Abstract for: The War on Drugs: A Failure in (Operational) Thinking

We suggest that the currently recognized failure of the so called “war on drugs” is an opportunity to explore how academics and policy-makers fail in operational thinking, that is, they fail in thinking in terms of “how things really work”. We illustrate this failure with certain modes of reasoning that seem to underpin the way in which the war on drugs has been debated in Colombia. We selected various studies and policies that show a way of thinking that favors a type of knowledge anchored on a cause-and-effect rationality that leaves out the very actions that produce and explain the performance of the social system that those studies and policies deal with. Systems adapt, systems respond to our actions. Policies that exclude such decisional nature of a social system are doomed to fail. Operational thinking means, among other things, to recognize, first, that a social system is a system driven by actors, that is, decision makers whose sequences of actions and decisions from intricate and complex networks of accumulations and feedback structures that can better be understood with the help of computer simulation