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September 30, 2009 / Tom Hill

Latest Issue of Global Crime

There’s a good new issue from the journal Global Crime. Lots of good articles. One that particularly caught my eye is by professor of criminology Frederico Varese discussing the Neapolitan Camorra. This is an extract from the opening of the article:

In the raw and unadorned language of Saviano, the Camorra is not just a collection of purely parasitic, extortionary thugs, but rather an organisation that provides genuine services, such as access to cheap loans, a degree of competition among firms, and enforcement of economic agreements. The caveat is that these services are provided with utter disregard for fairness, freedom to choose, property rights, and a rule-based system of social relations. What is mutual advantage for vast sectors of the local economy produces a collective nightmare for the overall society. It is a quintessential n-person Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which everybody starts off by maximising his own utility and ends up in the worst of all possible worlds, a universe of defection, mis-trust and fear that ultimately strengthens a criminal organisation that has claimed so many lives. My view is that until this system of mutual advantage is broken, it will be next to impossible to dislodge the Camorra.

What is pleasing about this is that not only does Varese immediately illuminate the nuances of this subject (emphasising the delivery of services and promotion of an economy, but also stressing that for most it is ghastly), he also suggests a positive strategy (of sorts) in how to tackle it, which has some plausibility according to the economic environment it is supposed to be directed against:

No matter how much individual valour anti-mafia campaigners display, the nexus of self-interest that links sizeable sections of the economy and organised crime must be weakened and eventually rescinded. Small workshops must be able to turn to banks in order to obtain loans, taxes must be low enough to reduce incentives to avoid them, and the legitimate labour market must be flexible enough to make local enterprises competitive without forcing them into the grey economy, where they become sweatshops. State regulations must be simple and straightforward and the machinery of justice must be rapid and fair. Next to structural changes in the economy, law enforcement must be able to bring to a halt the Camorra’s ability to kill and wreak havoc.

However, and sadly, one can barely imagine the scale and difficulty of the efforts required to bring such to pass. And that’s not even considering the fact that such groups are rarely passive in the face of new initiatives to eradicate their position.

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