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Narconomics: How To Run a Drug Cartel

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  7,403 ratings  ·  647 reviews
Everything drug cartels do to survive and prosper they’ve learnt from big business – brand value and franchising from McDonald’s, supply chain management from Walmart, diversification from Coca-Cola. Whether it’s human resourcing, R&D, corporate social responsibility, off-shoring, problems with e-commerce or troublesome changes in legislation, the drug lords face the same ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 9th 2017 by Ebury Press (first published March 17th 2016)
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Having lived in a border-state since childhood, I've always been intrigued by Mexico and the plight of that country's citizens. When I was in high school (1990's), my friends and I would frequently lie to our parents and stay out all night, bar-hopping in Juarez. As an adult, I'd have a heart attack if I thought my children had done something like that. However, at 15 you feel pretty invincible and luckily my friends and I never got ourselve
Maria Espadinha
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Importance of Not being Ernest

When a not so brave journalist was sent to cover what is possibly the most brutal business on earth, the expected and obvious epilogue could be:

On a (not such a) fine day, find him in the trunk of an anonymous vehicle, mummified in masking tape, as it happened to the majority of other inquisitive journalists like him.

However, his moderate bravery made all the difference leading him to a happily ever after — this book 👍

Morals of the story:

Number 1 - Since journa
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More addictive than a bag of illicit drugs (one can imagine), this book takes a look at the multi-billion dollar global drug industry in an entirely different way, viewing it as a business and showcasing its different business functions. Narconomics, the economics of narcotics, in other words.

This is not just a book about drugs but a look at many areas of business and economics through a practical lens. It is all strangely addictive, informative and engaging. Tabloid newspapers need not fear; th
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-life, science
First off: I'm not about to become the next El Chapo...El Chapa? Anyways. I had a couple reasons for reading this book. One: I was looking for books on economics, and this one kept coming up as an interesting substitute to typically dry textbooks. Two: understanding drug culture and understanding how to better fight it is incredibly handy in my line of work. So I thought I could kill two birds with one stone.

I wasn't disappointed. At no point did I feel like this book was dry. It did take me a
Andrej Karpathy
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once in a while you read a book that shatters your preconceptions and updates your world view. In the wonderful "Narcoeconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel", Tom Wainwright (an editor at The Economist), explores the narcotics industry through an economic lens. You'll see how drug cartels are much more like McDonalds or Walmart than you previously thought: optimizing their supply chains, competing, forming mergers, colluding, worrying about human resources, public relations and brand building, offs ...more
Blair Lochrie
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite reading cover to cover, I am no closer to establishing my own drug cartel. Apart from this dissapointment, I'd recommend the book.
Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, by Tom Wainwright, is a book that examines the modern drug business (both illegal and legal) in terms of actual business principles. What results is a fairly interesting and innovative book that mixes both journalistic style interviewing and reporting with business and economic principles (though these lightly). Wainwright starts off examining the point of origin, ie. Coca farms in Colombia and Bolivia, through the chain to the US border and the large recre ...more
Margaret Sankey
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wainwright, an economist sent to Mexico to cover the drug wars for financial magazines, decided to apply business analysis after hearing cartel honcho after cartel honcho use business jargon to explain the trade--jails are human resource departments, there are franchises, there are advertising and media branding campaigns, even price collusions with rivals if the incentives are right. What ended up being really striking was the reminder not that cartels were putting on a veneer of corporatism, b ...more
Someone told me that economists can make everything sound boring, and it's true.
You literally tell "how to run a drug cartel" but economic jargon and specific point of view make it kind of uninteresting.
This book isn't bad, you get what was promised in the title, and there are even a few interesting statistics.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel [2016] – ★★★★1/2

The title should not frighten anyone because this non-fiction book will not involve any difficult finance theories or the like. In this book, Tom Wainwright looks at the functioning of a drug cartel from the point of view of an ordinary business. If we view drug operations through the same prism that we use to evaluate an ordinary company then maybe it will be possible to devise solutions that will actually reduce mobsters’ business and stop
11811 (Eleven)
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding analysis of how cartels operate and why the war on drugs has been and continues to be a dismal failure.

Easy read. Recommended.
Alex Givant
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tts, economy, best-of-2018
Excellent book about narcotics' economy.
Daniel Clausen
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2017
The book is exactly what is advertised, a look at the drug trade through economics principles. For this reason, the book suffers some of the limitations of its perspective as well the limitations of a book that does journalism on something clandestine.

The adage, "economists know best" isn't one I would apply to many things on life, but in this case the perspective does add some "value added" to the overall picture. As someone who has read research that has applied economic answers to the proble
Melissa McCauley
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the multi-billion dollar international illegal drug industry. It shows how cartels use tactics of all big businesses: advertising, brand loyalty, customer service, gaining market share, etc. But with guns. And knives. And explosives. The author amply demonstrates how traditional drug enforcement policies are completely inappropriate responses to the epidemic and encourages readers and lawmakers to think more like economists.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
A really interesting Audible listen on all aspects of the drug trade, from the infamous Mexican cartels to the legalised marijuana market in certain US states with many stops in between, detailing the story behind them as well as explaining the reasoning behind the economics of the business in the language of the multinational conglomerates that many of the businesses are.
Nashwa S
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an amazing book! A great insight into how the drug cartels operate especially if you compare them to legitimate businesses - you will see a lot of similarity. It was like watching an extremely well-researched documentary unfolding discussing how cartels manipulate the media, start opening franchises and break into new markets. It also talks about how governments can operate global efforts to curb this multi-billion dollar drug industry.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book that approaches the drug trade through an economist's lens. From comparing global cartels to Walmart and McDonald's, there are plenty of fascinating parallels. Also, having watched both seasons of Narcos, this seemed like a perfect How It Works companion.
Sean Goh
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I salute Wainwright's ballsyness for going in deep with cartel people and writing about their business practices, especially for the country where journalists are silenced with extreme prejudice.
If only economics textbooks were this interesting.

