Here’s an imaginary conversation between an “underground” economist (UE) and a wannabe journalist-blogger (WJ) recently on the drug problem and the economy.
WJ: Why do people do drugs, knowing it’s a crime?
UE: A crime is also subject to the laws of economics.
W: I don’t understand. Is there an economics of crime?
U: Economists are crazy people. They think that their thinking applies to anything. There’s even an economics of religion that explains how religious leaders can stop typhoons or earthquakes, and how the good book can predict the end of the world. But that’s another story.
W: I still don’t get it. Crime is a bad, not a good. My economics book says the economy produces goods and services, not bads.
U: No bads? Your teacher didn’t teach you right, or you learned wrong.
W: (Sobbing). How can you be so mean? I went to the (… mentions a top school of economics in the country).
U: There, there.. It’s not the end of the world. A good becomes a bad when you don’t want any more of it, and demand becomes supply.
W: You mean that the good is just the opposite of the bad?
U: (to himself) I give up. Maybe this explains why bloggers are wannabe journalists.
U: (continuing) Well, not exactly. You can sell a good you don’t want but you have to find someone who will want your bad (he thinks it’s a good).
W: Now I’m even more confused. Sellers sell bads and buyers buy goods?
U: Haha. Now you get it. Illegal drugs are sold by those who don’t want it. Now, if only I could sell our corrupt politicians, I’d be rich, but who would buy?
W: Yes, who will buy corrupt politicians?
U: You’d be surprised. They buy each other. Ask your pseudo-friendly PR practitioner; she’ll tell you who’s buying whom. They’re addicted to each other no end. They even party with each other, all the time looking old and decrepit, even when they’re young. It’s all very strange.
W: But we’ve strayed. So, again, why do drugs exist?
U: OK, back to square zero. Drugs aren’t inherently bad. Poison in small amounts is medicine. The problem is when you take in too much. How to prevent the “taking too much” is an economic problem.
W: (brightens up) Ok, now I get it. The trick is to educate ourselves to limit drugs and politicians! But nowadays, we pretend to kill drugs but glorify the politicians who like the idea of drugs to keep themselves in office. We need politicians who, like doctors, prescribe drugs as medicine so they won’t have any more jobs. I remember an economist who had a theory of “creative destruction.”
U: And you thought creative destruction explained only the business cycle and the stock markets. By the way, you’re on to something there when you got to thinking that drugs and corrupt politicians are similar. If there were only a few bad politicians, we could just string them up. But if they’re all over, we’re dead.
W: (already dead) ..
U: (also dead) ..
Narrator out of nowhere: The moral is simple. Economists, as bad as they are, say that you can’t just outlaw bads. Good night.