The Limits and Consequences of U.S. Foreign Drug Control Efforts

by Peter Reuter

Efforts to reduce cocaine production and exports from the Andean region continue to be an important component of U.S. drug control efforts. This article presents a simple economic analysis of the effects of major source-country control programs: eradication, crop substitution, and refinery destruction. When account is taken of the structure of prices in the cocaine industry and the ability of farmers and refiners to make behavioral adaptations, none of these programs has much prospect for affecting the flow of cocaine to the United States. Despite the continued failure of the programs and the analytic arguments against them, they continue to flourish budgetarily; they are protected by the rhetorical claims of the past, the need to appear to have a complete portfolio of programs, and the sheer momentum of drug control expenditures.

Originally published in: The Annals, no. 521, May, 1992, pp. 151-162.

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