Comments: Cocaine Economics

Hi Tones & Claire

Just read your latest post yesterday, all good fun by the sounds of it. News from here is that Chirac is "thinking" about the local election results which were finalised here this am with a massive swing to the left and consequently tantamount to a no confidence vote for him & his cronies, "thinking" is a French euphamism for he's considering sacking the Government. Here's hoping, but this lot have the arrogance of a 1980's tory minister caught in bed snorting nose candy off a hookers arse so it may not happen.

I was listening to Radio 4's "From our own correspondant" on Saturday Andrew Marrs report on Tony Blairs visit to shake Gaddafis hand made interseting listening so here's the transcript for you, take care & be good.

R4 Andrew Marr 27th March 2004

In so many ways it was a mad, mad week, madder even than some of the Blair whirlwind mystery tours that followed 11 September.
Belfast, Madrid, Lisbon, Tripoli, Brussels within what, three days.
"You look knackered", said Colonel Gaddafi when Tony Blair finally arrived in his tent, or Arabic words to that effect.
Hardly surprising. And emotionally, it must have been draining too. The grind of face-to-face negotiations with grimly irreconciled Northern Irish politicians, then the poignant grandeur of the state funeral for 190 victims of the Madrid bombs.
How must it have felt for Mr Blair to stand there, surrounded by so many other people who believe - wrongly or rightly - that they died partly because of a war he helped start? And then his own speech in a Portuguese garden when, perhaps affected by the Madrid funeral, he spoke eloquently about how he knew his critics felt we had penetrated too deeply into the Muslim world with this war.
His critics, he said, thought he had made a terrible mistake in the war against terrorism, and how that argument could not be resolved, not now and perhaps not ever.
Then he had the air of a man who realised just how much political damage Iraq had caused him.
If so, it was a rare reflective moment.
He was soon in the air again, flying through the dawn to Tripoli.
'Travelling circus'
And so to the place. Let me explain about the place. That is its name, that and no other.
If Gaddafi moves, the place is no longer the place - it is then another place, a tent on a beach, or a hotel room.
For today however, the place consisted of four olive-green, quilted tents on a roadside between large green rolling fields.
Outside there were a few cars, a little collection of men standing around, some in khaki, some in business suits, some in jeans. There were some white plastic chairs, the kind you might have for a barbeque out the back.
It all looked a bit like a small, perhaps rather unsuccessful, travelling circus, beside some fields in Lincolnshire. Except, of course, for the camels.
And who was that peering round the corner of a tent-flap, waiting anxiously for his guest?
Unmistakeable, a few yards in front of me with the dark glasses, the little Arab hat and flowing robes.
And then Colonel Gaddafi disappeared again as a terrifying mob of unruly, aggressive-looking people - the British media - came down the road, pursuing Tony Blair as he went into the tent.
Hands flapping, looking worried, Libyan officials eventually restored order and waved us back a little.
Then the real climax of the visit happened - the handshake - cleanly and clearly recorded by the cameras to be sent round the world.
We then did what real journalism so often consists of; we hung around.
Inside the tent, we could see Blair and Gaddafi in silhouette. What were they talking about?
An official came out and asked everyone please to move away a little bit.
Our speculations about them could be heard, every word, by them. We were putting them off.
This is, incidentally, a telling image of how much political journalism often works, peering in from the outside, not being able to hear but hoping to be noticed.
So we waited.
Last leg
The air was warm and scented with wild thyme and there were spring flowers all around us.
Libya's foreign minister was there, talking about how much he hated Osama bin Laden.
Apart from the coughing of camels and the muffled cursing of cameramen, it was all rather peaceful at the place.
After the two leaders had walked from one tent to another for lunch, fish couscous, apparently, and fresh fruit, the rest of us returned to Tripoli.
Tripoli is that rare thing in the world today, a low-rise capital city, with barely any advertising.
There were clothes in the shops, and not all the women wore headscarves, and there were some pretty looking mosques.
But it had a faded, rather forlorn air; lots of concrete buildings begun and then apparently left uncompleted, as if there had been a radical loss of heart.
Artillery pieces and radar screens looked out to sea, badly disguised with brown sheets. Compared to any other Mediterranean city I can think of, the harbour was virtually empty.
So when Tony Blair returned to the British consulate to report on his meeting, and we were introduced to British businessmen here to sign deals it was clear that Gaddafi's turn to the West will be good news for ordinary Libyans. What about the rest of us? Had this visit made Tony Blair feel in any way queasy, I asked him.
"No", he said, but he paused for a very long time before he said it.
And generally when you travel in the prime minister's plane, he comes back to chat. Not this time.
I do not think he enjoyed what he had to do this week, but it is also clear how much he hates constantly being surrounded by journalists and lenses and questions.
Colonel Gaddafi's camels have their flies. He has us.

Posted by Brendan Quinlan at March 29, 2004 01:08 AM

Heya Tones,

I hope you and Claire are fine; personally, I'm still fighting the dreaded spirochete. sheeesh!

As much as I enjoyed your impeccably researched and well written essay on the marketing aspects of the cocaine economy, I'm a bit disappointed you didn't treat us to the classic "anarchist" background of imaginative trade triads at work "hacking" legistatively constrained economies.

As in the Poindexter-North cocaine-for-cash-for-weapons triad to circumvent the US Congress' wishes in Nicaragua/Honduras, anarchist economic historians love to rehash the bullion-for-tea-for-opium trade triad to topple the "Golden Kingdom's" mandated trade policies (and brought to us by that old global-strife standby, yes you guessed it, the US and British governments of their day).

Although back then the roles were a bit reversed from today; US traders and their clippers playing second fiddle to the Brits with their love of tea swamping their economy big-time, contrasted with the current situation of the Brits playing the strong silent type backing the USA's big play in Iraq!

Hell, Karl Marx got away with this sort of essay in the New York Tribune on June 14, 1853; I'm disappointed that you didn't take a crack at it now that you are in "historical trade triad" country! ;D

These examples seque nicely into the current trade triad in constrained economies I see brewing; American jobs-for-competitive stock prices-for AIDS pharmaceuticals to balance the US trade deficit to India/China.

AIDS is approaching the critical mass stage in both countries and, if history is any marker, might well spell the end of outcourcing US white-collar jobs before it gets a good head of economic steam going.

If I can get my addled mind around it, I am beginning some research into the overly regulated flow of AIDS pharmaceuticals being used as a possible counter-balance to the current economic teeter-totter of trading American jobs to India and China for competitive stock market earnings in major US corporations.

The scenario is ripe given that the moral outrageousness of the trade balancing triangle's third leg is filled by US Pharmaceutical companies over-pricing their highly proprietary AIDS drugs (with GWB's help, of course).

I wonder if I can make this work; the services economy is always so much more complex to model than those built around durable goods economies by the neoeconomist-brainiacs who so love to bandy about Ricardian economic theory these days.

In any event, I truly enjoyed reading your treatise on the Cocaine Economy from your perspective in the "jungle".

I hope you are well, being safe, and living as large as you can in dicey times traveling in dangerous places. ;D



Posted by tim vogel at May 4, 2004 01:53 AM