The Social Network

Pestilence, Conquest, Slaughter, and Famine; The legendary Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For most of man's history they have been the symbols of destruction. The Four Horsemen have known many names in hundreds of languages. Today, these ancient riders take new names, names unique to the modern era; Drugs, Crime, Gangs and Poverty.  The article "Crackdown: Treating the symptoms of the Drug Problem" by James Q. Wilson and John Dilulio exemplifies the problems of crime and drug abuse. The main point of Wilson and Dilulio is toward the connection between drugs and crime, and the possible solutions to both. It looks at the causes of drugs and drug related crime, and the success and failure of various prevention programs of each.   In our complex and advanced society, can there be a solution? "Crackdown" takes a naive, simplistic approach to the vicious circle of drugs and crime. Wilson and Dilulio state with stoic belief that each of the ills of our modern society can be eradicated in one single gesture. With few exceptions they deal with each problem with a single dogmatic approach to problem solving, that each of our society's problems are singular and require a single cure.  Our modern society is a massive social network. This network has been built by countless generations of humans, both the followers of law and by the criminals. Within this tightly woven blanket of causes and effects, altering any portion of the network also influences the connecting subsystems, there can never be a single solution to society's problems.   

   Ancient civilizations were privileged in that they could solve their problems in one single stroke. Current society does not have that privilege. There is no longer one simple cause, a one effect method to solving the ills of our society. No longer does an effect have a single cause, often there are multiple causes for an effect. The reverse is also true, there can be many effects from a single cause.      In this interwoven network of multiple causes and effects, each one affecting the other, change can only be accomplished when several areas are affected at once. Only then can real change become reality. Wilson and Dilulio comment of several of the subsystems of this network without realizing thier importance to the whole. They fail to look at society from a holistic point of view. Wilson and Dilulio do understand the vicious circle of the criminal justice system. They state that petty criminals are released in order catch bigger criminals, but these hard core professional criminals only slow the system down which allow for more of the lesser criminals to get away.    

  Wilson and Dilulio are right in stating that the drug problem can only be reduced when the demand for it decreases. They fail to see the affected subsystems (both of cause and effect) of decreasing drug demand. Drug use is highest in the poor sections of the inner city. In these neighborhoods, drugs (including alcohol) removes for a short time the pain and suffering of livening in deplorable conditions, these users then become even further debased and degraded leading to further drug use, yet another vicious circle.      Without taking a more holistic view, the linear method of solution does not solve the problems it only makes other problems worse. Neighborhoods are overrun with gun toting gangsters who guard their profits with ever increasing vigilance and violence. Increase the gun control laws, the jails then over fill with these gangsters. Decrease the laws and neighborhoods fill with even more violence. Even worse is that the linear method only furthers a vicious circle of problems. Increase taxes to pay for new jails, a bigger justice system, and more social programs, and those not able to afford the increase look to other means of subsistence, even crime. The high crime rates go up even further, and those living on the edge become burdens of society needing yet more jails, an even bigger justice system, and still more social programs. The circle continues, forever spiraling downward.     

Without looking at the problem as a whole, even increasing law enforcement can have several repercussions. Just increasing the penalties for breaking the law only serve to burden an already bloated criminal justice system. We increase the penalties on the sale of drugs and the street market value increases as the capitalist code of supply and demand raises the potential profit. This rise in profit margins only serve to raise the numbers of those who wish to cash in on the hugh profits to be made, which works to further burden the justice system, as well as increase the number of sellers. The few who manage to sell the drugs pass on any expenses to their customers, creating even more poverty as the need for the drugs supersedes all other concerns. The real reduction of violent crime and drugs can only be accomplished all things are affected at once, affecting only one continues to take our society down the path of total anarchy.