Nicki Kelly on the Drug Trade, the Immoral Society and Free Markets

First Published: 2000-05-18

Ms. Nicki Kelly in her May 16th column “Land of plenty problems” and Assistant Police Commissioner Reginald Ferguson in his comments at the College of the Bahamas raised public awareness of the impact on the community of the cash flows from the drug trade. The danger of the Colombian styled drug lords was made chillingly clear in The Tribune-s front-page lead article on the invasion of The Punch and the threats to Ivan Johnson. It now takes real courage for a journalist to report on the drug trade and both Nicki Kelly and Ivan Johnson deserve the public-s admiration.

However… it is unfortunate that Ms. Kelly did not devote attention to the long-term effects of the immoral society that she described… a society with high rates of crime, murder, sexual promiscuity, illegitimacy, teenage mothers and absentee fathers.

And… she attributes a part of the problem to “a market driven society” where “free markets” contribute to, or at least facilitate, the Rolex/BMW/MTV world that surrounds us. Such a society spends its “economic pie” frivolously and unwisely.

But the size of the pie is not stationary… it can grow or contract… it is dynamic. The irony is that an immoral society… a corrupt society… in the long run is a slow growing or an economically declining society. Throughout the world there are and have been many illustrations of immoral societies in economic stagnation or decline.

For instance, Ivan Johnson has repeatedly highlighted the decline in small businesses over-the-hill as a result of rising crime rates. Also a society that accepts widespread thievery… the stealing of the property of others… is a society of limited growth potential. In business this means that a disproportionate amount of time and resources are spent trying to control this element in the successful business equation. As a result businesses are smaller and less profitable than they would otherwise be. Economic growth is impaired. This certainly is a major problem for the Bahamas.

Ironically it is those societies that practice the “good life– or are “reforming their ways” that achieve sustained economic growth. Law and order, responsible parenting, efficient governments and investment in human capital do count. Free markets are efficient… but, as Ms. Kelly no doubt would agree, the “good life” and “societal trust” make the difference in the long run. Bahamian society and its political leaders must perceive and embrace this.

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