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Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by [Wainwright, Tom]
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Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Review

“[Tom Wainwright] brings a fine and balanced analytical mind to some very good research…By looking at the drug trade as a business, Wainwright is able to reveal much about why it wreaks such havoc in Central and South America. Wainwright show[s] how drug violence is not so much senseless but the devastating result of economic calculations taken to their brutal extreme. [His] conclusion is titled 'Why Economists Make the Best Police Officers.' It is one of the pithiest and most persuasive arguments for drug law reform I have ever read.”—Misha Glenny, New York Times Sunday Book Review

“A lively and engaging book, informed by both dogged reporting and gleanings from academic research...”—Wall Street Journal

“[Wainwright’s] book is courageous on several levels… [he] challenges everyone at once—the dealers, the drug czars, and the bystanders in between. A daring work of investigative journalism and a well-reasoned argument for smarter drug policies.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Readers interested in the intersection of crime, economics, entrepreneurship, and law enforcement will find this work fascinating.”—Library Journal

Product Description

What drug lords learned from big business

How does a budding cartel boss succeed (and survive) in the 300 billion illegal drug business? By learning from the best, of course. From creating brand value to fine-tuning customer service, the folks running cartels have been attentive students of the strategy and tactics used by corporations such as Walmart, McDonald's, and Coca-Cola.
     And what can government learn to combat this scourge? By analyzing the cartels as companies, law enforcers might better understand how they work—and stop throwing away 100 billion a year in a futile effort to win the “war” against this global, highly organized business.
     Your intrepid guide to the most exotic and brutal industry on earth is Tom Wainwright. Picking his way through Andean cocaine fields, Central American prisons, Colorado pot shops, and the online drug dens of the Dark Web, Wainwright provides a fresh, innovative look into the drug trade and its 250 million customers.
     The cast of characters includes “Bin Laden,” the Bolivian coca guide; “Old Lin,” the Salvadoran gang leader; “Starboy,” the millionaire New Zealand pill maker; and a cozy Mexican grandmother who cooks blueberry pancakes while plotting murder. Along with presidents, cops, and teenage hitmen, they explain such matters as the business purpose for head-to-toe tattoos, how gangs decide whether to compete or collude, and why cartels care a surprising amount about corporate social responsibility.
More than just an investigation of how drug cartels do business, Narconomics is also a blueprint for how to defeat them.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 11102 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (Feb. 23 2016)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B017QL8XKE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,086 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top customer reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting take on a subject that most people normally wouldn't philosophize over. A perfect gift for anyone who fancies himself a hobbyist economist or who is interested in government policy. It demonstrates the sophistication of an issue and why it is such a trans-national problem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my husband and it seems like a super cool book! He reads me passages from it once and a while and it makes me want to read it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. Considering the areas of business it touches upon and clears fundamentals of, this should be a recommending reading for the first year MBA students. There are many excellent management ideas including understanding how well the cartels understand their business. There are always reasons behind the moves they make and everything is business oriented.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a social science researcher with a passion for business and commuity-building, I got addicted to this book. It's a little more macro-economic than a 'business' book might typically be (granted, the title is 'Narconomics'), but the journalistic stories add plenty of detail and anecdotes that support the mega themes. The chapters on the PR and 'CSR' of cartels were particularly intriguing and the author's global experience adds a contextual understanding of how the business of drug culture unfolds regionally. It was refreshing to read a book on business with a new cast of characters and without corporate cliches.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 125 reviews
210 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Change Your Views on All Addictive Substances. Feb. 29 2016
By John M. Messinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a conservative dentist, with conservative social views and conservative prescribing practices, who once thought I knew most everything about drug lords, drug addicts, and addictive substances. Then, in October 2014 we found our 24 year old son, dead in our bathroom with a syringe in his hand. I have spent the past 16 months in grief, depression, and wanting to deal with drug dealers in the most violent, painful means imaginable but with no means, plan, or intel to carry this out. The local police have basically have shown zero interest in his case, since they ruled us out as suspects. This book has made me realize that our nation's (world's) drug problem is an economic problem and needs to be addressed in those terms. This extremely well written and researched book gives me a set of arguments to present to our state representatives. An excellent and less emotional review can be read above by Loyd Eskildson
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How drug cartels follow the business practices of mainstream businesses, and the economics of why the drug war is a failure Feb. 23 2017
By Bernie Gourley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
“Narconomics” is about how drug cartels are taking pages from the playbooks of big businesses like Walmart and Coca-cola. In cases like diversifying into new markets or deciding to collude with a competitor, this might not seem surprising. However, it may come as a shock to find out about the franchising and CSR (corporate social responsibility) practices of drug cartels. Other than being outside access to the justice system, and thus resorting to violence to achieve what contracts, mediators, and courts would do for other businesses, the drug business it turns out is very much a business.

Along the way a secondary story emerges that is just as interesting and even more important. It’s the story of how the drug war makes no sense from the standpoint of economic logic. Destroying fields in South America only makes for poorer farmers because their monopsonistic (i.e. single buyer) market pushes the cost of lost crops back onto them. And because raw product is such a tiny portion of retail price, their destruction has almost no effect on prices at the user end. Furthermore, as more US and European states legalize marijuana, it seems that this will have more of an effect at putting cartels out of business and ending their reign of violence than all the arms shipments and foreign aid for drug enforcement ever had.

The book consists of ten chapters, each of which addresses an area of business practices that have been taken up by the drug cartels. Chapter one is about supply chains, and in the case of cocaine there is a rather long one. The raw product is grown in South America and must be infiltrated into the US—usually through Mexico. (For a while there was a prominent Caribbean route, but it was shut down—at least for a while.) This is where we learn about how the cartels adapt to eradicated crops, as well as how the product is marked up at various stages of the operation.

