Ordem e Progresso, part II

Property rights are evolving, and rapidly:

Vigilante militias are alleged to have taken over Rio de Janeiro
slums, ruling as feudal lords and imposing taxes, as a result of the
collapse of legal policing in these areas.

The vigilante militias are made up of off-duty police officers
and former police officers.  They work to expel drug traffickers and
other criminals from favelas, known as Brazil‘s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, to set up protection rackets themselves.

According to Rio De Janeiro’s public security department, 92
favelas are now controlled by militias, up from 42 in April 2005.  They
take over a new neighborhood at an average of 12 days.

Sociologist Ignacio Cano, who works for the Rio de Janeiro
State University, said that the root of the phenomenon is a quest by
corrupt police officers for more money, against the backdrop of falling
drug profits and a drop in bribery.

These officers have decided to take direct control of the
areas and seek other ways to extract cash from Rio’s poorest, he said.

Militias then demand protection money from the neighborhood
they have captured: taxing residents five to seven U.S. dollars per
head for living in the area; demanding two dollars for each tank of
natural gas, the most common source of heat for cooking; and charging
local taxis for entering the area.

I read many articles on this topic but the most insightful is this Chinese source, consistent with what I heard from Brazilian friends

Two questions: first, which groups are the most efficient "bandit-controllers" of the favelas?  Should it be someone who will continue to live there, or someone who owns land there (informally perhaps), or someone altogether different?

Second, would drug legalization do much to limit crime in this setting?  If a group can create a territorial monopoly on selling drugs, and drugs cease to be very profitable, cannot that same territorial monopoly be transferred to other goods and services, as we seem to be observing?  In Rhode Island the vending machine business was long corrupt.  It may be claimed that the illegality of drugs makes them a special target, but keep in mind the laws are not and cannot be enforced inside the favelas.  It is the favela boss who issues the relevant dictates.

As for Rio, here is what went on earlier this week.  I am happy to report that all three of us are back home safe and sound.

Comments

Man, those Rio slums sound like a libertarian utopia! The "dominant protection agency" has established a monopoly on the use of force and everything. How could anyone object?

TC, What's the size of these militias? $210,000 is a lot of money but what's the divisor? Are there any costs to these militias?

But, Tyler, when are you going to draw the logical conclusions from your travels South of the Border and call for stronger border control?

What is with the racist hate speech? I thought this was an economic blog, not a neo-nazi rally.

Isn't this post essentially describing a Mafia takeover? Why would that be any less pernicious in Brazil than it was in Sicily (or Chicago, for that matter)?

Krishna:

You write that †The favelas/extortion/crimea are a consequence of local economic and civic conditions, not of inherently vile attributes in the people themselves.†

It is a legitimate question how much of institutions are on papers and how much are in people’s minds. Nothing speciousness about that. In fact, some might call it economics (others call it “racist hate speech†, which I guess demonstrates their interest in intellectual discourse).

Would you deny that a lot of undesired cultural patterns follow immigrants into their new countries? The Sicilian Mafia, Middle Eastern Honor killings, Roma disregard for the law of obvious examples.

Now I agree with you that not all the problems are cultural, and that the culture might change over time in a new institutional setting such as the US, where the external incentives are different. The Sicilians adjusted, eventually. With Hispanic communities in the US today in general tend to have a lower amount of ‘social capital‘ than Anglo neighbourhoods, but it is nowhere near as bad as Mexico.

A place like California will have higher crime, worse schools, and some favelaish places that seem distasteful to visitors, but California is still an American state, so that the external legal and economic institutions are still Anglo. Therefore the place does fine, everything considering, even with 30%+ Hispanic population.

The big problem with the latest wave of migration is twofold:

†¢ Much lower external pressure to adjust to American culture.
†¢ Numbers that risk altering the external institutional structure.

40 years from now Hispanics will be a quarter of the US population. Their political norms are radically different from Americans, and not adjusting (or adjusting extremely slowly). Populism, Latino Identity based politics and demands for bigger government are dominant issues among these voters, according to polls.

What happens when Hispanics start altering both the informal cultural norms of their neighbourhoods AND the formal political institutions of the US towards Latin American ones?

The irony here is that Libertarians refuse to even acknowledge this dilemma, and instead prefer to attack anyone who points out the dilemma of being fascist.

