Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview
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7 Organized crime
The basic questions this chapter will address are:
1. Is crime organized into large-scale organizations much as business and government are?
2. What is the role of organized crime in American society?
3. How is its influence exerted?
4. Why is organized crime usually seen as criminal activity, while similar activities carried on by other institutions are not so defined?

Conservatives maintain that criminal activities exist in the United States but that they are not structured and organized along bureaucratic lines. They define criminal activities as being clearly illegal acts, such as burglary, assault and battery, and murder. People who argue that there is a well-structured, highly organized criminal confederation in the United States are posing a false issue. The depiction of crime as conducted by large-scale organizations is a myth. The existence of organized crime is not supported by available evidence, only by vague assertions and unproved allegations. Conservatives hold that popular images, such as that of "The Godfather",1 are accepted because Americans are fascinated by conspiracy theories. Essentially, conservatives do not believe in the existence of organized crime. They hold that it is a Hollywood fiction that has been swallowed whole by the American people.2

Liberals view crime differently. They believe that organized crime exists, particularly in the form of the Mafia.3 It is their contention that such groups are well-structured. These organizations corrupt individual legislators, policemen, and judges. Liberals also hold that poorer sections of American cities are often at the mercy of these criminal organizations. Gambling, which is seen to be controlled by the Italian and Black Mafias, syphons off the meager resources of the poor.4

It is the contention of liberals that organized crime continues to exist in the United States because government law enforcement agencies are not vigilant enough. The power of organized crime can be limited by legislation and vigorous law enforcement officers. Liberals clearly separate the conduct of organized crime from the operation of the Federal political process. Organized crime can be eradicated only if the political system is mobilized by an aroused public to enforce the laws.

Socialists maintain that organized crime is as much a part of the American political process as are multinational corporations. It is their thesis that organized crime is an institution fundamentally based on the same economic principles as other capitalist institutions. Organized crime works in cooperation and coordination with other political institutions. For example, it has been alleged that the Mafia, together with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), under the direction of the

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