Review: Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, by Tom Wainwright

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug CartelNarconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having lived in a border-state since childhood, I’ve always been intrigued by Mexico and the plight of that country’s citizens. When I was in high school (1990’s), my friends and I would frequently lie to our parents and stay out all night, bar-hopping in Juarez. As an adult, I’d have a heart attack if I thought my children had done something like that. However, at 15 you feel pretty invincible and luckily my friends and I never got ourselves into any serious trouble.

By 2007, Juarez was dubbed the murder capitol of the world. Mexico’s drug cartels engaged in a brutal turf war. The violence was spilling over the border with increasing frequency. Kidnapping, torture and murder were commonplace. With a government plagued by corruption at all levels, the people of Juarez were at the mercy of the cartels, with nowhere to turn for help. Out-gunned and out-manned, legitimate law enforcement on both sides of the border are left impotent.

‘Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel’ shed a new light on the operation of drug cartels for me. I’ve spent plenty of time reading news articles outlining the shocking crimes committed by the cartels, but I can’t say I ever had much of an understanding of the financial side of the illegal drug trade. Sure, I knew that it is a very profitable and dangerous business. I also understood basic principles of supply and demand. I just never went beyond “skimming the surface”.

The book is provides the account of a journalist that delves into the world of the narcos, applying economic principles to the drug trade. Using economic principles, the author is able to explain many of the driving factors that make the manufacture and sale of illicit drugs so lucrative. Political, cultural and geographic considerations are also touched upon, in order to provide a more comprehensive view.

While I found this book to be very interesting, I have to admit that I often found myself bored. This probably has far more to do with my reading tastes, which strongly favor entertainment over enlightenment, than it does with the quality of this non-fiction work. That being said, take my rating with a grain of salt. If you’re an avid non-fiction reader, this book might be a 5-star read for you.

Overall, it was an “okay” read for me. Again, this is more of a reflection of my personal preferences than the quality of the content. I learned quite a lot from this book and looked at the drug trade through a new lens. Very interesting, but not an entertaining page-turner for me.

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