Criminality of the state? Forget ideology and ask about history

Some libertarians and others argue that the state is an inherently criminal organization–a protection racket at best.

The argument is that threatening people to obey your orders and to give you money “in exchange” for services at the price you set is intrinsically criminal activity. Mobsters have gone to jail for this kind of behavior. Libertarians suggest that such mobsters are being jailed for violating the state’s monopoly on criminal behavior. “Don’t steal the government hates competition” and all that.

As a secular ideology, I think refuting libertarianism in a consistently moral way is more difficult than most people ever want to acknowledge. But I’m not a secular person. I think Jesus is the King of the world by right of inheritance. So he can delegate authority.

But forget ideology! What about history?

Instead of pretending that, once the ideological question has been addressed (there is actually more to it, but I’ll deal with that in another post), there is nothing more to consider, maybe it would be wise to read a history book or two. I would suggest you start with The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America – 1947-2000 by Roger Morris and Sally Denton.

Morris and Denton don’t have to do much digging to show the reader that a history of Las Vegas is both a history of American organized crime and a history of our political leadership in the twentieth -century. If you want an example of how easy it is to see the underworld/overworld hook-up, and how naive our so-called “news” media can get in not exposing it. I suggest you listen to this All Things Considered NPR story, “Prisoner and Politician: The Bulger Brothers Led Different Lives.”

As I wrote elsewhere, the story doesn’t show “different lives” but rather a cooperative venture:

William Bulger was President of the Massachusetts state Senate for many years. They had different titles but they obviously held onto one powerful empire.

I haven’t yet read Howie Carr’s book, The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter of a Century, so I can’t speak to all the details. But simply listening to the NPR story, one can see how assiduously an institution like Public radio will work to try to keep listeners from considering how local and state government might be enmeshed with organized crime syndicates.

NPR pretends that the only possible scandal is the way William Bolger contacted his fugitive brother and didn’t inform authorities—and how he refused to cooperate with the investigation. We’re supposed to believe that the most powerful man in Massachusetts State politics and the most powerful gangster in the Boston area just happened to rule their respective kingdoms at the same time and happened to be brothers. Further, we are supposed to believe that, once the gangster was on the run, the politician happened to commit crimes (not reporting his location) out of loyalty to his brother—but that loyalty never touched his previous political career.

According to Wikipedia,

“Beginning in 1975, Bulger served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As a result, the Bureau largely ignored his organization in exchange for information about the inner workings of the Italian American Patriarca crime family. Beginning in 1997, the New England media exposed criminal actions by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials tied to Bulger. For the FBI especially, this has caused great embarrassment.”

The fact that his brother was the most powerful politician in the state had nothing to do with why the Boston Office of the FBI gave him this amazing deal? Would having a powerful local politician for a brother have nothing to do with your ability to get people in federal, state, or local law enforcement positions to commit crimes?

In the days of his youth and the beginning of his criminal career, Whitey was in Alcatraz for a string of bank robberies. According to NPR, he got out early due to “one of these strange happenstances” in Whitey’s life (one among many, it is admitted). Their local neighbor was about to become Speaker of the House in Washington DC, and was well connected to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons. So he used his influence to get Bulger released early so he could return to Boston and start building his underworld empire.

Is that the behavior you expect from a Speaker of the House?

Boer hints at the truth, saying that both brothers’ careers rose together and that the politician, William Bolger, would threaten opponents with the words, “You are not a friend of the Bulger family,” when everyone knew his brother was a killer.

The scandal here is not really local politics and criminality. The scandal here is how carefully our media works, even when the truth should be common knowledge, to hide the criminality and corruption of major cities and state governments. This is only coming out now that the brothers are old and no longer in power.

The historical view of the criminality of the state can only involve one political order at a time (i.e. it is a conclusion about a particular institution, not a theory of all such institutions). You look at the powerful people in that order. Since, in our own country, such people rotate in and out of high positions with corporations, you have to included that as well. Then you look at the lives of known criminal leaders. What Roger Morris and Sally Denton show us is that those two circles overlap more than anyone wants to admit.

The underworld and the overworld are virtually the same planet.

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