Planet Money
3:03 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Episode 266: A Former Crack Dealer On The Economics Of Drugs

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 11:52 am

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Note: Today's show is a re-run. It originally ran in April, 2011.

Lots of economists write about the economics of illegal drugs. Here's a paper from a Harvard guy. Here's another co-authored by a couple Chicago guys.

One thing missing from those papers: Actual drug dealers.

So for today's podcast, we run some economic theory by Freeway Rick Ross (pictured), who was one of the biggest crack dealers in LA in the '80s and '90s. He went to prison in '96, and was released on parole in '09.

Economists say that people demand a "risk premium" to do illegal, risky work. But it didn't feel that way to Ross:

When you come from where I was when I started selling drugs, you feel hopeless. You don't think you're going to live past 24 years old. Go to jail, come out with stripes. Really wasn't any risk.

Everything I had going on at the time, it was nothing. I was like a lump on a log. The risk most people would look at — you could get killed, go to prison — was Ok.

What's more, he really liked being a drug kingpin.

I loved it. ... I felt like I was powerful. ... It was every man's dream to be free. ... I'd rather be doing that than anything else, almost.

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