“Tropa de Elite Tells It Like It Is”: Drug Demand Comes From Richest Brazilians, Says Economist

“Is it a safe drug? … A drug might harm some while being harmless or beneficial to others.” The State of São Paulo’s scientific research funding agency backs a “harm reduction” pamphlet, distributed among “club kid” consumers that suggests that some consumption of pyschotropic drugs without medical supervision might be good for some people. Imagine that as a government warning label on tabs of Mickey Mouse brand blotter acid. And yes, USP apparently does have a (publicly-funded) psychopharmacological R&D factory.

A Tarde (Salvador, Bahia, Brazil) reports: When the film Tropa de Elite (to be released as Elite Squad in the U.S., as I think I read) shows well-to-do Brazilians as the principal consumers of Bolivian marching power, it is reflecting social reality accurately, according to a Vargas Foundation economist.

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Um estudo da Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) mostra que jovens da classe A são os maiores consumidores de drogas do País. O economista Marcelo Néri batizou o estudo divulgado hoje de “Droga de Elite”, em referência ao filme “Tropa de Elite”, de José Padilha. “O retrato é muito semelhante daquele traçado no filme. Quem consome drogas é o garoto de elite, são jovens homens brancos solteiros de alta renda que vivem nas capitais do Sudeste e freqüentam uma instituição privada de ensino: 62% da classe A, com cartão de crédito”, disse.

A study from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) shows that young men from Class A [highest income bracket] are the greatest consumers of drugs in Brazil. Economist Marcelo Néri has dubbed the study released today “Drug of the Elite,” in a reference to José Padilha’s film Tropa de Elite” [“The Trooper Elite”]. The portrait is very similar to that painted by the film. The Brazilian drug consumer is a kid from the elite class, a young, white, single high-income male living in the capital cities of the Southeast who attends a private school: 62% are from Class A and own a credit card,” he said.

O estudo mostra ainda que apenas 0,06% da população do Brasil declarou consumir drogas. Em valores atualizados, a despesa média com drogas das pessoas que declararam ao Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE) consumir maconha, lança-perfume ou cocaína é de R$ 75 por mês. “Nossa política contra o tráfico enfatiza muito a questão da oferta, e pouco a questão do consumidor, como o filme chama a atenção. É preciso ter alguma política sobre isso, seja a liberação do consumo de drogas leves, seja uma repressão. Acho que estamos no pior dos mundos.”

The study also shows that only 0.06% of the Brazilian population admits to using drugs. In current values, these persons told the Brazilian Geographic and Statistical Institute that they spend R$75 per month on average on the consumption of marijuana, ether, or cocaine. “Our antidrug policy places great emphasis on the question of supply, and very little on the question of the consumer, as the film calls attention to. We need to adopt some policy on this, whether it is the legalization of “light” drugs or repression. I think right now we are living the worst of [both] worlds.”

The vereadora [ city alderwoman] who ostensibly represents our district here in São Paulo (the former MTV veejay and Folha de S. Paulo blogger recently switched parties in order to make a run for mayor) is a great proponent of “harm reduction” — for consumers.

Not so big on fixing potholes and installing traffic signals, but big on boas baladas (“happy trails,” as the druggies used to say in college.)

In a country where low-level distributors and retail sales personnel tend to die of lead poisoning, but the demand curve functions just like your college econ textbook always said it would, I can’t help finding this attitude utterly grotesque.

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My wife is a big Gabeira fan, but also tends to vote PT — about whom Gabeira expresses frequent foaming rage and bile, which my wife says she finds distressing and perplexing.

Ele interpretou como “efeito colateral da droga” o fato de o estudo ter detectado, entre esses jovens, alto índice (11,8%) de atraso no pagamento de aluguel e de moradia em áreas onde foram relatados problemas com violência na vizinhança (63%). O perfil do consumidor de droga no País foi traçado com base em dados da última Pesquisa de Orçamentos Familiares (POF) do IBGE, de 2003.

He interprets as “a side-effect of the drug” the fact that the study detected, among these young people, a high incidence of late rent payments and a tendency to reside in areas where violence is a local problem (63%). The profile of the Brazilian drug consumer was based on data from the IBGE’s latest Survey of Family Budgets (POF), in 2003.

And based only on those self-identifying themselves as drug users four or five years?

“Let’s dust off some old numbers and see if we can’t work up a film tie-in press release.”

The Brazilian think-tank industry, it seems to me, suffers from lack of robust competition. The FGV is sort of the intellectual equivalent of Mexico’s PRI — or Chuck Pahlaniuk’s Fight Club. First rule: You do not talk about Fight Club.

There is diversity of opinion, and the FGV produces some fine minds, but the economy of ideas is centrally planned and it tends to monopolize the market for TV pundit talking heads.

More the product of bureaucratic infighting behind closed doors rather than of actual, open publix debate. That is the prejudice I have evolved over the years, anyway.


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