I take little pause in saying Breaking Bad is the best show on television. Those skeptical or unaware of the series need only to watch the first episode to understand why I make this audacious claim. Breaking Bad explores the life of a normal high school chemistry teacher, Walter White. Walter navigates the sordid world of the underground drug market to make money for his family’s future after being diagnosed with an inoperable form of lung cancer.
In a desperate search for a silver lining, I take some solace in the fact that out of all the horror and carnage that has resulted from the prohibition of recreational drugs, this token piece of cinematic majesty was able to shine through. However, there is nothing in this world that can justify the millions of ruined lives that are the carrionic remains from the United State’s failed war on drugs.
Watching the premiere of Breaking Bad’s sixth season last Sunday, I wondered what the show would look like if there was no drug war in the United States … What if, instead of taking his product to violent and erratic drug lords under threat of jail, Walter White was able to take his chemically pure product to the scrutinized eye of the free market. After thinking it over, I realized it wouldn’t make for a very interesting television show, but it would make for an amazing example of the American dream in action.
We all know what happens when drug manufactures take their products to an illegal market: and it breaks my heart to say that the nightmarish scenes we see on television every Sunday night are nothing compared to the crimes committed by the cartels on a daily basis. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the sadistic gangsters we see Walter deal are dependent on the illegality of their product to stay in business. Men like Tuco Salamanca, one of the show’s particularly nasty antagonists, can only attain their money and power by selling battery acid laced garbage to helpless junkies with no competitors.
To preface this, I feel I should say that I do not advocate using recreational drugs. As a man who barley drinks, let alone does anything else, I feel one would be a fool to put something as corrosive as meth into one’s body. That being said, bathtub gin made during the 1920’s under prohibition would make you blind and fracture your liver. So, there might be something to be said for the quality and sanitary properties of a substance after it goes from the hands of gangsters to the hands of entrepreneurs.
In all likelihood, were there no drug war, cooking meth would not occur to Walt as a quick way to make a lot of cash. For the same reasons that someone today doesn’t go into bootlegging alcohol to get rich quick. Walter would be going blind into a legitimate and intricate market with many well-established brands, and trusted companies. Simply, no one wants to buy bathtub bourbon when they can go to their local liquor store and buy a bottle of Jack Daniels.