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Drug Trade: Its Functionality as a Business and Place in Society

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Christina Ivanova

BUS 300b: Business Ethics


Drug trade: its functionality as a business and place in society

Drug trade is one of the fastest growing and most profitable industries today. The reason behind the boom of illegal substances distribution lies in the ever-growing demand from society. Economy’s first rule is that demand would be supplied. Therefore, as long as there is demand there would be people willing to trade with substances despite the illicit nature of the act. A United Nations publication of 1998, "Economic and Social Consequences of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking," states that: “the probable global figure for the total illicit drug industry would be approximately $360 billion. Given the conservative bias in some of the estimates for individual substances, a turnover of around $400 billion per annum is considered realistic" (United Nations, 1998). This leave a large gap between suppliers and state legislation. The prohibition of drugs has grown into a full-fledged war against an entire industry worth billions of dollars. The amount of $51,000,000,000 is spent annually just in the U.S. in an attempt to fight the illegal trading business. The government does not even come close to limit it, the war on drugs has proven elusive. Tax revenue that drug legalization would singlehandedly bring to the country is estimated at $46.7 billion. That leaves an extra 97.7 billion dollars the U.S. government can reinvest each year in health care, infrastructure, education, maternity aid etc. (Drug Policy Org, 2016).

The monetary impact is only a small portion of the initial problem. This war has had horrific effects on human lives as a consequence to legal actions taken by governing forces. The number of civilians that fall victim to the war on drugs is ever-growing. In a course of 100 days; from 30th of June to 8th of October, 2016, the Philippines alone reported 1,278 drug-related killings. At least 730 victims were shot in police operations. 2,222 more deaths remain under investigation, stemming from vigilante killings, with probably cause related to drugs. A total of 1,523 “drug suspects” were killed between the 1st of July and the 7th of October as well. (Pacia, 2016). How many of these people were guilty and how many were caught up in the crossfire?

Beyond the Mexican border the monstrous acts are even more horrid. In the first full year of the drug war, 2,837 people are killed. The number triples during the following year. In the third consecutive year the number nears 10,000 victims. September 6, 2015, 43 students who had gone missing are burned alive at a landfill. The bodies of 72 migrants from South and Central America are discovered on a ranch in Tamaulipas state. It is believed the 58 men and 14 women were kidnapped by the Los Zetas cartel and killed for refusing to traffic drugs. Several mass graves holding 177 bodies are discovered in Tamaulipas, the same area where the bodies of 72 migrants were discovered. At least 52 people are killed in an attack on a casino in Monterrey. 46 more bodies are found dumped in various locations around Veracruz. Authorities find 26 bodies in abandoned vehicles and 16 more in trucks that are set ablaze. Another 49 decapitated and dismembered bodies are found along a highway near Nuevo Leone. The death toll has risen to an estimated number of 14,000 victims annually in Mexico alone (CNN, 2016).

Regardless of the negative impact this war has had on humanity, the illegal substances trade has become one of the fastest growing and spreading businesses in today’s modern world. Two fundamental questions arise when we consider this controversial in its essence establishment: 1) Is drug trading ethical or necessary to society, and 2) How does it contribute as a business? In the course of this paper I would endeavor to answer the questions set and identify the concrete ethical standpoint through consult Classical Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle’s philosophical observations.  

Firstly, in order to estimate drug trade as a business establishment, I need to consider a few aspects concerning its appliance to a concrete definition of business. A business is defined as an organization or structure that trades on goods and services. Its main purpose is profit maximization for its shareholders, and thus it exists to create revenue (Investopedia, 2017). We can deduct from this claim that in order for a business to exist, it should create value in terms of liquidity or monetary gains for its owners. A business however, also exists as an establishment in society. In this sense it depends on society in order to exist, therefore, it has responsibility to create value to this society as much as it does to its shareholders. Added value to society however, cannot be estimated through monetary means, therefore, in order to evaluate drug trade’s value, I would use philosophical tools that estimate the business as a service and self-fulfilling structure.

Classical Greek thinker Plato’s early views on how a state should operate can be a starting point in the analysis on the existence of drug trade. In his work “The Republic”, the philosopher describes an ideal society legislated by the state authorities entirely. His intake on substances of opiate nature states firmly that they “will not impress self-control on the minds of youth” (Plato, 380 B.C.,p.35). Moreover, in Plato’s viewpoint consumers of such substances are indulging in their own urges. Therefore, he condemns the abuse on any medium that clouds the reason and moral judgement of a human being. His early views, with a notion of what later in history would be consider as totalitarian philosophy, are highly opposing any form of bodily desires. Drug intoxication of the human body would not only lead to inability of proper judgment, but also would put one’s health at risk, which are two grave violations on his perception of morality. Therefore, in such cases he suggests that “guardians” should take control on behalf of the state and prevent usage of any form of opiates including alcohol and drugs.  In that way he ensures that society would be free of hindrances to its morality and be just, moral and ethical.

Plato also contemplates on the existence of business as an entity created for the purpose of profit. He uses the term “oligarchy” to describe those who indulge in wealth, as the word oligos means “few” in Greek, and refers to the rule of the few. He condemns the pursuit of profit for the mere reason of material wealth “for no one can become or stay rich if they simply indulge themselves in pleasure and spending” (Plato, 380 B.C.).

In this sense, according to Plato’s views nothing in the essence of indulging in business with drugs is moral or ethical. It does not add value, it only provokes bodily desires among society and profits certain individuals in an unjust way, creating oligarchy in its path.



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