Mafia and Land Value Taxation

One of the most basic, and for some ideologically convenient, ways to think about the state is as a sort of organised crime syndicate. Charles Tilly has written profitably on early state formation in Europe when state making did not just resemble, but in many ways was, organised crime.

A King and his knights, or Don and his lackeys, would arrive, start extorting money, keep others off their turf and eventually gain a heritable legitimacy. This extortion was often extracted directly as bonded labour from a territory’s [1] serfs, but was occasionally extracted via taxation.

This taxation took many forms, sometimes in remitted grain, later as economies were monetised it was due in money. The difference between crime syndicates and states is that states were forced to provide services to avoid revolts and thus eventually gained legitimacy.

The optimum tax is often forcefully argued to be Land Value Tax; “a method of raising public revenue by means of an annual tax on the rental value of land.” This does not discourage investment or work but reaps more money as property values increase from nearby improvements.

I am aware that few states make any use of Land Value Tax, but I would argue that this is because they have ceased to be crime syndicates; crime syndicates are far more dynamic. What I would like to know is if any Mafia have updated their extortion techniques in line with the latest research on taxation.

Do the Mafia extort money on the basis of the rental value of land?

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[1] I say territory because nations did not exist before they were invented.

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2 thoughts on “Mafia and Land Value Taxation

  1. “The difference between crime syndicates and states is that states were forced to provide services to avoid revolts and thus eventually gained legitimacy.”

    Actually, crime syndicates often do provide various services to their constituents, and enjoy some degree of legitimacy in return. Shared enterprise forges social bonds, and the additional risk of illegal shared enterprise only strengthens that.

  2. The feudal kings liked Land tax because it was cheap and easy to administer and very difficult to evade. It is basically rent: people pay for the use of the land. The feudal kings may (?) have gone but these advantages of land tax still remain.

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