As an anarchist, I see the world through some quite different lenses than most people. I see government as nothing more than another kind of Mafia; one backed by pieces of paper written hundreds of years ago, and agreed to by small groups of men huddled in special rooms, discussing the best methods for running and maintaining what they euphemistically called, “civilization.” To me, however, what they discussed and agreed to hardly seems civilized. In fact, their agreements seem downright barbaric. For me, there seems precious little difference between the State and the Mafia.
How do government agents differ from Mafiosi? Is there a difference at all, or do they have essentially the same function? I’ll be exploring these questions in the remainder of this article.
Extortion and Racketeering
First, let’s get down to definitions. What does the Mafia do? Where do they get their income? How do they fund and maintain their operations?
The Mafia operates a number of different types of businesses. All of these may be described as various types of rackets. A racket is, quite simply, an illegal business. Typical rackets include any business which has been banned by government, and is therefore illegal. Examples include: prostitution, sale of stolen goods, gambling, trade in illegal drugs, trade in illegal weapons, and many others.
Perhaps the most well-known variety of racket, often portrayed in films about the Mafia, is the “Protection Racket.” This particular racket is a form of extortion. So what is extortion? Extortion is obtaining money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right.
Blackmail is a well-known common form of extortion. In blackmail, the offender threatens to reveal some information the victim would like kept secret, and in return for keeping that information secret, demands money from the victim. The victim must pay, or risk having his secret revealed. Extortion, however, can take many forms.
For another example of extortion, a man can walk into a bank and hand a note to the teller that claims he has a bomb, and will detonate the bomb if the teller does not empty the cash drawer and give him the money. He may or may not actually have a bomb. He may have a fake bomb to show to the teller. The presence or absence of the bomb is unimportant to extortion. The threat makes it extortion, not the bomb. He threatens to harm the bank or the teller, and agrees not to do so in exchange for the money in the drawer.
The protection racket has been portrayed in many films and books about the Mafia, and remains a primary source of income for many gangsters. In a protection racket, the Mafiosi agree to “protect” the victim from theft or destruction of his property. In reality, the only threat to his property may come from the Mafiosi themselves. That is to say, if he fails to pay for their protection, they’ll steal his property or destroy it. So, the unwilling victim relents to this threat, and pays the Mafiosi for their protection.
Government and Taxation
What does the government do? Where do they get their income? How do they fund and maintain their operations?
The government has no source of income of its own. It survives entirely on taxation. How does taxation work?
The people pay a share of money from various sources to the government in exchange for the services government allegedly provides, including protection. In this case, they euphemistically call these forms of protection “police” and “soldiers” and bury their actual actions behind monolithic walls of rhetoric, but the process at work smells an awful lot like a protection racket.
What happens to someone who does not pay taxes to the government? He may have his property seized, or he may be arrested and thrown into prison. In prison, he might be raped, assaulted, or murdered. At the very least, his liberty and/or property will likely be taken from him. In essence, harm will come to him in some form or other.
Allegedly such taxes are paid voluntarily by the citizens, but how voluntary is an action when the alternative is to have one’s property and liberty taken away? Is this not the same as the protection racket?
Some would say a great difference exists between the government and the Mafia, because the government is backed by “constitutional law” while the Mafia are nothing more than armed thugs. Let’s have a look, then, at constitutional law. How does that work?
To keep things simple, let’s only look at the USA, the most well-known and one of the oldest constitutional republics on the planet at present. In the USA, constitutional law was created in 1787. To do this, 74 men were invited to attend, primarily consisting of wealthy land-owners and former agents of the British Crown. Only 55 of these men actually attended the meeting where the Constitution was drafted, and only 36 of them actually signed the document.
In essence, the rule of constitutional law in the USA was decided by 55 wealthy land owners getting together in a room, and debating how they should be able to rule the lives of a new nation of people. On this piece of paper, they granted themselves a number of rights, among them the right to collect taxes, excises and duties, the right to print money, the right to punish others who print money, and the right to engage in wars.
To put it even more simply, 225 years ago, 55 rich guys got together in a room and signed a piece of paper granting themselves the right to steal money from other people via extortion, to engage in usury, and to engage in violence against others. In so doing, they named all these actions differently. They renamed usury: the “right to coin money.” They renamed extortion: “taxation, excises and duties.” They renamed violence: war. By use of pen and paper, and 36 signatures on that paper, they converted acts that would be considered unjust into acts considered just by most alive today.
What Do You Get For Your Protection Money?
