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General Board / In The Movies
« on: January 21, 2006, 10:13:43 PM »
The great classic, the definitive, superb Mafia movie was The Godfathers I and II, in which Francis Ford Coppola poured out a work of genius, grounded in his own and novelist Mario Puzo's cultural history, which he has never approached since. The key to The Godfathers and to success in the Mafia genre is the realization and dramatic portrayal of the fact that the Mafia, although leading a life outside the law, is, at its best, simply entrepreneurs and businessmen supplying the consumers with goods and services of which they have been unaccountably deprived by a Puritan WASP culture. The unforgettable images of mob violence juxtaposed with solemn Church rites were not meant, as left-liberals would have it, to show the hypocrisy of evil men. For these Mafiosi, as mainly Italian Catholics, are indeed deeply religious; they represent one important way in which Italian Catholics were able to cope with, and make their way in, a totally alien world dominated by WASP Puritan insistence that a whole range of products eagerly sought by consumers be outlawed.

Hence the systemic violence of Mafia life. Violence, in The Godfather films, is never engaged in for the H e l l of it, or for random kicks; the point is that since the government police and courts will not enforce contracts they deem to be illegal, debts incurred in the Mafia world have to be enforced by violence, by the secular arm. But the violence simply enforces the Mafia equivalent of the law: the codes of honor and loyalty without which the whole enterprise would simply be random and pointless violence. In many cases, especially where "syndicates" are allowed to form and are not broken-up by government terror, the various organized syndicates will mediate and arbitrate disputes, and thereby reduce violence to a minimum. Just as governments in the Lockean paradigm are supposed to be enforcers of commonly-agreed-on rules and property rights, so "organized crime," when working properly, does the same. Except that in its state of illegality it operates in an atmosphere charged with difficulty and danger.

It is interesting to observe the contrasting attitudes of our left-liberal culture to the two kinds of crime, organized versus unorganized. Organized crime is essentially anarcho-capitalist, a productive industry struggling to govern itself; apart from attempts to monopolize and injure competitors, it is productive and non-aggressive. Unorganized, or street, crime, in contrast, is random, punkish, viciously aggressive against the innocent, and has no redeeming social feature. Wouldn't you know, then, that our leftist culture hates and reviles the Mafia and organized crime, while it lovingly excuses, and apologizes for, chaotic and random street punksviolence which amounts to "anarchy" in the bad, or common meaning. In a sense, street violence embodies the ideal of left-anarchism: since it constitutes an assault on the rights of person and property, and on the rule of law that codifies such rights.

One great scene in The Godfather embodies the difference between right and left anarchism. One errant, former member of the Corleone famiglia abases himself before The Godfather (Marlon Brando). A certain punk had raped and brutalized his daughter. He went to the police and the courts, and the punk was, at last, let go (presumably by crafty ACLU-type lawyers and a soft judicial system). This distraught father now comes to Don Corleone for justice. Brando gently upbraids the father: "Why didn't you come to me? Why did you go to The State?" The inference is clear: the State isn't engaged in equity and justice; to obtain justice, you must come to the famiglia. Finally, Brando relents: "What would you have me do?" The father whispers in the Godfather's ear. "No, no, that is too much. We will take care of him properly." So not only do we see anarcho-capitalist justice carried out, but it is clear that the Mafia code has a nicely fashioned theory of proportionate justice. In a world where the idea that the punishment should fit the crime has been abandonedand still struggled over by libertarian theorists it is heart-warming to see that the Mafia has worked it out in practice.

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