Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do

PART II: WHY LAWS AGAINST CONSENSUAL ACTIVITIES ARE NOT A GOOD IDEA

CONSENSUAL CRIMES PROMOTE ORGANIZED CRIME


You can get much farther
with a kind word and a gun
than you can
with a kind word alone.
AL CAPONE

MOST CRIMES WITH genuine victims are individual enterprises, small businesses at best. Murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, arson, hate crimes, forgery, counterfeiting, fraud, embezzlement, buying and selling stolen property, vandalism, carrying concealed weapons, child molestation, and driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics can usually be done by one, two, or, at most, a small band of people.

Supplying the needs of people who engage in consensual crimes, on the other hand, is big business. Drugs are the best example. Getting all that marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, and other chemicals to the millions of eager users every day (many of whom receive home delivery) requires enormous planning, preparation, personnel, coordination—in short, organization. Because the moralists of our society have chosen to label the distribution of these obviously desired substances crimes, these big businesses are known as organized crime.

The big-business, international quality of organized crime today is evident even in the name it chooses to call itself. In the early days, crime organizations were called families because they were, in many cases, extended family units. As organized crime grew into a business at which anyone could play, it became known as a syndicate. Today it's known as a cartel, a word of international scope (the Germans spell it Kartell, the French cartel, and the Italians cartello).


You can imagine
my embarrassment
when I killed the wrong guy.
JOE VALACHI
Organized crime was first organized around a consensual crime during Prohibition. Making and distributing alcohol required breweries, distilleries, bottling plants, truck drivers, places to sell it (speakeasies), waiters, cooks, jazz musicians to entertain—it was a regular empire. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the empire was firmly in place and, with a little retooling, it turned to the marketing of other consensual crimes: prostitution, gambling, loansharking, and drugs.
The organized crime of today is nothing like the organized crime of yesterday—it's much better organized, therefore much worse for the rest of us. Organized crime competes with IBM, GM, and Sears for law school and MBA graduates. (Based on results, IBM, GM, and Sears have not gotten the cream of the crop.) Organized crime's boats outrun the Coast Guard, their planes outfly the Air Force, their soldiers outshoot the Army, and their intelligence is smarter than the CIA's.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt observed,

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car, but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad.

In addition to police, judges, prosecutors, and politicians, organized crime also has on its payroll doctors, scientists, and journalists in all media whose job it is to predict and report how terrible life would be if consensual crimes were legalized. (Organized crime's very existence depends on consensual crimes remaining illegal.) The media people on the payroll are also to report that organized crime is on the decrease, that its influence is minimal, and that the government is doing an absolutely crackerjack job of rounding up the few minor hoodlums that remain. ("No one is beyond the reach of the federal auth-orities. Well, just look at Noriega.")

I hate this "crime doesn't pay" stuff.
Crime in the U.S. is perhaps
one of the biggest businesses
in the world today.
PAUL KIRK
Wall Street Journal

Unlike in the old days, organized crime is hardly homegrown. Consensual crimes (especially drugs) have international investors. Most of the ill-gotten gain leaves our shores, never to return. (Well, some of it returns—when the cartel buys an American bank, high-rise office building, or other legitimate business.)

The heavy-handed tactics and enforcement by violence continue, of course. Some things are traditional. Organized crime doesn't differentiate between crimes with genuine victims and crimes without. The well-oiled, well-run, well-connected machine runs just as well whether promoting a crooked investment scheme (bilking thousands out of retirement money) or importing cocaine (for obviously willing consumers). The criterion is never "Is it right?" only "Is it profitable?" The reason organized crime has stayed primarily with consensual crimes is that, due to the artificially inflated prices, consensual crimes are the most profitable.

Thanks to the consensual crimes, the flow of money goes something like this: To pay the outrageously inflated price of their addiction, people steal things—from you and me. If what was stolen is not money, the item is taken to a fence, who pays about ten cents on the dollar (if the item is in new condition). The underworld resells the item at a profit. For every $100 of merchandise stolen, perhaps $30 goes into the cartel coffers. Then there are people who steal money. When people steal money to buy drugs, all of it goes into the underworld treasury. The money is then laundered by a trillion-dollar international scheme of money scrubbing, and the newly legitimized dollars are stored in Swiss bank accounts, off-shore banks, and other places outside the United States where they cannot be traced—or taxed.


CRIMINAL: A person with
predatory instincts
who has not
sufficient capital
to form a corporation.
HOWARD SCOTT

Here we find another significant way in which organized crime hurts us: no taxation. Just about all the money is tax free. Organized crime learned well the lesson taught by Al Capone, who was sent away for eleven years not for racketeering, bootlegging, or murder, but for tax evasion. The lesson organized crime learned was not to pay more taxes, but to be a lot more careful at bookkeeping.

When illegal consensual activities are made legal, some of the underground will wallow about looking for new and better crimes to commit. Many—like the speakeasy operators who overnight became owners of successful nightclubs—will move aboveground (some by choice, some by necessity) and continue business as usual. For the first time in a long time these entrepreneurs will be able to focus on business and not on the business of protecting themselves from the police. The police will be able to find real criminals. The press will be able to report truth freely again, and we can all celebrate an unprecedented cycle of economic prosperity and decline in crime.

And have I told you about my plan to raise Atlantis?

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