijuana, and potentially it would be expanded over time is a good idea. Because I think when it comes to marijuana, the social costs of the prohibition of marijuana are just really low. Very few people in the United States are being killed over marijuana. The gangs are not making their money off marijuana. Marijuana in some very real sense is too cheap. It’s too easy to grow yourself and so it isn’t the source of all of the ills that come with prohibition. And so, so the gains of legalizing marijuana for society are much smaller than the gains would be to legalizing cocaine if you could control how the outcome came.

But does marijuana legalization really harm anyone?  Like poor minorities, for example?  Michael Kinsley, Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum recently debated that  question, as well as legalization in general, for Bloggingheads TV.  In an accompanying blog post, Sullivan points to Reihan Salam's recent post on the subject:

Is Academia Like a Drug Gang?

In Freakonomics, Dubner and Levitt wrote about how working for a drug gang is like working for McDonald's. On LSE's Impact of Social Sciences blog, Alexandre Afonso writes about how the academic labor market also resembles a drug gang:

Academic systems rely on the existence of a supply of “outsiders” ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail....The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core  of insiders. Even if the probability that you might get shot in academia is relatively small (unless you mark student papers very harshly), one can observe similar dynamics. 

Marlo's Monopoly

We are belatedly watching The Wire, nearing the end of Season V. [N.B.: see Sudhir Venkatesh's series of blog posts called "What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?"] By Episode 6, Marlo Stanfield has killed off the competing retail drug lords and also the chief wholesaler, Proposition Joe.  At the next meeting of Baltimore drug lords, Marlo allocates territories among his subordinates and announces to everyone a large rise in the wholesale price of drugs.  Not surprising—he has turned an oligopoly into a monopoly, with him as the monopolist. 

Marlo doesn’t realize it yet, but his monopoly status gives others a bigger incentive to attack him.  Don’t spoil the suspense for me, but I wouldn’t be surprised, although I would be pleased, if Marlo is bumped off by his own subordinates—it’s hard to maintain monopoly power.

When Hacking Is the Smaller Crime

Here's a fascinating article in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, by Paul Rexton Kan of the U.S. Army War College, about cyberwar between non-state agents -- in this case, Anonymous versus Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel. Read the whole thing; here's the first paragraph:

In the fall of 2011, two clandestine non-state groups—a hacktivist collective and a Mexican drug cartel—stared each other down in the digital domain, with potentially fatal real world consequences for both sides. Los Zetas, a Mexican drug trafficking organization composed of former members of Mexico’s Special Forces, kidnapped a member of Anonymous, the global hacking group, in Veracruz on October 6th. In retaliation, Anonymous threatened to publicize online the personal information of Los Zetas and their associates, from taxi drivers to high-ranking politicians, unless Los Zetas freed their abductee by November 5th. The release of this information on the Internet would have exposed members of Los Zetas to not only possible arrest by Mexican authorities, but also to assassination by rival cartels. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Los Zetas then attempted to “reverse hack” Anonymous to uncover some of its members and to threaten them with death. As a consequence, a few members of Anonymous sought to call off the operation and disavowed those members who wanted to go forward. With time running out and locked in a stalemate, Los Zetas released their kidnap victim on November 4th with an online warning that they would kill ten innocent people for each name that Anonymous might subsequently publicize. Anonymous called off its operation; each side appeared to step back from the brink.

(HT: LTC Scott Kelly)

How Will Rio's Arrest Bounty Play Out?

An interesting e-mail from a reader:

Hello. My name is Thiago, and I am writing from Brazil. I always read freakonomics posts thru my rss reader and I saw a news today that inspired me to write to you.
 
Rio de Janeiro's  police started a new policy to incentivize cops to arrest the most wanted drug dealers. The prize: 15 days off and one weekend in a beautiful island at Angra dos Reis with all costs included.

I wondered if this incentive will have a positive effect, whereas there are bad cops who are bribed by drug dealers. What if these bad officers began to been rewarded by drug dealer with tickets to Disney instead of arrest them?