Economic Structure Of The Mafia

The Mafia is viewed by many people as a bunch of gangsters like those that they might see on movies such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, or Donnie Brascoe. In all actuality the Mafia represents much more than that, it is an entity within itself. The original Sicilian Mafia was just a group of families controlling certain territories in which they each laid claim to. These families were headed by a dominant male and were usually in competition with other families. The members of these families would engage into various "illegal and legal businesses with each other and outsiders" (Fiorienti and Peltzman 38). In the introduction to The Economics of Organized Crime, Fiorentini and Peltzman claim that between the years of 1860and maybe ranging all the way to 1957, the "Mafia was not a membership organization but a natural outgrowth of culture, politics and law enforcement" (Peltzman 38).
Many have tried to eliminate the Mafia from its’ "control" of the underworld and its’ stranglehold on politicians and government. Under the fascist movement in the late 20’s and 30’s of Cesare Mori, Mori tried to eliminate the Mafia in any way in which he could. This attempt at elimination was quite unsuccessful since the Mafia’s base was so far ranging. ""Arlachhi (1986 44-5) concluded in 1983 "there does not exist a centralized criminal organized called the Mafia… The cosca mafiosa is a simple organism but a solid one, without formalism or bureaucracy. Within it are neither statutory ordinances, initiation rites nor courts of judgment"" (Fiorienti and Peltzman 38). This is in contrast as to what others recognize as organized crime. In direct retrospect to his earlier writings, Arlacchi claims that, through interviews with Mafia members, there is a more formal organization within the Mafia and that the Mafia does have initiations.
The United States Mafia definitely was different than the Sicilian Mafia when trying to generalize them. The American Mafia consisted of only around 24 families whereas the Sicilian Mafia consisted of hundreds of families. These families were much larger than their Sicilian counterparts and that the families were most definitely organized and formal. " A detailed case-study of one of these families and its legal and illegal activities as of 1970 (Anderson, 1979) found that the Mafia family itself was not a firm; rather, its members entered into various businesses on their own account" (Fiorentini and Peltzman 39).
The European Mafia was founded on a sense of loyalty and respect for culture, family and the Sicilian heritage. The Mafia was in existence in order to protect its’ member interests and grant them freedom in business in exchange for absolute loyalty and submission to the family as a whole. The Sicilian Mafia based their existence upon their strong beliefs that justice and honor are for oneself to take care of not for the government to control. Antithetical to this honor that is represented by the European Mafia, the American Mafia consists of more cold-hearted thieves and criminals. Although they based their organizational beginning around the model of the Sicilian Mafia, their actual actions do not coincide with the Sicilians. It seems as though the American Mafia sole purpose is to make money by whatever means possible.
When beginning to analyze the Mafia from and economic standpoint one can see that the Mafia came into existent as almost a capitalistic counterpart to what the government and society were providing.
The Mafia members see themselves as alternative providers of public services. Robert Claiborne states in his book Climate, Man and History (266-7) that "(t)he distinction between robber and cop, between extortion and taxation, has been blurred at many times in human history. A quote from the economists sums up the Mafia from an economic standpoint
Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Giancarlo Caselli, describes the Mafia…as a state within the state, ‘with its own territory, population and laws’…’The Mafia’s determination to establish itself as a state within the state is what makes it unique’ says Roberto Scapinato, one of 13 prosecutors committed full-time to Mafia enquiries. And the would be state not only imposes its own laws-at gunpoint-but levies its own taxes (21-2).
Herchel I Grossman in The Economics of Organized Crime analyzes the Mafia from this same economic standpoint as an alternative