After an extraordinarily stimulating and educative two day conference on Mexico, crime, drugs and governance, I can post only briefly despite some requests to document the conference at length because we were under the Chatham House rule. I will quote, Harper’s Index style, some surprising numbers that I learned and my reaction to them.

Number of gun shops at or near the 1,970 mile U.S.-Mexico Border: 7,600

Proportion of those gun shops that are on the U.S. side: 100%

This raises an intriguing policy thought experiment. U.S. border law enforcement agents, for political reasons, can do little to stem the southward flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexico. Mexican border law enforcement agents, for political reasons, are expected to make massive efforts to stop drugs from flowing northward into the U.S. What would happen if they made a deal: U.S. law enforcement agents near the border give up the gun chase and focus solely on drugs coming north from Mexico and their Mexican counterparts give up the drugs fight and focus solely on guns coming south from the U.S.?

Amount of money provided by the U.S. for the Merida initiative in Mexico: $1.4 Billion over 3 years

Amount of time it currently takes for the U.S. to spend this same amount of money in Afghanistan: 3 days.

Is the stability of Afghanistan truly 365 times more important to the U.S. than is the stability of Mexico? I think not.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.