What the "The Mule" Tells Us about the Drug War

In "The Mule," Clint Eastwood plays a sympathetic character. But part of the reason he’s a sympathetic character is that he is engaging in a voluntary pursuit that’s not harming anyone who doesn’t want to risk the harm.

My wife and I rented the recent Clint Eastwood movie, The Mule, last night. I would give it an 8 out of 10. At various points, we paused and talked about the fact that we had no idea where the movie would go. Once it ended the way it did, it was plausible, but I wouldn’t have necessarily predicted that.

I want to make two points, though, one of which relates to economics and the other of which relates to liberty. That’s why they fit on this blog.

Economics (Minor Spoiler Ahead)

It won’t come as a surprise that Eastwood plays a 90-year-old mule. He’s an old school white guy in Peoria, Illinois, and his first dealing with the drug trade is with three young Hispanic guys in El Paso, Texas. They start with a lot of suspicion of him but fairly quickly come to trust him and like him. He even asks, at one point, about one guy’s kid. I found it believable. That’s what happens in commerce. People often start to like the people they’re working with.

Liberty

He is engaged in transporting an illegal commodity to a market (Chicago) where there’s a large demand. The people who buy it (we never see them) want it and pay for it voluntarily. The people who produce it (we never see them) want to do so and sell it voluntarily. He’s among the middlemen.

Obviously, I’m on his side. I don’t want him to get caught. He’s involved in a free exchange. But here’s what I also think. Part of the reason he’s a sympathetic character is that he is engaging in a voluntary pursuit that’s not harming anyone who doesn’t want to risk the harm.I think that over 90 percent of the people who watch this movie won’t want him to get caught either. It’s true, as a friend I was discussing the movie with today pointed out, that that might be in part because Clint Eastwood plays a sympathetic character. But part of the reason he’s a sympathetic character is that he is engaging in a voluntary pursuit that’s not harming anyone who doesn’t want to risk the harm.

So if you favor the drug war, you might want to ask whether there’s a tension between your view on the drug war and your view on whether Clint Eastwood’s character should be caught.

This article is republished with permission from the Library of Economics and Liberty. 

Further Reading

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