It has nothing to do with “racism†. I would be delighted if millions of Mexicans and Brazilians wanted to come to the US to take after the American creed, Anglo-Saxon norms such as individualism, trustworthiness and limited government. But they clearly are not. Instead the majority proudly keeps the same norms that ruined the southern part of the continent.

Mr. Cowen,

In prior posts (June 2006), you appear to have argued that land use controls constitute a sufficient restraint on immigration that other controls are not needed. In my opinion, this thesis would be viewed as advocacy of Open Borders by both restrictionists and immigration supporters. In other words, arguing that land use controls are a sufficient barrier to entry, that other impediments are not needed, would be seen as support for unrestricted entry.

A useful note is that the current immigration is breaking down traditional (legal) controls on land use. The media regularly reports housing violations by illegals and the reticence of the authorities to respond to these offences against the law. Attempts at enforcement are met with cries of “racism†.

Of course, land use/zoning are not the only set of laws falling in the way of immigration (legal and illegal). It appears that hospitals have stopped enforcing statutory rape laws with respect to Hispanics because it wouldn’t be “culturally sensitive†. See Saturday’s Letters: A North Carolina Reader Exposes A Hospital’s PC Agenda.

Mr. Econotarian.

In my opinion, language matters. Referring to “undocumented workers† is wrong. They are not missing documents, that they somehow dropped or other otherwise lost. They are illegally residing and in some cases working in the USA. Would you call rape “undocumented sex†? Bank robbery “undocumented withdrawal†?

You are perfectly free to advocate legal and illegal immigration into the United States. However, you should also be willing to use the correct words to describe the policies you prefer. By the way, perhaps 1/3rd of illegals don’t work (children, dependents, etc.).

Mr. Tremblay,

You appear to be a contributor to The Radical Libertarian. Over at TRL you argue

“Everyone stop talking about immigration. Most of you are !@#$%^& racists and have no idea what you're talking about. There is no such thing as an "illegal". The "country" is not legitimate, any more than state or provincial lines are legitimate. It makes no sense to prevent people from traveling from one country to another any more than it makes sense to prevent people from crossing a side of the street or from one city to another. It is racism. NOTHING MORE.†

You are quite free to promote a world without nations, borders, etc. However, as you know many people disagree with this position. That doesn’t make them neo-nazis or racists.

Shecky,

Reasonable people differ on immigration policy. Please attempt to refute views you disagree with via logic, data, facts, etc.

Krishna,

Others, including Mr. Cowen, have suggested that unrestricted immigration into the US would create shantytowns here. It is not absurd to suggest that similar patterns of crime, corruption, and violence would emerge here over time. I would suggest you research the growth and activities of MS-13 before dismissing such concerns. Please note that shantytowns are already appearing in the US. In Texas, they are called Colonias.

Teller,

I recently communicated some of my concerns to a resident of Los Angeles. Her reply was “yes, it is true, but if you live on the West side you are insulated from it†. No doubt she is mostly correct (she allowed that immigration driven population growth had diminished mobility). However, the illegals I mentioned above don’t enjoy that privilege. They are living in the US, in a world all too much like Mexico.

Mr. Schaeffer,

I live in Jackson Heights, NY, probably one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the world. It's largely Colombian, Ecuadorian, Bolivian, and Peruvian with pockets of Brazilians, Argentinians and Uruguayans.

It's a clean, safe neighborhood where my wife and I feel no need to worry about walking around at night.

No worries about crime here at all.

We're about three generations into it in my neighborhood. In fact, nothing in what I wrote indicated that it was "the first generation." Prior to the Latin American immigration in my neighborhood, there was a large number of immigrants from Galicia in Spain. There have been about 5 generations of Hispanic immigrants in my neighborhood. On balance, it's very safe.

Randy Paul,

I am glad your neighborhood is safe. So is mine. Check out Seeing Today’s Immigrants Straight for a useful discussion of the current immigration. Not a pretty picture.

You are right about the impact of U.S. gang culture in Latin America. Certainly a vile export of the U.S. The combination of American social decay and Latin American poverty has produced harrowing results in several countries. See Gang linked to Honduras massacre for a tale of woe. Note that criminals deported from the UK back to Jamaica have proven to be similarly destructive.

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