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Impact of Neoliberalism and Globalization on the War on Drugs

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Neoliberalism is a policy model that tends to bridge politics, economics and social studies. The ideology of Neo-liberalism emphasizes on free market competition and capitalism that moves away from government regulation, spending or public ownership. This ideology was identified in 1980’s during the conservative governments of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margret Thatcher in the UK (Harp 2010). It is commonly associated with seeking a middle ground between the far right and the leftists. It supports free trade, minimal government interference, reduced government spending, fiscal austerity and privatization. Neoliberalism is associated with dangers such as endangering democracy, right to self-determination by sovereign nations and also interferes with workers’ rights. On the other hand, globalization is the process through which organizations develop international influence and start operating on the international stage through partnerships with other global players and the utilization of advanced information and communication technologies that are available in enhancing the global presence of companies (Watt & Zapenda 2012). Both Neo-liberalism and globalization have created an environment that favor plans and execution of illegal activities and the thriving of underground economic activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism.

Underground economic activities like drug trafficking is a very lucrative economic activity that is brought about by aspects of neoliberalism such as free market capitalism and minimal interference of government in market regulation. For instance, Neo-liberal policies practiced in various parts of Europe and America have resulted to the creation of societies where there are unequal opportunities in the sense that there is huge economic gap between the rich and the poor. As a result, people tend to lack identity and the solutions offered by neo-liberal policies have led to a reduction in the social mobility of people which is a contributing factor to low economic welfare to less privileged members of society. The competitive nature of neoliberal societies has gradually brought about the self-attribution fallacy. Se4lf attribution fallacy occurs when people or nations congratulate themselves for successes made while at the same time blaming themselves for the failures even when they have very little to do with such failures. Self-attribution fallacy explains the harsh approach adopted by the American government in the war on drugs. The crackdown on drug cartels and incarceration of drug peddlers and traffickers has failed to make any substantial gains in improving the lives of those people who are convicted of drugs. Neo-liberalism creates a notion of blaming drug traffickers for the lack of solutions by the government to deal with the vice.

The US government wages a very serious war on drugs since the 1970s and 40 years down the line, it has achieved very little in terms of ending the war by creating a drug-free society. The agencies, mandated by the law to fight the war on drug trafficking have spent billions of dollars engaging in a cycle of activities that see human rights being violated, lives being lost and countless lives being destroyed through incarceration and inappropriate shootings (Mercille 2014). Despite that, the trafficking of drugs has gradually evolved and become institutionalized where very powerful drug cartels and kingpins collaborate with security agencies through a ring of bribery and corruption to allow drug trafficking (Reynolds 2008). The fact that drug trafficking is a very profitable illegal activity, the war on drugs has been designed to go on forever because it is making money for those who profit from its existence. Many police agencies and private corporations may never work towards ending the war on drugs because they too benefit from the permanence of the war on drugs.

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Another reason why drug trafficking is in existence until today is the collaboration between criminal cartels and legal capitalists. Drug trafficking is conducted by criminal gangs who not only traffic drugs but also involve themselves in the trafficking of arms used to fight other wars that are meant to perpetuate the economic welfare and business continuity of certain multinational corporations, especially in the mining and oil sectors (Gordon 2006). Many people think about the war on drugs and imagine it’s a war between drug cartels and government agencies which is a very misguided assumption. Criminal gangs are work consciously in alliance with multinational corporations to take capital resources such as land that belongs to the public and privatize it for resource extraction. Criminal cartels are often used by legal capitalists to forcibly remove people from a desired piece of land and occupy it for mineral extraction. In other cases, the military and police create an excuse of the presence of criminal cartels in a desired area and conduct missions meant to drive away people occupying such land for capitalists’ gains by certain sections of the elite.

During the 1990s there was a very strong and organized war on drugs in Colombia and the US sent military weapons, advisers, and transportation equipment as well as billions of dollars to the government of Colombia. Colombians promised the US that they would adhere to strict human rights guidelines but in fact, they ended up violating the human rights that they swore to protect. More peasant workers and indigenous Colombians were tortured, maimed, and driven away from their homes The military perfected their targets on labor and religious leaders who would voice their concerns over the operation that was disadvantageous to the general public (Mercille 2011). Drug cartels struck very lucrative deals with the Colombian government. The government gave them free reign and paramilitary power to engage in bloody and dirty work as they targeted both civilians and long-standing insurgencies.

It has turned out to be drug war capitalism in the manner in which such events repeat every time a war on drugs in a region or a country is waged. Drug wars have always turned political in every sense of it (Corva 2008). For instance, the US war on drugs in Mexico has benefited large corporations such as banks based in the US through various financial chains of money laundering. Another great example of drug war capitalism was witnessed in Guatemala where US marines were deployed to fight illegal drug cartels but ended up brutalizing indigenous farmers in that region in an effort to evict them from their farms in order to pave way for large coil extraction corporations to continue their economic activity of oil extraction (Zedilla & Wheeler 2008). In Honduras, the US backed a Coup led to massive military brutality on civilians and massive economic exploitation of the nation’s workers. The government simultaneously used drug gangs to brutalize Hondurans who are opposed to the government’s plans for low-wage policies.

It is quite clear that Globalization and Neoliberalism have opened opportunities for business networks and for companies to become global players in advancing their business interests. However, the noninterference and liberal ideas fronted by such policies have left governments at a losing end in the war on drugs because of collaboration between government agencies with drug traffickers in a chain of profiteering and exploitation missions. Neoliberalism has led to drug war capitalism where those mandated to protect civilians from the brutality and violence of illegal gangs, have in contrast used that opportunity to pursue their selfish economic interests at the detriment of the people that are supposed to protect. Agencies and government officials have left civilian populations to suffer under the hands of drug cartels which explains why countries like Colombia and Mexico, you find very powerful illegal gangs.


  1. Corva, D., 2008. Neoliberal globalization and the war on drugs: Transnationalizing illiberal governance in the Americas. Political Geography, 27(2), pp.176-193.
  2. Gordon, T., 2006. Neoliberalism, racism, and the war on drugs in Canada. Social Justice, 33(1 (103), pp.59-78
  3. Harp, S., 2010. Globalization of the US black market: prohibition, the war on drugs, and the case of Mexico. NYUL Rev., 85, p.1661
  4. Reynolds, M., 2008. The war on drugs, prison building, and globalization: Catalysts for the global incarceration of women. NWSA Journal, 20(2), pp.72-95
  5. Mercille, J., 2011. Violent narco-cartels or US hegemony? The political economy of the ‘war on drugs in Mexico. Third World Quarterly, 32(9), pp.1637-1653
  6. Mercille, J., 2014. The media-entertainment industry and the “war on drugs” in Mexico. Latin American Perspectives, 41(2), pp.110-129
  7. Watt, P. and Zepeda, R., 2012. Drug war Mexico: Politics, neoliberalism and violence in the new macroeconomy. Zed Books Ltd
  8. Zedillo, E. and Wheeler, H., 2012. Rethinking the “War on Drugs” through the US-Mexico prism. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. http://www. ycsg. yale. edu/assets/downloads/rethinking-war-on-drugs. pdf
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Impact of Neoliberalism and Globalization on the War on Drugs. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Impact of Neoliberalism and Globalization on the War on Drugs.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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