Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is the Mafia on the Rise or on the Run?

Two themes have emerged from recent media coverage of organized crime. On the one hand, protests like those held in Naples two months ago and sweeping arrests are said to signal the decline of the Mob. On the other, the international financial crisis is said to present new opportunities for mafiosi to take advantage of credit-constrained conditions to seize control of businesses and gain ground against the law.

As to the first point, this sort of give-and-take between the forces of order and disorder has been going on for most of a century. Mussolini near broke them but the US occupation put them back in business. Corruption is ingrained in certain parts of the world; see the municipal scandal in Naples and a medical scam in Sicily. As to the second, cash is king and the mafia has cash.

Stepping back, the larger issue is that organized crime is not a problem, for problems can be solved. It is a condition with which one deals. The last major round of globalization (1870-1914) saw the large local mobs — Sicilian Mafia, Neapolitan Camorra, Chinese Tongs, Corse Unione, etc. — all go worldwide. Today, as in the past, globalization offers new vistas for such groups. Two points:

1. Drugs and people are huge businesses for smugglers and illegal local dealers. The failure of the First World to be serious about either of these things creates quite rich transnational networks. Such networks can be used to move terrorists, weapons, restricted nuclear technologies, etc. The smart ones won’t do it — brings down too much scrutiny from the police — but enough of the players are undereducated thugs with attitude who will deal in anything for a short-term profit. As these crews tend to be linked but mostly independent, rather than the top-down Godfather-type empires, one can always find some wild boy who will do your deal.

2. Cultural “diversity” means demographic replacement in many areas. This, in turn, creates situations of social chaos and lack of cohension which, again, leave openings on the internal security front. Italy and Spain, for example, are both in the process of becoming national states that lack a clearly defined national population as immigrants with little interest in becoming genuine socio-cultural nations, dilute the native population.

Thanks to Bellum

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