Mafioso love the free market


Photo/AFP

❝ Democracy and free markets are intimately connected to organised crime, notes Federico Varese in this new book, Mafia Life, his wide-ranging exploration of global mafias. Authoritarian regimes don’t scruple to stamp out their power, he explains, while democracies often come up short.

Powerful mafias emerged in Sicily, Japan and Russia as their societies underwent a sudden transition to the market economy, abetted by weak legal structures. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Varese suggests, the West was focused on the rush to privatisation, when it should have been helping to strengthen legal institutions. It was a costly error.

❝ Varese has been studying organised crime for more than two decades and has worked as an adviser on the Russian mafia to John le Carré on his 2010 novel Our Kind of Traitor. In Mafia Life, he digs deep into the culture and practices of Japanese Yakuza, Hong Kong Triads, the Sicilian Mafia and their Italian-American counterparts, as well as post-Soviet criminal gangs.

❝ The last have their roots in the vory-v-zakone – men who follow the code – a Russian criminal class that the French-Russian spy Maximilien de Santerre encountered in the gulags in the late Forties, noting their elaborate religious tattoos and private language.

RTFA for more on the sub-culture that so many politicians are willing to join in bed and elections.

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