The economics of opium

Peter Passell has a new website and a new book (Where To Put Your Money NOW) which I’ve not seen yet. Here he opines on Afghanistan:

What to do? It’s easier to check off what won’t work. Crop eradication by high-altitude spraying is both a logistical nightmare and a surefire way to alienate rural residents. Crop substitution is a joke. Paying current farmers not to grow opium would simply lead other farmers to go into the business – and there’s no end of remote land available to raise the flowers. Buying the crop and either using it to make medicinal morphine or simply destroying it is equally problematic. As long as there’s a demand for illicit opium, there will always be a place in Afghanistan to grow it.
Hardly anyone wants to hear that the war in Afghanistan is effectively unwinnable as long as opium is plentiful.

That’s based on an article by Robert Mooney in the Milken Institute Review – which Peter edits. And I’m going to go and check out Peter’s book – and Mooney’s article.

Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.