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Journal Articles Cambridge Journal of Economics Year : 2021

A Commonsian approach to crime: the Mafia and the economic power to withhold

Abstract

This paper is a plea for an institutionalist approach to crime. The argument is based on the Italian Mafia’s infiltration of legitimate businesses. The focus is on the power dimension of this infiltration. I begin by emphasising how the traditional branch of crime economics is unable to correctly address this issue. I then use the tools provided by Commons, especially his definition of property and the capacity to withhold and his distinction between will-in-vacuo and will-in-action. Access to property rights over productive entities for Mafiosi provides a perfect illustration of how the capacity to hold rights turns into a power to withhold them from others. Legal Mafia-owned enterprises should not be seen as a step toward normalisation of the Mafia, but rather as a mark of the extension of their criminal power.

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hal-03669159 , version 1 (16-05-2022)

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Clotilde Champeyrache. A Commonsian approach to crime: the Mafia and the economic power to withhold. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2021, 45 (3), pp.411-425. ⟨10.1093/cje/beab006⟩. ⟨hal-03669159⟩
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