Chapter 2 is about the decision to compete versus collude. We mostly read about the competition, because in a lawless market competition equals violence. However, over time cartels have been increasingly willing to agree on distribution of territory. Although, there are also clever means to compete unique to criminal enterprises, such as engaging in violence in someone else’s territory to cause the police to crack down there—thus making it harder for said opposition.

Chapter 3 is about human resources, and the different approaches used to handle problems in this domain. In the movies, an drug cartel employee who fouled up always gets a bullet to the brain, but it seems that this isn’t always the case—though it certainly happens. Different countries and regions have differing labor mobility. In some cases, there is no labor mobility. (i.e. if one has a gang’s symbols tattooed all over one’s body, one can’t interview with a rival gang and Aetna sure as hell isn’t going to hire you.)

Chapter 4 is about public relations and giving to the public. One doesn’t think about drug lords engaging in CSR, but in some cases they may be more consistent with it than mainstream businesses. The cartels face an ongoing risk of people informing on them, and at least some of those people can do so without their identities becoming known. Violence is often used to solve problems in this domain, but it can’t do it all. That’s why drug lords build churches and schools, and often become beloved in the process.

Chapter 5 explores “offshoring” in the drug world. This may seem strange, but drug cartels, too, chase low-cost labor. But it’s not just about lowering costs, it’s also about finding a suitable regulatory environment—which in the cartel’s case means a slack one. An interesting point is made that all the statistics on doing business are still relevant to the drug business, but often in reverse. That is, if Toyota is putting in a plant, it wants a place with low corruption, but if the Sinaloa want to put in a facility--the easier the bribery the better.

Chapter 6 describes how franchising has come to be applied to drug cartels—famously the Zetas. The franchisor provides such goods as better weaponry in exchange for a cut of profits. Of course, there’s always a difference in incentives between franchisors and franchisees when it comes to delimiting territory, and this doesn’t always work out as well for drug dealers as it does for McDonald’s franchisees.

While the bulk of the book focuses on cocaine and marijuana, Chapter 7 is different in that most of it deals with the wave of synthetic drugs that has popped up. The topic is innovating around regulation, and so it’s certainly apropos to look at these drugs. If you’re not familiar, there are many synthetic drugs that are usually sold as potpourri or the like. Once they’re outlawed, the formula is tweaked a little. In a way, these “legal highs” may be the most dangerous because no one knows what effect they’ll have when they put the out on the street.

In chapter 8 we learn that the drug world hasn’t missed the online retail phenomena. Using special web browsers, individuals are able to make transactions that are not so difficult to trace. In an intriguing twist, the online market may foster more trust and higher quality product than the conventional street corner seller ever did.

Chapter 9 examines how drug traffickers diversify—most notably into human trafficking. Exploiting their knowledge of how to get things across the border, they become “coyotes.”

The last chapter investigates the effect of legalization, and it focuses heavily upon the effects that Denver’s legalizing marijuana has had in Denver, in the rest of the country, and on the cartels. Wainwright paints a balanced picture that shows that not everything is perfect with legalization. E.g. he presents a couple cases of people who ingested pot-laced food products intended for several servings, and did crazy stuff. However, the bottom line is that legalization (and the regulation and taxation that comes with it) seems to be the way to go if you want to really hurt the cartels and stem the tide of violence, as well as to reduce the number of people showing up at the ER having ingested some substance of unknown chemical composition.

There is an extensive conclusion, about the length of one of the chapters that delves into the many ways our approach to eliminating drug use is ill-advised and dangerous. This connects together a number of the key points made throughout the chapter.

I found this book fascinating. Wainwright does some excellent investigative reporting—at no minor risk to life and limb. If you’re interested in issues of business and economics, you’ll love this book. If you’re not into business and economics, you’ll find this book to be an intriguing and palatable way to take on those subjects.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fact based, rational examination of how ... March 25 2016
By Bismark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fact based, rational examination of how drug cartels operate and by implication, why they continue to thrive. Although the author speaks in terms of the economics of a drug based business, one is logically lead to the inescapable conclusion that our past and current efforts to eradicate the drug trade are woefully misguided. This book is an enlightening and eye-opening dissection of narco economics. If you've ever wondered why the "War on Drugs" has been lost, you'll find a very entertaining and logical answers in the reading of this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Business Side of Drugs March 12 2016
By spsanders - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating look at the cost drivers of illegal drugs. Highly readable and informative. Our lawmakers should put this on their reading lists.
5.0 out of 5 stars An easy five stars! July 16 2017
By Bruce_in_LA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An easy five stars! I work in strategy consulting so I download a fair number of new strategy books. A lot of them I drop after chapter 2 and move on.

NARCONOMICS was fantastic - really interesting and enjoyable. It was my go-to summer audiobook! The narrator was excellent, by the way. And I literally had some laugh out loud moments. The author is good as Steven Johnson, by favorite current non fiction author, and that's a high standard. Readers who enjoy this book may enjoy Steven Johnson (though he writes about technology & society not business per se) and the recent book Brand Luther, taking an economist's/marketer's/business strategist's view of the Reformation.

Here was a laugh out loud moment for me, and let me say, I am here improvising the quotation that I heard last week as audio, so it's not a literal quote. "Wainwright writes that on the Dark Net, he gets rapid customer-centric feedback from anonymous encrypted messaging. "Even when I was deliberately trying to annoy, as when I messaged an online crack pipe dealer Violent86 whether he could engrave a friend's name on a gift pipe. Within a few hours, he politely emailed back that he couldn't, but he wished me luck in finding a vender that could."