Which cause should we focus on?
One of my favorite editorial writers for the Wall Street Journal, Mary O’Grady, writes (in “A Terrorist Big Fish Gets Away” in the August 11 print edition):
America’s voracious appetite for illegal drugs has allowed violent political actors to create powerful transnational criminal organizations.
That statement is true but potentially misleading.
Notice that the subject of the sentence is “America’s voracious appetite for illegal drugs.” This is the cause. But what if Americans had that same voracious appetite for those drugs but the drugs were legal? Then, as Mary well knows because she has written some excellent editorials on the subject, that appetite would not “create powerful transnational criminal organizations.”
So what would I want her to focus on as the relevant cause of the criminal organizations? The illegality of the drugs. Here’s my rewrite:
Because the U.S. government has made many drugs illegal but Americans still want those drugs, organized criminals provide them.