71 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 14, 2014
Using the case of the cocaine trade in Mexico as a relevant and salient example, this paper shows that scarcity leads to violence in markets lacking third party enforcement. We construct a model in which supply shortages increase total revenue when demand is inelastic. If property rights over revenues are not well defined because of the lack of reliable third party enforcement, the incentives to prey on others and avoid predation by exercising violence increase with scarcity, thus increasing violence. We test our model and the proposed channel using data for the cocaine trade in Mexico. We find that exogenous supply shocks originating in changes in the amount of cocaine seized in Colombia - Mexico's main cocaine supplier - create scarcity and increase drug-related violence in Mexico. In accordance with our model, the effect of cocaine scarcity on violence is larger near U.S. entry points; in locations contested by several cartels; and where, due to high support for the PAN party, crackdowns on the cocaine trade have been more frequent. Our estimates suggest that, for the period 2006-2010, scarcity created by more efficient interdiction policies in Colombia may account for 21.2% and 46% of the increase in homicides and drug-related homicides in the north of the country, respectively. At least over the short run, under the so-called War on Drugs, scarcity created by Colombian supply reduction eforts has resulted in negative spillovers in the form of more violence in Mexico.
Keywords: Rule of Law, War on Drugs, Violence, Illegal Markets, Mexico.
JEL Classification: D74, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Castillo, Juan Camilo and Mejia, Daniel and Restrepo, Pascual, Scarcity Without Leviathan: The Violent Effects of Cocaine Supply Shortages in the Mexican Drug War (March 14, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2409268 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2409268