An Odd Case in Governance
Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok has a really fascinating post on the Mexican Mafia:
The Mexican Mafia is a fairly small prison gang (perhaps 150-300 made members) and it has significant operational control only within prisons in Southern California yet the Mexican Mafia is extremely powerful. In fact, the MM taxes hundreds of often larger Southern California street gangs at rates of 10-30% of revenues. How can a prison gang tax street gangs? In Governance and Prison Gangs (also here), a new paper in the APSR, David Skarbek explains the structure, conduct and performance of the Mexican Mafia.
The key to the MM’s power is that most drug dealers will sooner or later, usually sooner, end up in prison. Thus, the MM can credibly threaten drug dealers outside of prison with punishment once they are inside prison. Moreover, prison is the only place where members of many different gangs congregate. Thus, by maintaining control of the prison bottleneck, the MM can tax hundreds of gangs.
I love when private organizations take over public duties, but I guess this is an exception…
For a kind, warm and fuzzy account of informal economies and businesses that have to operate around the government, please check out my friend Zach’s superb blog about his time in Kenya.
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It seems quite clear that the Mexican Mafia is impinging on that distinction that make s government .. well .. government, the “monopoly on the use of force.”
I’m pretty sure it’s the deficiency of our prison system that makes such a venture in the first place. If I knew I was going to prison, I’d buy insurance against being beaten up or murdered. The MM is accounting for a gov’t failure.
.. but the MM is inciting the failure.
correct. point taken.
The Kenya Blog is fascinating… but ends ominously in mid-August. Totally unfair cliff-hanger there, Professor!
For membership in gangs, selling drugs, using drugs, transportation of drugs, etc.,
there should be only one sentence: Mandatory and Immediate Death Sentence. No exceptions. No appeals.
You know, they have that in Saudi Arabia.
Think about it. If we tried that here, only substituting the prison gangs for the government, taxes not paid by the underground economy would be paid or there would be a consequence.
And? If you deal in death then why not have it applied to you as the sentence? Per the article, they run an international crime syndicate from within the boundaries of their cells; why allow them to continue? If they are facing a death sentence for the crime, there is no better deterrent. I think death should be the same penalty for human traffickers, too, as well as Muslim slavers.
Is that extreme? Yes. But I for one have had enough of liberal incarceration methods and sentencing. Bring back the death penalty and enforce it within one years time. Not ten. And then watch the rate of recidivism drop.