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Adjusted Accounting of Drug-Bust Values

Maybe the answer is a bit less sensationalism
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(+5, -3)
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Every day you read about law-enforcement agents making multi-million-dollar drug busts. These huge figures bring the agencies great attention, keep the public alarmed, and keep the anti-drug funds flowing.

The reason these drugs are so "valuable," however, is that they're illegal. Therefore, the same establishment that keeps them illegal is capitalizing on their inflated value.

I think that drug-bust figures should be adjusted to reflect the value of the drugs as if they were legal. Can you imagine hearing a news story: "Today, police confiscated a marijuana-growing operation worth $1500..." It'd take a bit of the insanity out of it, y'know?

Ander, Jul 26 2000

How To Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff http://www.amazon.c...026-3121374-9746018
Book recommendation [hippo, Jul 26 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       The initial problem here is that we don't really know how much drugs would cost if they were legal. Even AIDS and cancer patient organizations which provide marijuana at "cost" have to deal with the illegality of their production inputs, and the extra overhead involved for concealment and the like.   

       You could get around that by describing busts by weight or, even better (since impurities, packaging, and delivery methods are usually considered in the weight, and most people wouldn't understand whether a given amount was a lot or a little), by how many uses a haul reflects. ("Authorities have shut down a hydroponic marijuana lab capable of supplying an entire "Lazer Floyd" show...")   

       The ultimate problem is that neither law enforcement or the media is interested in this proposal, since itwould be less effective in bringing the agencies great attention, keeping the public reading the alarms, and keeping the anti-drug funds flowing.   

       Paranoid, me?
Uncle Nutsy, Jul 26 2000

       Just institute a statistics watchdog group that goes around pointing out how statistics are twisted around to manipulate an audience. Maybe even require some kind of footnoting explaining how the statistics were derived.
bookworm, Jul 27 2000

       Your Uncle Nutsy is dubious that any statistics watchdog group could get enough visibility to correct today's widespread statistical trickery, especially given the public's MEGO response to mathematics. And required footnoting would, even if not eviscerated by obfuscated explanations, tread on the freedom to lie and mislead inherent in the freedom of speech.
Uncle Nutsy, Aug 01 2000

       I agree that the authorities wouldn't be interested in this idea. They use big, impressive numbers to try and persuade people what a good job they're doing, when what people really want to know is how much they're hurting the dealers. Perhaps the production cost of the drugs would be a better benchmark. After all, seizing a drug shipment with a value of x million pounds/dollars doesn't sound quite so spectacular if you know that it only costs a pittance to produce another batch of the same size.   

       Also, I'd like to vote for more use of the phrase "eviscerated by obfuscation".
DrBob, Aug 02 2000

       The things is, as soon as the police get hold of the drugs they are suddenly worth nothing. They can't sell them.
The headlines should read "Today the police netted a haul of cocaine worth, er, nothing. Other news, a cat was found this morning eviscerated by obfuscation."
Jim, Aug 10 2000

       For that matter, the same thing applies to confiscated pirated software. The software trade alliance overstates the losses enormously, by assuming that every pirated copy would have displaced a legitimate sale. Clearly false -- the only reason to buy a pirated copy is that it is significantly cheaper than the original.
rmutt, Sep 01 2000

       The term "street value" is the poetic license of every DEA agent worth his kilo.
raisin, Sep 28 2000

       Umm, lemme see...A stepped on quarter gram sells for this much. It'll get cut from this eight ball which will be danced on at this percentage which'll come from this ounce which will be altered from this quarter pound which should get sprinkled pretty good from this half-ki which'll get altered from this kilo which gets...So what we've got here is $93,000,000.00 in this backpack.
thumbwax, Sep 28 2000

       You guys have cleverly exposed the truth: that these numbers are pure gumbo.   

       But rather than force changes in such a piecemeal fashion, let's just make the drugs legal and see what they would really be worth.
Vance, Jan 29 2001

       One of the interesting things about drug legalization is that many are perfectly ordinary cash crops which would have extremely low production costs (in the absence of patents, government monopolies, taxes and controls). Cocaine might be cheaper than baking soda, marijuana than cigarettes. (Not an argument against decriminalization; just an observation.)   

       As far as the current valuations done by drug interdicters and their allies and well-wishers are concerned, it's not unreasonable for them to provide a cash street value based on current market prices. The alternative -- trying to sort out what their value might be if they were "legalized", which includes any number of situations in which prices would vary widely -- is quite ugly.   

       The best solution is the one imparted to you by your Uncle Nutsy in the very first annotation to this idea: Report a guess at the number of doses which a bust would have provided.   

       (But this is problematic too, of course: Deciding on a mean dose would be difficult and arbitrary. And measuring in this way would give the impression that those are hits and tokes which have been witheld entirely from users -- probably as false an impression as any fantastic bust-value estimate.)
Monkfish, Jan 30 2001

       But the cost of drugs is what the market dictates. Giving a legal cost is just lying--- it's like me saying that a house in manhattan costs $25,000, but only if no one lived in manhattan .
futurebird, Jul 22 2001


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