Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Niche Creates The Crop

What determines whether a crop will be grown is the value of the crop in its particular ecology. If a crop is valuable enough that it may support an army of bandits to keep away other armies of bandits, and also support those farmers necessary to grow and harvest the crop, it will be grown. So wheat and opium are grown with the assistance of armies, because of their great value; nasturtiums are not widely grown, but here and there are grown with hardly any protection at all, as the currency their worth may be measured in (being mostly the currency of signalling the grower's leisure, skill, and neighborliness) is not carried in the flowers themselves. But consider the nasturtium if it should ever be subject to a variant of the tulip bubble; the increased inherent value of the crop would increase the possibility for theft, hence the size and tactics of the army necessary to defend it.

Who can remember the crops that were lost to us for not fitting through this filter? Those with some value, but not enough to support their growth and protection? Perhaps they are grown in a garden here, a ditch there. But not on great estates on the choicest land.

It does not matter that a state prohibits the crop from being grown; the state, by doing so, only declares itself an enemy of the group of bandits who form to profit from the crop. While the state increases the cost of protecting the crop, and also the cost of growing and harvesting the crop, by doing so it also puts its resources behind increasing scarcity, hence the value of the crop (not every person may grow for himself). The prohibition of a valuable crop thus creates a valuable niche or tropism, which will necessarily be filled in an economy just as in nature.

(One problem with RICO and forfeiture laws is that it allows the state (declared enemy of the crop, foreswearing benefit from it which might entitle the growers to protection) benefits from the bandits' benefit of the crop. The state shares in the profits, and this creates a peculiar set of incentives with the state participants maximizing their benefit.)

Coca, poppies, and cannabis will all be grown in the absence of state prohibition, because they are sufficiently valuable in either case. Only the nature of the army of bandits called into being to protect the crops will vary. The state, when it declares a particular crop its enemy, presents a formidable enemy to any would-be protector of the illegal crop. But the army of bandits that protects illegal crops has an important advantage over the state army of bandits that prohibits illegal crops: it may be formed specifically for this purpose, and need not fit any other functions of the state. The non-state bandit army protecting an opium crop need not provide any expected function of a state, and hence dispenses with many of the limitations of a state. This army lacks the legitimacy and resources of a state government, but can operate leaner and with fewer practical restrictions. For instance, the open use of atrocity to create property rights through terror is rarely available to state actors, especially modern democratic states. If they commit atrocities, they may rarely do so openly, and hence it is more difficult for them to create terrifying reputations. The non-state army of bandits that necessarily arises to protect crops does not have this limitation, and may benefit from this advantage to the detriment of the people. If it is true that a bandit army that uses atrocity will be better able to protect and benefit from the illegal crops than an army that does not, then it logically follows, given a variety of possible armies, that the tactics of atrocity will be used.

Frequently, states highlight atrocities committed by their opponents as reason that they, the states, should be given more power. It is rarely pointed out that the state is ultimately responsible for these atrocities, as their commission follows with very few assumptions from the very prohibition of a valuable crop.

6 comments:

  1. Very good post. People who support drug prohibition often don't take into account the violence that is caused directly by the drug prohibition itself. In a society where certain drugs people want are illegal, there still is a market for those drugs, and the people involved in selling/distributing those drugs in that illegal market can be (and often are) violent and ruthless.

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  2. Actually something similar happens with homosexuality also. Because it's taboo, the only homosexuals who actually surface out tend to be child abusers and rapists.

    Like you say, if there was no artificial hindrance, likely most of these people might get their sexual needs met with mutual consent.

    What's more, this further strengthens the taboo. Much like stealing, looting and even killing for money gets linked with drug users, further promoting hatred for them.

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  3. Funny, I initially misread the title as "The Niche Creates The COP." Sorta the point.

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  4. And the prohibition on pedophilia creates a niche for it and armies to protect it. "It is rarely pointed out that the state is ultimately responsible for these atrocities, as their commission follows with very few assumptions from the very prohibition of a valuable crop." Let's blame our states a little for the atrocities committed against children abroad.

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  5. And the prohibition on pedophilia creates a niche with armies to protect it abroad. "It is rarely pointed out that the state is ultimately responsible for these atrocities, as their commission follows with very few assumptions from the very prohibition of a valuable crop." Let's ultimately blame the states that outlaw pedophilia for the atrocities committed against children abroad.

    [Yes, I am being sarcastic.]

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  6. Especially perverse in Mexico is the practice of dumping bodies on an enemy gang's turf in order to spur a crackdown from the military, and then afterward try to seize the territory.

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