Mafia As Government History and Introduction The history of the Mafia began in the ninth century, when a secret society was formed to protect the people of Sicily. Sicily was occupied by Arab forces. A group of Sicilians fled into the countryside to escape, and later to fight, the encroaching forces. This group became the Mafia. The group’s original intentions were to create a sense of loyalty and respect for tradition, culture and family. The Mafia protected its’ members interests and promoted protected individuals and businesses in exchange for loyalty and monetary tribute.
As time passed, and the Mafia expanded to the Americas, the Mafia became more “criminal”, engaging in provision of illegal services and collection of taxes in defiance of the “legitimate” government. It is the purpose of this work to argue that the Mafia, a “criminal” organization, meets the criteria to be considered a government. The terms Mafia or mob used in this work should be considered to be synonymous and to refer to the American Mafia. The Mafia’s structure is similar in nature to a feudal government system, with agents reporting to regional governors, who in turn report to the organization’s leader. While the mob may or may not possess an overall head, individual regions of the mob may be thought of as a form of local government.
The Mafia, as it is currently being discussed, exists within the confines of the United States, and thus may be in competition with, or at least overlapping the geographic areas of other government systems. Definitions of Government Ayn Rand has much to say on the “proper function” of government, but it is unclear as to what she considers a formal definitionon of what exactly categorizes an organization as a government. Her most specific response to the question appears in the opening sentence of “The Nature of Government”. The opinion is that the use of force and the enforcement of rules should be limited to government. (Rand) Randall Holcombe references Robert Dahl and Max Weber, summarizing their points of view that a monopoly on the use of force in a given area is the defining characteristic of government, thus adding a spatial characteristic to the definition.
Holcombe further points out that obviously a monopoly on the use of coercive force is not required as can be seen from examples of overlapping area and jurisdictional authority within the federal, state, and local governments in the United States. Finally Holcombe puts forth the idea that, for a positive economic view, the hallmark of government is the ability to tax all parties within a given geographical region, for the purpose of financing its operations. (Holcombe) Mafia as Government Would the Mafia meet the criteria of Rand, Dahl, or Weber? Except in certain isolated instances, probably not. The United States federal government exerts coercive influence over practically all individuals or firms living or operating within its boundaries, not to mention state and local agencies. Of course, by any definition requiring a monopoly of use of force, whether spatially limited or not, the “real” governments don’t qualify as governments either. Following Holcombe’s definition, which does define the aforementioned federal, state, and local agencies as governments, where does the Mafia fall in respect to being considered as a government? In other words, can it be argued that the Mafia has the power to “tax” all businesses or individuals within a geographic area? Armed with only information from hearsay and popular culture, the answer would have to be yes.
Systemized extortion or “protection” fees could very well be collected for all within a given area. It may be that the popular image is inaccurate, which may affect the classification, but for the sake of argument it is considered an accurate assessment here. The issue may be raised as to the “legality” of the mob. It may be argued that they cannot be considered a government as they are “criminal”. What is it that distinguishes the mob as criminal? Is it the services provided by the mob, which the “real” government has deemed illegal? Obviously the argument over legalization of certain enterprises is too great to be discussed fully here, but consider that underprovision of a good by traditional, and of course legal, markets is often one of the rationales for government intervention. All in all, restricting the mob from classification as a government due to some arbitrary moral judgement is a normative stance, not truly a positive economic one.
Another argument against considering the mob as a government may be that it operates in the profit maximizing manner of a firm. This should not be considered a limting factor as many agencies, normally considered governments, in the United States follow the same criteria. That the Mafia is concerned with profit only makes for an argument as to the relative efficiency of the institution. It is in the best interests of the Mafia to provide stability for life and productive enterprises, and further to promote the most productive and profitable of said enterprises. As in the classic example of a schoolyard bully, money must be available to the “victims” for the bully to take any. Further, more earnings by those being taxed by the government leads to possible greater revenues for the government.
And from a societal welfare perspective, may well represent a pareto superior move. “Aha! Legitimate government agents don’t take home a ‘piece of the action’!” may be the next objection raised. This is true, but is it a detriment? Allowing agents to profit from efficiency in operations improves incentive compatability for proper performance of their duties, perhaps improving efficiency. It cannot be ignored that the Mafia has endured through time. If it is correct to assume that inefficient forms of government will “die out” over time, then the Mafia must be relatively efficient. Regardless, efficiency is quite obviously NOT a requirement to be considered a government.
Conclusion Of course any number of normative arguments may be raised as to the relative “fairness” of Mafia governance. That it lacks some air of legitamacy or morality is not at issue. The Mafia lacks a constitution, thus enabling a wide range of government action. Rights are accorded to citizens at the whim of government agents, laws may unknown and erratically enforced, shifts within the leadership of government may be violent and have unstabilizing effects on the region. However, none of these points are at issue here. The argument here is not that the Mafia is the best government, or even a good government. It is simply that it meets an objective criteria to be considered as a government.