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Feature Articles


April 2018
The Racketeer And His Customer
- A Dyad -
You Can't Have One Without The Other

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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ASONE ITALIAN MAGISTRATE NOTED, MAFIA IS NOT SIMPLY A QUESTION OF CRIME, IT IS ALSO A QUESTION OF CULTURE, WORK, THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENSHIP THAT THE STATE SUCEEDS IN GARANTEERING, OR NO.

THERE IS NO CONTROLING THE CONSPIRACY KNOWN AS MAFIA; INSTEAD MAFIA SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD AS THE POPULAR NAME FOR ITALIAN- AMERICAN ORGANIZED CRIME IN ALL ITS NUMEROUS FORMS THAT HAVE BEEN USED SINCE THE BEGINNING OF LARGE SCALE MIGRATION TO THE USA IN THE LATE 19th CENTURY. THESE INCLUDE THE BLACK HAND, THE ORGANIZATION, THE MOB, THE SYNDICATE, THE ARM AND ITS LATEST MANIFESTATION, LA COSA NOSTRA.

IN THE 1960S, A FORMER NEW YORK CITY STREET GANGSTER, J0SEPH VALACHI, TURNED STATE’S EVIDENCE AND OPENLY TESIFIED BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE, WILLINGLY ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS CRIMINAL LIFE. HE NOTED THAT HIS CRIMINAL GROUP’S MAIN FUNCTION WAS ONE OF MUTUAL PROTECTION. HE WAS ON SALARY, WHICH AMAZED MANY OF THE SENATORES.OTHERWISE, AS A STREET STREETPERSON HE OPERATED BY HIMSELF. AMOUNG OTHER THINGS, HIS CONFESSION REVEALED ALL MOBS DO NOT HHAVE THE SAME CHARATERISTICS; THERE ARE VARIATIONS Of CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES. VALACHI’S WAS WITHOUT STRUCTURE. THE CRIME UNIT FITS THE CRIMINAL OCCASION.SUCH CONSPIRACIES NEED NOT BE HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATIONS. THE MAFIA MODEL ASSUMES A CONSPIRATORIAL FRATERNITY.

     ALL knowledge is uncertain, provisional and conjectural.’ Mafia' is ill-defined, a term into which much is dumped. There is a host of illegal activities associated with that slippery concept: protection, racketeering. Trafficking, etc. If we find a criminal conspiracy, the next step is to ask of place and societal threat. The conspiracy explanatory model assumes that Sicilian immigrants imported a well-articulated model to the USA that took immediately to American soil with nary an adaptation. The blame game fingers the outsider, an uncivil ethnic group with brutish instincts, taking a page from the Lombrosian school of criminology, the born criminal thesis developed by Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909), an Italian physician, who used as his subject matter southern Italian criminals as examples of throwbacks from an earlier era. Why Italians? Why not? Who would believe a Swedish mafia?The Prohibition Law of the 1920s has been dubbed the worst piece of legislation ever. Its purpose to control the imbibing of alcoholic beverages was a prime example of government overreach in the proposed solution of a destructive social problem. The attempt was very unpopular from its conception, to put it mildly. The cure became worse than the disease in that it invented American organized crime, because to get the booze to a thirsty public required a vast international criminal conspiracy to get the product from source to market: the profits were huge and the system complex. It made criminals of a small army of racketeers as well as the patrons. The “dry” advocates in their simplicity expected too much from the public. The proposed solution of a “disease” can have the opposite effect. There cannot be rackets without customers. Theories of crime are plentiful, yet such have given short attention to variables that should be included in any analysis. As the infamous Chicago mobster of the 1920s, Booze Baron Al Capone, said in his wisdom, “All I am doing is giving the people what they want.” You cannot sell a product if no one wants it.


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