MAFIA - "a secret association having for its object the illicit control of any enterprise, legitimate or illegitimate, which it decides to infiltrate" (Allen 6).
The decade of the 1920s was full of deception, corruption, and degeneration. The very embodiment of these qualities was the institution of the Italian-American Mafia. The syndicate began in Sicily and spread to encompass United States politics and the national economy. The post war era left the nation in a recession and vulnerable to organized crime. Changes in the country's attitudes and outlooks on the future paved the way for organized crime on a large scale. People were too preoccupied with bootleg booze, sexual promiscuity, and get-rich-quick schemes to notice the downward spiral of the government's respectability and integrity. The decadence of the decade and the feel good mentality of America's youth provided opportunities the industrious underworld leaders sought in order to gain control of the syndicate. The Mafia supplied America with the vices it longed for and in return America let the Mafia get away with murder. Not only did the syndicate accumulate power but also profited financially through prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging. These activities were the foundations of the Outfit's financial and political empires. Mafia power soon began to eclipse the authority of the law enforcement agencies, and the struggle between responsibility and autonomy began.
Governmental corruption was a standard practice in the 1920s. In reference to a question on the underworld's power Don Calo, a Mafia chief replied, “… between the law and the Mafia, the former is not the most to be feared” (...
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...h (Allen 14). Many informants are willing to testify to a specific incident but not to the entirety. Their fear of retribution from the Outfit is much greater than their fear of the government. Even today, the only thing known with any degree of certainty is that the influence of the Mafia did not end with the 1920s.
- Allen, Edward J. Merchants of Menace-The Mafia: A Study of
Organized Crime Springfield, Ill: Thomas, 1962.
- Bequai, August. Organized Crime Washington: Library of
- “Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano.”
- “Contempt of Court.” Alphonse Capone, aka. Al, Scarface.
- Gardiner, John A. The Politics of Corruption New York:
Russell Sage Foundation, 1970.
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