Drug Related Violence

Drug Related Violence

In his book Chasing The Scream, Johann Hari writes about common misconceptions related to drug violence in the United States. Misconceptions influence drug policy, shape the way people think about drug crimes and drug users, and prevent us from taking real action to help reduce the conflicts and negative externalities related to the American war on drugs.


Hari writes, “When we hear about drug-related violence, we picture somebody getting high and killing people. We think the violence is the product of the drugs. But in fact, it turns out this is only a tiny sliver of the violence. The vast majority is … to establish, protect, and defend drug territory in an illegal market, and to build a name for being consistently terrifying so nobody tries to take your property or turf.”


What Hari suggests throughout the book is that many of the negative things we relate to drug use is more associated with prohibition against drugs. Making drugs illegal and trying to stamp out any drug use in an all-out war creates negative externalities that justify violence and prohibition. The war on drugs creates a positive feedback loop, making drug use and drug trafficking more dangerous, building support for harsher treatment and destruction of drug users and sellers.


When we make something illegal, we create a black market. On the black market, as I wrote about from Brookings Scholar John Hudak’s book Marijuana: A Short History, suppliers don’t have to meet safety and quality standards that would exist in a regulated legal market. This is where the dangers of drug use arise and where drug related violence comes into the picture. Many of the people using drugs directly are non-violent, and don’t want to cause harm to others when using drugs. They harm others when they need to obtain drugs illegally, on a costly and dangerous black market. The sellers create relationships and build territory, and use their own force to control their territory, since relying on police protection and legal backing to defend property and product is not an option in a black market.


I don’t know what the world would look like without a war on drugs and with a legal market for obtaining drugs. I don’t know what new externaliteis would arise and how we would face them. But I do think that Hari is correct and that we should acknowledge that much of the drug related violence and crime, and much of the safety concerns related to drug use, stem from the very prohibition and war that we approve of to stamp out drug use. The current approach seems incapable of eradicating drugs, but it does seem to spur substantial drug related violence and safety issues.

What is Creativity?

In his book, A Users Guide to the Creative Mind, Dave Birss writes about how to be creative, and he addresses what we consider creative ideas. He uses a quote from the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun” to help explain his idea of what creativity is. Birss continues and writes, “It’s better to think of a creative idea as a recombination of existing elements,” which strengthens the platform he establishes with his quote from the Bible.
What Birss is saying is that we have popular misconceptions of creativity and creative people. In some ways we believe that creative people are of a different breed, or have different skills and mental abilities than most people.  We imagine brilliant and creative people as having the ability to think of novel ideas to create and design things that have never before been thought of.
Birss is stating that creativity and the creative process is not built upon a foundation of innovative ideas that are new to humanity. Instead, he writes that our minds are not generating anything new, but simply finding new ways of combining ideas.
I enjoy thinking about creativity in this way because it allows me to be creative and not feel pressured into having novel ideas for applying my creativity. His view on creativity is distinctly human since we all have different viewpoints, backgrounds, and interest, and our diversity in these areas can help us be creative by expressing our unique perspectives.