1 International Journal of Applied Sociology 2013, 3(5): 89-101. DOI: The Rational Choice Theory and Mexican drug Activity David J. Masucci M . 2013, Security & Safety Leadership Studies College of Professional Studies, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United States Abstract As violence has increased along the US-Mexico Border, politicians in both the United States and Mexico have executed a sustained anti- drug campaign aimed at seizing bulk amounts of narcotics and arresting known d rug kingpins. While and Mexican law enforcement agencies have been successful in interdict ing drug shipments and capturing drug traffickers, the violence has continued unabated and large amounts of drugs continue to be sold on the streets of American cities nationwide. Given the lucrative nature of the drug trade and relatively poor economic condit ions in many border cities, some observers have speculated that a large percentage of inhabitants residing in these corridor cit ies actively support these drug trafficking organizations.
2 Consistent with Edwin Sutherland's Rational Choice Theory , the author hypothesized that there would be a strong positive correlat ion between unemploy ment rates in Northern Mexican cities that traditionally serve as smuggling corridors, recorded ho micides in these municipalities, and arrests for narcotics-related offenses. In addition, a strong inverse relat ionship will exist between Gross Do mestic Product (GDP) per capita in these border cities and the cited crime indicators. A bivariate statistical analysis of available data produced mostly weak correlations between the selected economic indicators, homicides and arrests. While the study did not disprove the Rational Choice Theory as it applies to Mexican narco-vio lence, it didn't provide emp irical evidence to support Sutherland's argument. Keywords Drugs, Rational Cho ice Theory , Mexico, Ed win Sutherland dramat ic devaluation of its currency over a relatively short 1.
3 Introduction period of time. Known as El Error De Diciembre or the Mexican Peso Crisis, the sudden crash of the peso was Fro m his inauguration in 2005 to the end of his presidency believed to be pro mpted by massive deficit spending and in 2012, Mexican President Felipe Calderon presided over fraudulent lending practices on behalf of outgoing President one of the most violent periods in his country's history. Carlos Salinas de Gortari. In addit ion to President Gotari's Making good on one of his elect ion pro mises, Calderon questionable financial policies, the assassination of unleashed the country's military against drug trafficking presidential candidate Louis Donaldo Co losio triggered a organizations (DTO's) and other criminal gangs who massive withdrawal of foreign currency reserves and usurped authority fro m local governments in the northern resulted in general disinvestment fro m Mexico's fragile and western parts of the country.
4 The result has been a brutal economy. A wider crisis was eventually averted by a and sustained war between Mexico's security forces and the massive financial aid package on behalf of the Treasury, drug cartels. media outlets report daily violence fro m fellow NAFTA -signatory Canada, and the International Northern Mexico, ranging fro m h it and run guerrilla strikes Monetary Fund (IMF). on police checkpoints to grenade attacks in shopping malls While the Mexican economy eventually recovered and and beheadings in town squares. Mexico's inability to experienced a few years of gro wth, different economic curb drug -related v iolence has become so urgent that a recent sectors were significantly impacted by NAFTA and related report fro m the Joint Forces Co mmand's 2008 Joint legislation. Even before NAFTA was ratified, policy makers Operating Environment ranked A merica's neighbor to the in Mexico anticipated a negative impact on domestic south at the same level as Pakistan regarding the country's agriculture, which they felt would not be able to compete probability of beco ming a failed state.
5 With the co llect ivized and industrialized farming sectors in Along with the ongoing violence, Mexico has undergone a the United States and Canada. Economists anticipated that period o f econo mic hardsh ip over the last t wo decades. total farm emp loyment in Mexico would decline by an Shortly after the passage of the Northern A merican Free estimated 800,000 workers after the passage of NAFTA. Trade Agreement (NAFTA ) in 1994, Mexico experienced a While various Mexican presidential administrations promised assistance to farmers and ranchers to compete with * Corresponding author: (David J. Masucci) duty-free imports, support was not ultimately granted due to Published online at austerity measures implemented by the Mexican Treasury Copyright 2013 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved shortly after the Peso Crisis.
