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Publisher's 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.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Honest and in-depth

This was by far one of the most interesting books I have ever read/listened to. It gave a real view how we in North America approach narcotics incorrectly and how we fool ourselves into thinking it is going away. It changed my understanding of the illegal markets and what policy does to 'discourage' them, and helped me form new opinions. I would encourage this book to everyone, especially with marijuana being legalized in Canada and around the United States.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good

I was recommended this book by a friend of mine, solid read but just wasn't that exceptional to me. I've read more engaging economics books about less interesting topics.

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Entertaining and informative

Enjoying the perspective of an economist and the approach the author takes. #audible1.
Narrator is good and easy to lsten to.

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Entertaining and informative!

This is a great audio book, I can highly recommend it to you! :) #audible1

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This is the book to convince you, or someone you know that we are fighting this problem wrong.

The narration is fantastic, and even more the content of the book is amazing. This book takes a deep look at HOW the drug business is run, and explains how we can disrupt it in a way that minimizes harm, stops the economic drain into organized crime, and look at the whole system instead of a part. Highly recommend.

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Must read

The book is an excellent overview of the business of drug dealing from an economics perspective.
The narrative is mostly neutral but the author cannot resist gently mocking the failing "war on drugs" policies on occasion. From a leftie perspective his comments are all too soft, but for a rightie they may seem the height of offense.
The bottom line is that all information presented is factual and most of his conclusions have been discussed for decades in the academia.
The author does not discuss why there is a war on drugs in the first place and why it persists despite overwhelming evidence of its failure. For such discussions you will have to look elsewhere. I suggest starting with the New Jim Crow...

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  • A reader
  • Philadelphia
  • 2016-04-11

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.

62 of 68 people found this review helpful

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  • CHET YARBROUGH
  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States
  • 2016-05-18

NARCONOMICS

“Narconomics” is about the business of illegal drugs. Tom Wainwright notes drug cartels are modern businesses that benefit one-percenters while liberally rewarding middle class managers with money, power, and prestige. However, these one-percenters brutally terrorize employees and kill their customers. These business moguls systematically bribe and brutalize the public.

The manufacture and sale of illegal drugs is a growth industry, diversifying its practices and products while becoming global enterprises. An irony of Wainwright’s story is the ugliness and economic success of an illegal business is abetted by governments that support the war on drugs. The substance of Wainwright’s book is that cartels are run with many of the fundamental principles (aside from terror and murder) that make international companies like Wal-Mart richly successful.

Wainwright offers a compelling argument for attacking drug cartels by removing the source of their profits. The source of profits is the consuming public; not the illegal drug manufacturers and distributors. The illegal drug manufacturers and distributors are just the cost of doing business; not the source of profit.

Wainwright notes that drug cartels have already diversified; i.e. they are human traffickers, and extortion consortiums. The glimmer of hope is that human trafficking and extortion do not pander to the human desire for escape offered by drugs. Government agencies and the general public are equally repulsed by human trafficking, murder, and extortion. Governments and the general public are more likely to cooperate in eradicating that type of criminal activity; less so with drug addiction.

Decriminalize drug use, cure the public of its need for drugs or at least treat the addicted, and drug cartels have no motive to be in the business. There is no simple or cheap alternative to “the war on drugs” but there is a history that shows war on manufacturers and distributors of illegal drugs does not work. As long as the consumer wants the product, manufacturers and distributors will figure out how to supply the demand. Consumer demand is the driver behind the wheel of “Narconomics”. Treat the drug addicted, decriminalize and govern the use of drugs, and educate the public on the consequence of drug use. These actions, like the ban on smoking in public areas, will not end addiction but it will change the drug cartel industry into a criminal enterprise that most will recognize and despise.

34 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Felipe Alves
  • 2016-12-15

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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Jolene
  • 2016-04-23

Great book

Wonderfully thought out and made easy to understand. This is a topic touching so many people. The timing is impeccable. The economic portion was made simple enough for anyone to understand. I do not agree with the portion that knowledge of how the drug trade effects Central and South America will change the behavior of Americans and Europeans. I do however believe that regulation and taxation can lead to a windfall in the public sector just in time to save some of our failing infrastructure.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Jorgenson
  • Manchester, NH USA
  • 2016-05-05

Fantastic and challenging read

Tom Wainwright has penned an outstanding book looking at drugs as business. What he finds challenges many of our deepest held assumptions on how to tackle drugs policy. It's a great book that everyone, especially policymakers, should read.

As for the narration, Brian Hutchison does an excellent job, although it is odd to hear Briticisms in an American accent.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Eventus
  • 2016-06-08

Very interesting information and well researched.

Very interesting book, although i don't think it was the authors' intent but it makes a strong case for legalization of all narcotics, in my opinion. Although it does lean more toward pro government action, in my view after reading the book I get the feeling governments are essentially useless and powerless to stop the industry. If they can't even keep it out of prisons, facilities which are completely dominated by government, there is no way governments can even slow it down in the rest of the economy. This is proven by the growing usage statistics from around the world. Instead the only real solution is education and rehab. Book does a great job exploring the industry. learned a lot

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • funkyman33
  • Ottawa, Canada
  • 2016-12-06

An insightful look into the business of cartels

This was a great book. It provided amazing insight into the drug trade, how it functions, and the problem with our current "War on Drugs". The only major weakness was a minimization of the opioid epidemic currently happening in North America. While opioids were mentioned, they were reduced to a doctor-created problem and the author didn't go into much detail regarding the current steep rise in addiction. This can be excused by the fact that the book was published before the epidemic became widely known. I would highly recommend this book!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian David Provencher
  • Plainfield, CT
  • 2016-05-09

Extremely interesting

Very interesting. A very progressive way of looking at the economy of drugs. A lot of logical wisdom packed in here.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt
  • West Mifflin, PA, United States
  • 2016-04-18

Awesome book

If you like Freakonomics or Gladwell, you'll love this book. I wish Tom Wainwright had written another book--I'd be buying it right now.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Barbara Voss
  • 2017-01-25

Poor narration

The subject matter was ok, not a lot of new info. You but the narrator's inability to pronounce basic Spanish words was really irritating. He has a pleasant voice and pace but is a bad pick for a book about Latin America.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful