Summary

What drug lords learned from big business.
How does a budding cartel boss succeed (and survive) in the $300 billion illegal drug business? By learning from the best, of course. From creating brand value to fine-tuning customer service, the folks running cartels have been attentive students of the strategy and tactics used by corporations such as Walmart, McDonald's, and Coca-Cola.
And what can government learn to combat this scourge? By analyzing the cartels as companies, law enforcers might better understand how they work - and stop throwing away $100 billion a year in a futile effort to win the "war" against this global, highly organized business.
Your intrepid guide to the most exotic and brutal industry on earth is Tom Wainwright. Picking his way through Andean cocaine fields, Central American prisons, Colorado pot shops, and the online drug dens of the Dark Web, Wainwright provides a fresh, innovative look into the drug trade and its 250 million customers.
The cast of characters includes "Bin Laden", the Bolivian coca guide; "Old Lin", the Salvadoran gang leader; "Starboy", the millionaire New Zealand pill maker; and a cozy Mexican grandmother who cooks blueberry pancakes while plotting murder. Along with presidents, cops, and teenage hit men, they explain such matters as the business purpose for head-to-toe tattoos, how gangs decide whether to compete or collude, and why cartels care a surprising amount about corporate social responsibility.
More than just an investigation of how drug cartels do business, Narconomics is also a blueprint for how to defeat them.
©2016 Tom Wainwright (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Gregory Monk on 05-06-17

A well rounded analysis on the war on drugs

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.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mr on 19-06-17

Origional, thought-provoking, challenging.

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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Ethan M. on 11-04-16

Worthy book in the "economics explains X" genre

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.

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59 of 60 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Felipe Alves on 15-12-16

Great book, miscast narrator

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.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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