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Since Freakonomics, there have been a lot of books that use economics to explain aspects of history or society, but Narconomics is one of the best of this genre. It examines drug cartels as if they were regular companies, and looks at how they deal with issues like hiring, distribution, and marketing (who would have thought of tattoos as an employee retention strategy?). Not only is the result engaging, but it also provides one of the most illuminating discussions of drug policy I have read.
I should mention that I am not particularly interested in the topic of drugs and drug dealers (I think I am the only person who has never seen either the Wire or Breaking Bad), but Wainwright made the subject deeply engaging, not just with breezy writing, but also by traveling to the locations and offering compelling interviews and reporting. I am, however, trained in economics, and I know a number of the scholars and papers he cites. Here Wainwright deserves a lot of credit for interpreting this material accurately and with remarkable clarity. Thus, even if you aren't interested in drugs, but just interested in economics and society in general, I think this is a great listen.
If this book has a downside, it is mostly that it is a little disjointed. It is loosely organized around topics like human resource, production, and distribution, but there isn't really a narrative to pull everything together. Still, I found myself listening for long stretches and found a lot of compelling concepts and arguments that were new to me. Wainwright is also very clear-eyed about the topic, dealing even evenhandedly with hot-button issues such as legalization and US policy in Latin America.
59 of 60 people found this review helpful
The book is excellent, it explains very clearly how the narcotics business works and which are its weak points. The narrator does a good job, but is sadly miscast: the american accent would not be a problem if the author did not mention he is British so often, and some foreign words were so mispronounced as to be unrecognizeable.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
Where does Narconomics rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Towards the top end. It isn't a life changing non-fiction like some I have read but I found it very useful to flesh out my knowledge of the drugs trade.
What other book might you compare Narconomics to, and why?
The two other major non-fiction books I've read on drugs have been Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari and Drugs Without the Hot Air by Professor David Nutt. This book has bits of both from these books (ethical and scientific approaches) as well as the economic slant running through. I would recommend all three of these books.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
Though not set out in scenes I did enjoy the chapter on people trafficking and migration and the links between the actions of the drugs trades and those trades.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
There were many examples of injustice littered throughout and it is a great shame that as societies we have maintained these practices despite the evidence suggesting we are approaching it incorrectly.
Any additional comments?
A book that did cover the ethical side of things (I had worried it would be simply economics when I purchased it and I'm happy I was wrong) unfortunately didn't cover the inherent racism and class war involved in these practices in enough detail for my liking but generally was a strong piece of work throughout.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
A very interesting new take on narcotics, looking at the business from an economic angle and drawing parallels between conventional business practices. Turns out there's not as much difference as you might think once you get passed the murders. I was particularly interested in the phenomenon of "franchising" criminal gangs much as fast-food outlets do.
The book ends with an argument for legalization, which I was expecting. This is a policy I don't personally agree with, however one of this books strengths is that no-matter where you are in the drugs debate, there's something here that will make you uncomfortable. And if the war on drugs is to continue, which for at least the most dangerous substances seems unavoidable: this book makes a powerful argument for a radical change in tactics.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Narconomics to be better than the print version?
Can't answer this entirely as I dont have the print version, but I did enjoy the listen.
What did you like best about this story?
The similarities in other industries
Have you listened to any of Brian Hutchison’s other performances? How does this one compare?
A brilliant peek behind the curtain into an industry that has affected almost everyone on the planet.