Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Tue Aug 24 20:10:36 PDT 1999

"Street-level drug dealing appears to be less lucrative than is generally thought."

As if anybody but them thought it was all those crack head dope pushers whose money was being laundered in the New York banks.

>the actual street-level dealers appear to
> earn less than the minimum wage throughout most of our sample,
> in spite of the substantial risks associated with such
> activities (the annual violent death rate in our sample is
> 0.07).

One would imagine that drug addiction, resulting often from poor life choices due to racism or little inherited capital of any sort (educational, cultural, economic), accounts for the willingness of street level dealers to accept subminimum wages along with substantial risk. Of course whether these front line dope pushers and hit men are often addicts is not something that can be ascertained by an audit of some books--the only source of data (other than a whole bunch of Hollywood 'g' movies) they seem to be working with to understand the drug economy.

At any rate, it's a bit absurd to consider the decisions of the lowest people on the drug food chain in terms of some model of rational decision making and then conclude that their decisions reveal the low value they must put on their lives (otherwise their decisions would not be rational). The point is that due to addiction no matter how highly the street level dope pusher values his own life or much he fears his own death--and the low value inferred by Levitt is perverse--his addiction compels him to engage in low paying, risky 'work'--including violent hits on rival gangs. What really needs explaining is why the war on drugs is structured around arresting the lowest level drug dealers (themselves often crack heads) and treating them in a surrealistically draconian manner.

Yours, Rakesh

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