The purpose of this paper is to introduce and discuss the recurring problem of black markets, including drug trafficking, nuclear weapons, and human black markets (consisting of organs, babies, and slaves). It will point out the difficulties with black marketing, including the obvious moral issues, resulting problems to the community, and try to discover some solutions to the black market trade.
BLACK MARKETS AND THEIR RESULTS
Illegal substances have always been a magnet for black market profits. Prohibition failed largely because there was such a lucrative and enormous black market surrounding the manufacture and supply of illegal alcohol. Many family fortunes were made during prohibition, when drinking was made illegal, but people drank anyway. The same thing happens when prices are fixed in an attempt to reduce or regulate consumption.
If prices are fixed so low that supplies fall far short of effective demand, widespread black markets are almost inevitable under the twin impact of a large number of potential patrons and the large profits that can be earned. It is generally believed that when 15 per cent or more of the transactions take place in the black market, the whole structure of price control for the product affected will disintegrate rapidly (Backman 636).
DRUG TRAFFICKING AND ITS RESULTS
The drug trade worldwide is probably one of the best-known and highly visible black markets today. In an attempt to control drug use, the governments of most countries in the world have cracked down on illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other addictive drugs, thus paving the way for a flourishing black market. Whenever there is a larger demand for a product than is readily available, or prices on a particular item are controlled, a black market can develop and thrive. "The temptation is great to cut corners and to evade the controls. Inventiveness is turned to the exploitation of loopholes and to ways of giving only lip service to the law. The subversion of the controls breaks out in black markets" (Backman 629).
Illegal drugs are some of the most prolific black markets because of their addictive nature. Once a user is hooked on a drug, he needs it to feel "good," and as he or she continues to use it, they need more to get high. They are the perfect consumer for a black market, because they continually need the product, and need more of it. In many countries of the world, black market drug traffickers have more power than the local governments, and use it openly. In Latin America particularly,
Drug interests have sought to undermine political institutions through bribery, defiance, intimidation, and occasionally through alliances with armed guerrilla movements. Colombia in particular has experienced the pains of "narco-terrorism," an open war by the Medell'n cocaine cartel against the political establishment (Smith 1).
The largest cartels and black markets exist in Latin America, and that has been where the United States had concentrated much of its drug enforcement efforts overseas. When marijuana production dropped in Latin America due to heavy enforcement, much growing shifted to Mexico. When, urged by the U.S., Mexico cracked down on growing, much of it moved to the United States. Today, over one-third of the marijuana grown for illicit use is grown in the United States (Smith 8).
In addition, the power that these drug black markets wield is incredible. "In Peru, the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorists extort levies from growers and transporters of coca while accepting money from the drug dealers to protect them from the army and police" (Schweitzer and Dorsch 169). Much black market activity funds terrorist groups around the world, including the Middle East, Asia, and other hotbeds of international terrorism. "In Lebanon, the Hizballah has participated in drug dealing that has been at the center of the political chaos over many years" (Schweitzer and Dorsch 169).
What can be done to curb drug trafficking around the world? Some experts believe a national drug policy adopted by the United States is one step in the right direction.
National drug policy should aim to improve the quality of neighborhood life and the safety of the streets. It has been extensively documented that the illegality of both the use and sale of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana has contributed tragically to the decline of neighborhood quality in cities all across the country, and that the decline is due primarily to the illegality of those substances and their attendant black markets and turf wars. A relaxation of controls, along the line suggested just above, would undercut the incentives to criminal sales -- even at the risk of depriving many inner-city youth of the most lucrative youth employment program of the century (Vallance 104).
Many experts believe that reducing the penalties for so called "harmless" drugs like marijuana, would help end black markets, and also cut down on inner city crime, health costs, and law enforcement costs. However, others believe that taxing and controlling the drug would be more detrimental in the end. "Less and more-focused enforcement might prove beneficial to all countries; this option has not yet been seriously explored. Such a step requires collaboration" (Smith 326). While decriminalizing marijuana could lead to less black market traffic, if the drug was controlled as to potency, and taxed heavily, a black market would probably still exist for the drug, thereby counteracting the effects of making it legal.
Clearly, there are extreme societal problems that occur with illegal drug use beyond the issue of black markets. Crime increases in areas with heavy drug use, as users steal and rob to pay for more drugs. Addicts become unproductive and costly members of society, and can infect their children, as in "crack babies" who are addicted to crack cocaine at birth because of drug use by the mother. The cost to try to control illegal drugs is also extremely heavy in terms of societal support (clinics, drug abuse counseling, and medical care), along with the high costs of policing and then prison if police catch dealers and users.
The solutions are varied and all have their own set of problems involved. Ultimately, the solution with the least set of problems associated with it should be adopted for a trial period, and then put into place after a study of its problems vs. results. The legalization of marijuana in a controlled amount is the logical place to begin this process.
NUCLEAR WEAPON TRAFFICKING
If drug trafficking is one of the most well-known types of black markets, nuclear weapons trafficking is certainly one of the most frightening. A black market organization dealing in nuclear weapons could literally bring about the end of the world, if their weapons reached the wrong hands.
While there is nuclear material available in numerous countries around the world, nuclear trafficking is most prolific in Russia, where nuclear weapons abounded during the Cold War. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many states were left with the problem of storing and disposing of weapons, and they were unprepared. While these Russian states are attempting to dispose of their weapons, they have run into problems with the funds to destroy them. One of the most frightening ways traffickers get nuclear materials out of Russia is through military airports. These airports are not subject to customs and other scrutiny, and if enough bribes are given to the right people, the material can move right through (Schweitzer and Dorsch 65). Russian officials are quick to deny any problems with their nuclear defense, but "Many Western analysts and government officials, on the other hand, maintain that the recent seizures of HEU and plutonium are but the first wave of the long anticipated flood of nuclear contraband" (Potter 139).
Black marketers are quick to see the opportunities for big dollars in the trafficking of nuclear weapons, and so are eager to work with these materials, to the danger of us all.
Criminal cartels could replenish their coffers by trafficking in nuclear weapons or weapons grade materials as middlemen, even if they were not the end users themselves. Consider the increased degree of freedom for U.S. opponents in Panama (Just Cause) or in Iraq (Desert Shield and Desert Storm) if Noriega's agents in the Canal Zone or Saddam's operatives in Kuwait had had available even a small nuclear device, well timed and strategically located (Cimbala 132).
Nuclear weaponry is one of the most dangerous threats facing us today. As long as the security of nuclear weapons is in question, no one on Earth is safe from nuclear destruction. The trafficking of these devices is one of the worst trafficking offenses in relation to the harm that could come to the greatest number of people. In order to contain these…