Why Smuggling May Not Be Such A Bad Thing – Alex Ndungu Njeru


Is smuggling such a bad thing? Must it evoke such a negative connotation? Well I know you have come across literature that either vilifies or glorifies smuggling depending on whose story you read. A while back when I had quite the penchant for reading the odd tattered book I found lying around, I came across a gem about of a book about a bootlegger whose critical role was to satiate America’s palate with rum and scotch during the 1920-1933 prohibition of sale and production of the same. Sadly I know not the title of the book, but the protagonist who made a life running rum from the United Kingdom and the plot of the book opened a plethora of new thinking. Closer home there is a pretty popular book by the name the ‘Black Gold of Chepkube’ about coffee running between the borders of Kenya and Tanzania.

Which brings me to the question is smuggling such amoral and bad business? Back in January the Kenya Sugar Board 1800 discovered smuggled sugar from Saudi Arabia, which came after a week of another find of smuggled sugar from Brazil. The news here being that smuggled sugar is bad news for Kenyan sugar. Smuggling has a long and controversial history, probably dating back to the first time at which duties were imposed in any form, or any attempt was made to prohibit a form of traffic. This article alludes to largely to the smuggling of rather innocuous goods like; sugar, grain and other innocuous goods that authorities from time to time deem fit for trade restrictions. This article does not allude to stolen goods, there is big distinction between dealing with stolen goods and smuggling that is why there are verbs that describe the many forms of theft like; rustling, pilfering.  From the inference it can be adduced that goods smuggled across boarders are bought fairly from those who rightly own them. 

From the foregoing, it is important to ask whether smuggling is such an abberetious or an amoral phenomenon. According to ListCrown.com the list of the most smuggled things in the world include; electronics, eatables, currencies, rare collectibles and natural resources, well the list include such egregious things as weapons and drugs but still a big chunk of the most smuggled goods includes rather innocuous goods.

That rather means that for the most part smuggling happens to deliver the goods that would have found delivery within the confines of a functional self-regulating market. But, no! Markets are not self-regulating; to many restrictions, taxes, bans and bureaucracy impair the fluidity of goods especially across international borders. It is this differential access more so across international borders that provides fertile gradient for smuggling. To put it lightly, traders will never shy away from an opportunity to make profit, and profiteering albeit through smuggling is not any more amoral than impairing functional markets through all manner of uncanny ways, what is trying to say that smugglers are no more criminals than bureaucrats who curtail free flow of goods through a plethora of mechanisms. Indeed I am sure a trader under trial for pushing grain in a moral court would forever find vindication, such trader(s) have a strong conviction that it is their duty to address market demand.

To address such things a smuggling of goods make markets free, do not differentiate markets either, a market is a market and rational consumers are the same everywhere no matter what country they come from or what language they speak. To address people smuggling, remove restrictions on free movement of people. These inferences can work for all situations and address the alleged vice of smuggling.

Alex Njeru wrote in from Kenya

Njeru looks at the issue of smuggling from a wholly different point of view