A steer has to be slaughtered, butchered, shipped, seasoned, grilled and served before it is worth $50 a slice. For this reason, no analyst of the beef industry would calculate the price of a live steer mooching around on the Argentine pampa using res
Trevyn Hubbs
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is more like an introduction to business course, with examples drawn from the producers, distributors, and suppliers of illegal drugs. Prepare for terms like 'monopsony' and 'collective action problem'. I loved it, finding the read very enjoyable and educational.

The main point of the book is to explain how fighting the drug trade is like squeezing a balloon--when you put pressure on it in one place, it will expand somewhere else. This is, as long as demand remains strong. Cutting forei
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book analyzing the illegal drug trade as a business with economic indicators such as supply and demand, quality control, market competition and product distribution. Drug cartels must also try to keep up with emerging technologies and online retailing. The book is well written and brings up some alternative ways of looking at the drug trade and ways of controlling it. As a side note, it was revealing to watch the Netflix show Narcos while reading the book. Pablo Escobar was a signifi ...more
Jay Bhatt
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author has done an amazing work towards mapping out things. From selecting your target audience, adjusting to regulations, establishing a company culture while hiring, catering to different types of clients for different business, disruption themselves to gain during legalisation of drugs in the states, there are a lot of things here to learn about supply chain, and how to survive its disruption as well, because cartels always stand their ground, and the author very intricately describes the ...more
Ian .
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great reading after watching Narcos, El Chapo and Escobar in Netflix. Not one of those hands on "for dummies" book but gives a good overview how stuff works. Good comparisons with legal corporations like McDonalds, Coca Cola etc.
Maurício Linhares
Must read, period. Whether you care about the war on drugs or take drugs or live in this planet you should read this book. Tom goes through all the ways drugs are part of society, how the drug cartels are run like multinational businesses, how populations are affected and how whole countries have been destroyed by the so called "war on drugs". He covers how every single suppression policy has only moved the drug problem to another country, how the costs of keeping all these prisons only go up an ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, non-fiction
Taking a run at the global narcotics industry from an economic point of view is certainly illuminating, but the book's conclusions are nothing new. It's an interesting overview, but not a game changer. Worth mining for arguments to deploy against your "shoot the Bali 9" National Party-voting uncle at Christmas, though.
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By Martin Langfield

In “Narconomics,” journalist Tom Wainwright applies the logic of business to the bloody world of drug cartels. His book is both an extended black joke and a hard-headed analysis of the economics of getting high. The “war on drugs” is a fiasco, he writes; legalization offers hope of a more effective, rational approach.

Wainwright, a former Mexico correspondent for the Economist, examines how a global industry with annual revenue of $300 billion and hideous levels of violence has
Philip Joubert
3.5 stars

This book could have been so much more. The book is positioned to make intellectuals feel smart, in the same way that Why We Sleep and Sapiens does, but ultimately it never really reaches those heights.

Criticisms aside, you'll learn a thing or two about why the war on drugs is such an abysmal failure. Wainwright also does a good job of sketching the major "trends" in the reactional drug industry (e.g. legalization, designer drugs) and explores what their impact on the industry will be.
Simon Kao
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Humbling ride, this book provides insightful knowledge on how to sought out, execute, and maintain a successful, rewarding and legit business/career, upping your financing game in life.
Lisa V
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually believe that there are no good or bad people-there's just people and we all do good and bad things. However, every once in awhile, some people (like cartels) seriously challenge that belief.
Fascinating read (particularly on audio) about the economics of the illegal and semi-legal drug trade, the problem with drug policy, the war on drugs and why economists should write crime policy (really!). Provides first hand insights and real insights to ponder.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be completely honest, I listened to this on Audible mostly while I worked out. So my attention wasn't quite where it needed to be - BUT excellent research went into this book. And it certainly provided a different way to look at how cartels operate.
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Tom Wainwright is the Britain Editor of The Economist. He joined the Britain section in 2007 to cover a beat including crime and justice, migration and social affairs. In 2010 he became the newspaper’s Mexico City bureau chief, responsible for coverage of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. There he wrote a special report on Mexico (“From darkness, dawn”, 2012). In 2013 he returned to Londo ...more

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“Look at the evolution of the price of a kilogram of the drug, as it makes its way from the Andes to Los Angeles. To make that much cocaine, one needs somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 kilograms of dried coca leaves. Based on price data from Colombia obtained by Gallego and Rico, that would cost about $385. Once this is converted into a kilo of cocaine, it can sell in Colombia for $800. According to figures pulled together by Beau Kilmer and Peter Reuter at the RAND Corporation, an American think tank, that same kilo is worth $2,200 by the time it is exported from Colombia, and it has climbed to $14,500 by the time it is imported to the United States. After being transferred to a midlevel dealer, its price climbs to $19,500. Finally, it is sold by street-level dealers for $78,000.10 Even these soaring figures do not quite get across the scale of the markups involved in the cocaine business. At each of these stages, the drug is diluted, as traffickers and dealers “cut” the drug with other substances, to make it go further. Take this into account, and the price of a pure kilogram of cocaine at the retail end is in fact about $122,000.” 4 likes
“Despite international bans on the leaf, the Bolivian state supports various national industries that churn out all manner of coca-related products, from sweets, cookies, and drinks to coca-infused toothpaste. The industry is regulated by the Vice-Ministry of Coca, which imposes the limits on how much of the leaf can be grown. The” 1 likes
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