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Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: The Market for Lemons

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Author Info

  • Dimico, Arcangelo

    ()
    (Queen's University)

  • Isopi, Alessia

    ()
    (University of Manchester)

  • Olsson, Ola

    ()
    (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)

Abstract

Since its first appearance in the late 1800s, the origins of the Sicilian mafia have remained a largely unresolved mystery. Both institutional and historical explanations have been proposed in the literature through the years. In this paper, we develop an argument for a market structure -hypothesis, contending that mafia arose in towns where firms made unusually high pro…ts due to imperfect competition. We identify the produc- tion of citrus fruits as a sector with very high international demand as well as substantial fixed costs that acted as a barrier to entry in many places and secured high profits in others. We argue that the mafia arose out of the need to protect citrus production from predation by thieves. Using the original data from a parliamentary inquiry in 1881-86 on Sicilian towns, we show that mafia presence is strongly related to the production of orange and lemon. This result contrasts recent work that emphasizes the importance of land reforms and a broadening of property rights as the main reason for the emergence of mafia protection.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/29193
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 532.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 02 May 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0532

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Postal: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Box 640, SE 405 30 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Phone: 031-773 10 00
Web page: http://www.handels.gu.se/econ/
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Related research

Keywords: mafia; Sicily; protection; barrier to entry; dominant position;

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References

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  1. Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2004. "Institutions and the Resource Curse," DEGIT Conference Papers c009_012, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  2. Smith, Rodney T, 1976. "The Legal and Illegal Markets for Taxed Goods: Pure Theory and an Application to State Government Taxation of Distilled Spirits," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 393-429, August.
  3. Frederick van der Ploeg, 2011. "Natural Resources: Curse or Blessing?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(2), pages 366-420, June.
  4. Buonanno, Paolo & Durante, Ruben & Prarolo, Giovanni & Vanin, Paolo, 2011. "On the historical and geographic origins of the Sicilian mafia," MPRA Paper 37009, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Feb 2012.
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Cited by:
  1. Paolo Pinotti, 2012. "The economic costs of organized crime: evidence from southern Italy," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 868, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  2. Paolo Buonanno & Ruben Durante & Giovanni Prarolo & Paolo Vanin, 2012. "Poor institutions, rich mines: resource curse and the origins of the Sicilian mafia," Working Papers 2012/29, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  3. Giuseppe De Feo & Giacomo De Luca, 2013. "Mafia in the ballot box," DEM Working Papers Series 057, University of Pavia, Department of Economics and Management.

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