The Italian Govt. aka The Sicilian Mafia

The Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra is a gang that acts as a government within Italy. The Mafia started because of entrepreneurs who leased farmlands from aristocrats and would hire guards to protect their property. They really got their foothold in 1861 during the unification of Italy and the economic crisis. The Italian state was trying to find a way to control the government in Sicily which they knew very little about, and they relied on the Mafia. Nowadays even though they have been weakened they still control much of the drug trade into Europe partnering with several other drug cartels, with their main business being trafficking heroin. They have an estimated 25,000 members in total and 250,000 worldwide affiliates according to the FBI. They’ve also been taking advantage of the incoming migrants, which has become a crisis in Italy, by demanding bribes and payments from state-funded migrant shelters.
The Sicilian Mafia is split into different families that control areas or districts. These families are put into a hierarchical system in which each family has a head and appoints different people to power beneath them. The head is a boss who is helped by a deputy and sometimes up three trusted counselors. Under the deputy there are smaller bosses who command groups of roughly 10 soldiers although depending on the size of the family that number can change. The boss is usually elected on a yearly basis although sometimes violent successions do happen. According to informants and historians while some clans have influence over nearby clans there is no one person who commands the whole organization. They do have commissions, one for each province in Italy, from which clans in each region all elect a representative, these manage the violence between clans as well as issues of succession.
The biggest function of the Mafia does is how it got its start, protection. In areas of Sicily where the police and government cannot be trusted, the Mafia provide that trust. They mediate disagreements between criminals and even protect shop owners from thieves. Although many people are forced to pay protection in return for little actual protection others actively seek out protection from the Mafia. In 2008 an estimated 70 percent of stores paid the mafia protection money, either willingly or forcibly. This protection ranged from about $250 to $6,000. They also often enforce collusion, such as the garbage industry. They also provide this protection to smuggling gangs, acting as a trusted entity to help gain investors and to make sure the smugglers act safely. Because of their influence, during election years political candidates will try and appeal to the Mafia. There are 945 seats in the Italian parliament so if a candidate has the support of their local Mafia that alone can decide an election.
In 1995 it is believed Bernardo Provenzano took over leadership of the Mafia. Under him murders of state officials and informants significantly decreased as did defectors. The ‘Ndrangheta assumed most of the cocaine trade in Europe from the weakened Mafia in the late 1990’s. He was arrested in 2006 and is believed to have been succeeded by Messina Denaro. In 2012 it was reported that they had teamed up with several Mexican drug cartels. In late 2017 and early 2018 many arrests of mafia members and associated politicians were made on the grounds of mafia association, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud and vote buying.
There is a growing opposition to the “pizzo” or forced protection money called “Addiopizzo” which began in 2004. There are now 1,000 member businesses who advertise that they do not pay the Mafia. Many of these business owners have also testified in 27 separate trials against extortionists. And according to the Addiopizzo’s cofounder people are beginning to “openly questioning such extortion”. They also provide legal, and social support from Mafia retribution to those willing to name extortionists in court. This is having an impact on the Mafia, one of the members was recorded in jail saying that due to Addiopizzo there are fewer young recruits and the amount of businesses not paying protection money is putting a dent in the Mafia’s income.
The Sicilian Mafia is a gang that acts as a government within Sicily, but in recent years their power has decreased due to other gangs and anti-mafia movements.

North Korea, An Institutional Military Gang

There are many things that come to mind when people think of the North Korean government, their irrational leader, propaganda, their nuclear program. Yet, what few people realize is how similar it is to a gang. Since there is such an inequality in prosperity and an extreme government involvement in all aspects of life, the government of North Korea behaves almost exactly like an institutional military gang.

From the beginning of its creation in 1948, the North Korean government was set to run like a gang. Some of the earliest beliefs and guidelines for the country are rooted in gang-like behavior. The main concept of North Korea’s government is called “Juche.” “Juche” is a form of communism that takes from Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. It is a mix that has been created to fit the needs and desires of the North Korean government. The concept of “Juche” also fits into the North Korean “songbun system.” This system give its citizens a social classification based on their family history and the citizen’s education and work performance. This classification makes an immense difference in the way one’s life is lived. Another concept that fits into the idea of “Juche” and the “songbun system” is “Chawi.” This idea is a belief that is instilled into North Koreans throughout their entire lives. It is the idea that all military and government personnel are much higher in status than all other citizens. This idea reinforces the idea of social classes and the stark differences between them in North Korea. The North Korean government also has a set of traditional beliefs that are used as a sort of state religion, and they use this form of beliefs to control family life and marriage.

While North Korea is a communist state, it is also similar in some ways to a royal monarchy. The Kim family has been in power since the creation of the country and this has given them the ability to accumulate immense power. They also rule especially with fear, and in doing so violate many basic human rights. The Kim family and the North Korean government hold a tight grip on their citizens. Like being a gang member, being a citizen of North Korea, comes with many rules and guidelines for all aspects of life. As many gangs have representative colors or patches that they wear, the North Korean people have to wear pins that show their social status. While the pins may seem to North Koreans like a fashion statement, it is one reduction of their already fleeting freedom.

There are many ways that the North Korean government acts like a gang, in the ways that they control their citizens, but they also are involved in more directly in some activities that are usually reserved for actual gangs. North Korea does not have an easy time making money and expanding their economy, so some of their economic activities are somewhat understandable. The country has few natural resources, and that greatly hinders the country’s economy. They resort to illegal and risky business practices. Yet the country’s leaders do not seem to be trying to improve the country for all of its citizens but for a small group of party officials.

There is, however, one group that benefits from the strict restrictions of freedom and terrible lives of the North Korean people: the military elite. This group of highly ranked military personnel exercise many privileges that are not available to civilians and have a much greater amount of freedom. As one journalist said the Kim Jong-il regime resembles “a cult-based, family-run criminal enterprise rather than a government.” With North Korea’s disregard for legal business, human rights, and freedom, the government acts like a gang, much more than it does a government.