Mafia state

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In politics, a mafia state is a state system where the government is tied with organized crime to the degree when government officials, the police, and/or military became a part of the criminal enterprise.


  • Is Russia a fascist state? A totalitarian one? A dictatorship? A cult of personality? A system? An autocracy? An ideocracy? A kleptocracy? The best description of the Russian state is a mafia state.
  • The term “mafia state” was pioneered by Bálint Magyar, a sociologist in Hungary, Russia’s closest ally in Europe. Magyar and his colleagues have elaborated on the concept in the last decade, as Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán has amassed power, eliminated political and economic rivals, and turned the institutions of his state into instruments of personal power.
  • Systems of governance that are seized by a tiny cabal become mafia states. The early years —Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in the United States—are marked by promises that the pillage will benefit everyone. The later years—George W. Bush and Barack Obama — are marked by declarations that things are getting better even though they are getting worse. The final years — Donald Trump — see the lunatic trolls, hedge fund parasites, con artists, conspiracy theorists and criminals drop all pretense and carry out an orgy of looting and corruption. The rich never have enough.
  • Yet we are concerned with more than just the financial impact. These groups may infiltrate our businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called “iron triangles” of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders pose a significant national security threat.
  • Given the volume, international scope, financial implications, and extraordinarily complex logistical requirements of today's illicit markets, it is illogical to assume that governments are not more deeply involved in these criminal activities than ever before. What is more, some of these governments are not merely accomplices but the actual leaders of criminal enterprises. (Text is part of Moisés Naím's reply to Peter Andreas comments in the first part of this article)

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