Let’s drill down and compare these two extortion racketeering rings more thoroughly. What do you get for your protection money if you pay it to the government versus paying it to the Mafia?
|Police rarely ever recover stolen property.||Gangsters routinely recover stolen property.|
|Police rarely protect anyone, and usually the legal system simply punishes people after the crime has already taken place.||Gangsters will actually warn other bullies in the region that you are under their “protection,” and nobody will mess with you.|
|Extorts about 40%-50% of your income.||Extorts about 10% of your profits.|
|No sense of honor. Elected officials routinely go back on their campaign promises, change the rules, or make backroom deals violating the arrangement they’ve already made with you.||Incredible sense of honor. The Mafia generally pride themselves on being true to their word, and won’t go back on a deal they made, and will expect both parties to remain true to their word.|
|Money used in government wars ends up killing millions of innocent civilians who share no interest in the conflict. Government wars have resulted in over 200 million deaths in the 20th Century.||Mafia wars target only those members of other Mafia families, and generally avoid killing innocents. The number dead from all Mafia wars is dwarfed by the number killed only in Iraq.|
|War turns a profit for governments, who see their GDP rise, and the wallets of those businessmen who sell weapons to the State swell with profits.||In the Mafia, war is generally avoided because it is bad for business.|
|Imprisons millions for taking drugs.||Provides drugs to whoever wants them.|
|Wants to limit or take away your methods of self-protection, namely guns and other weapons.||Wants to sell you various methods of self-protection of any variety you can afford.|
|Unemployment insurance.||The Mafia won’t help you here.|
|Social security.||Again, the Mafia does not provide this.|
|Societal infrastructure (roads, electric lines, etc.).||Also not provided by the Mafia.|
|Medical care.||Also not provided by the Mafia.|
Let’s take a look at those last four in greater detail, since the Mafia has no equivalent. Those are all social programs, allegedly designed to better our lives. Do they, however, really benefit our lives?
I would argue they don’t. Allegedly, Social Security is there to prevent people from starving in their retirements, but have you seen the size of a Social Security check? Looking at the government’s numbers, the amount of a benefit check varies between $666 and $3266, depending upon the lifetime earnings of the individual. Regardless of the amount of that check, there will always be one major problem with it. It will always be substantially less than the monthly earnings of that person before their retirement. As such, many people must sell their homes and possessions upon retirement, and live much more meager lives due to the significant loss of income. Before they started taking all this income from Americans’ wages, that money was invested in other ways, often much more profitable, and thus providing for better retirements. Now many simply trust the Social Security to be there for them, and end up surprised by the meager amounts, thus having to convert their somewhat nice lifestyles into near-poverty conditions. I would argue this is no improvement.
Unemployment Insurance is similar. If, for example, you were earning $4000 per month in your position with a local company, and lost that job, your unemployment insurance would cover about $1000 per month. Well, a person with an income of $4000 often pays $1000 in rent. Such a person, upon becoming unemployed, had better have about $10,000 saved up to get himself through the average 10 months it takes to find new employment in 2012. Without those savings, he’ll have to relinquish his apartment, and probably sell many of the things in it, which likely won’t fit in his new one-room accommodation, which is all he can afford on $1000 per month.
Medical care? Let’s take a look at socialized medicine. It has been tried all over the world, and two things become clear. In systems where all medical care is paid by the state, and none of the burden borne by the people, the quality of care is abysmally low. Services take months. Bureaucracy tangles every medical procedure in red tape. Waiting times to see doctors can take forever. Less people enter the medical profession because there is less profit. States with limited medical care, such as the USA, are even worse. The partial interference in the free market causes a massive explosion in prices and profits for the drug companies and insurance companies, while the doctors end up buried under litigation and student loan debt. Increasingly, Americans are choosing not to become doctors because, as with fully socialized medicine, there’s no longer a profit in it.
That leaves us with infrastructure. Let’s face it, that’s much better done with private money than with tax money. When was the last time you saw the private construction crew lagging about drinking coffee, going home early, or not showing up to work at the site of the new skyscraper going up downtown? Never, right!? Government employees waste amazing amounts of capital, and if these jobs were done by private industry, they could be done at a fraction of the cost. Also, I’d be remiss to point out that only less than 1% of the budget actually goes towards this.
The bulk of the government budget goes to two things: war and social spending. Put in less euphemistic terms: killing and giving away stolen money.
So, What’s the Difference?
Ultimately, it does not matter much to the victim of a theft whether the guy doing the stealing is wearing an Armani suit and a fedora, or whether he’s wearing a blue uniform and a cap. Theft is theft, and either way, his property has been taken and he’s been threatened with a gun. The costume worn by the thief has no bearing on the matter.
Ultimately, there is no difference. Extortion is extortion. A 225 year old piece of paper with 36 signatures on it, agreed to by 55 rich guys does not magically convert theft, coercion and violence into “good” things, no matter what the majority thinks about it.
The State, then, is merely the Mafia backed by a piece of 225 year old piece of paper with words and signatures on it.
Are you going to let them get away with that? What would you do if the Mafia came knocking? Report them to the other Mafia that dresses in different costumes?
Consider that it might be better to get yourself a gun and protect yourself, instead of paying the racketeers. At the very least, stop filling out forms telling them how much money you made, and signing away a third of your income to them. The IRS is not big enough to handle all the people who do not file. They have a hard enough time dealing with the ones who do file, but pay the “wrong amount.” At worst, they might try to force your employer to steal even more from your paycheck, and give it to them. Yes, just more extortion, but what’s to be expected from a bunch of Mafiosi? That’s their game, after all!