An international policy issue awash in myths, moral inconsistencies, social prejudices, and political rhetoric, it’s no wonder students find the international drug trade an alluring topic to study and discuss. With his brief and engaging new book, David Mares explores the reasons why there is so much disagreement among nations about which policies are most appropriate to address drug production, distribution, and trade. From the more tolerant “coffee house” style policies of the Netherlands which focus on public health concerns, to the United States’ just-say-no “drug war” approach, nations frame and seek to resolve these issues in very different ways and with different levels of success. This variation creates a host of global cooperation and policy coordination problems, making Drug Wars and Coffee Houses an ideal supplement for giving students an opportunity to apply the larger themes of any political economy course to a substantive policy area.
A compelling framework—focusing on political economic ideas and analysis—shows students how leaders and policymakers need to understand the drug trade as a full-blown commodity system if they are to impact its different segments. As he discusses drug production, consumption, distribution, and money laundering, Mares carefully shows what insights micro political economic, realist, constructivist, and social deviant perspectives each bring to bear on the problem. And, through the book’s use of extended case studies, this text offers students an inside look at a complex and fascinating policy area, from Sweden’s attempts to enforce drug-war style policies, to the UK’s movement towards decriminalization, to the responses of such international organizations as the United Nations and the European Union.
A comprehensive bibliography of websites, articles, and book length studies point to further research on the topic, while class-tested research and study questions for each chapter will jumpstart class discussions and projects.