6 Through agricu lture 90 David J. M asucci et al.: The Rational Choice Theory and M exican drug Activity liberalization practices and farmland consolidation, many trafficking of illegal substances. drug sales are believed to rural farmers found it hard to compete with large-scale and account for as much as 5% of Mexico's Gross Do mestic high-tech farming operations which specialized in cash Product (GDP). While unemp loyment and poor economic crops intended for export. Researchers believe that conditions are just one of many variab les that have impacted Mexico's rural agricultural sector decreased from million the growth of the drug trade, there is no denying that two workers to million workers fro m 1993 to 2003. decades of economic turbulence have greatly contributed to Dwindling jobs prospects among Mexico's once strong Mexico's current state of insecurity.
7 And wh ile many agricultural sector pro mpted a period of massive urban researchers have speculated about the impact of migrat ion during the late 1990's, with thousands, if not unemploy ment and poor economic performance on the drug millions of people migrating to urban centers throughout the trade and drug -related violence, few have attempted to country. While many d ispute NAFTA's role in the influ x of analyze the correlation between the two phenomena. urban migration, most agree that the treaty ushered in a period of industrialization; historically, most countries 2. Literature Review transitioning from an agricu ltural economy to a mo re industrialized economy experience a period of urban Given the massive growth of the drug trade and associated population growth. violence in the presence of declining economic conditions in Despite Mexico's economic woes, the country has Northern Mexico, how, if at all, are these phenomena related?
8 Enjoyed a very low unemp loy ment rate. Fro m 1991 to 1997, In terms of a crimino logical framework, a nu mber of Mexico's average official unemploy ment rate was criminal justice scholars have attempted to analy ze the While the unemploy ment rate varies between different violence that has plagued Mexico through the Social Conflict economic sectors and geographic areas, it's quite remarkab le Theory , a modified version of the Routine Activities Theory , considering that the United States experienced and the Rational Choice Model. While each paradig m seeks unemploy ment while Canada had unemploy ment to describe the conflict fro m the perspective of class warfare during a time o f economic gro wth and stability. Mart in or a lack of civic guardianship, one theme that has been attributed the rosy unemployment figures to two phenomena repeated throughout much of the available literature is the that differentiate Mexico's economy fro m the post-industrial erosion of state institutions throughout Mexico.
9 In some of economies of its fellow NAFTA signatories. First, just as the poorest parts of Mexico, local, state and federal Mexico has experienced a period of internal resettlement and government institutions are almost nonexistent. Fro m social relocation, millions of Mexicans have fled unfavorable welfare services to local hospitals to city councilmen and economic and social conditions through legal and illegal politicians, many towns and cit ies throughout Mexico lack migrat ion to other countries. Anywhere fro m twelve to basic government services and political representation. Even fifteen million undocumented immigrants currently reside in Mexico's local police depart ments and security services, the United States alone, the vast majority of them which are o ften the most visible symbol of government Mexican .
10 Individuals who may have otherwise remained control, are noticeably absent. unemployed in Mexico sought opportunities abroad and are In his analysis, Manwaring described how in these not counted in the country's unemploy ment figures. Second, ungoverned spaces, a criminal insurgency has taken root and the figures produced by the Mexican Govern ment do not slowly evolved over the course of several decades. In account for participants in the country's informal economy. northern Mexico, the so called Big Four Gangs (the Juarez, Emp loy ment in the informal economy can range fro m Gu lf, Sinaloa, and Tijuana cartels) did not materialize in a legitimate part-time labor to wages earned by engaging in vacuum; these groups represent generational gangs with a illegal Activity . Those participating in the informal forty and fifty year legacy that includes the membership of economy often do not seek government assistance, don't grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons.