The Mob Museum

Another trip to Vegas. Didn’t do well at the poker tables, but that’s another story. I visited the Mob Museum in downtown Vegas, and I enjoyed it and recommend it. (Stop at Banger Brewing for a beer afterward, and at Pizza Rocks for a slice — downtown Vegas is so much hipper than the strip!)
The Mob Museum shows that even though the Mafia and other U.S. gangs came of age during Prohibition, and later moved into gambling, those are by no means their only businesses. The mob is interested in money. It goes where the money is — liquor was very lucrative during Prohibition, and gambling was very lucrative during the early decades of Las Vegas. But the mob also has been involved in Hollywood, labor unions, importing, drugs, etc. Wherever there is money to be made without having to do much actual work to get it (violence and intimidation and bribing officials are fairly easy once you’re experienced), that’s where the mob goes.
I found the earlier parts of the museum, about the rise and workings of the mob, more interesting than the later parts, about the investigation and dismantling of the gangs. But yes, organized crime has been more or less tamed in this country. And some people lament that and romanticize the gangster era, the museum points out. Some Las Vegas residents say the casinos ran smoothly and were more fun when the gangsters ran them. What’s wrong with that idea? The museum says the mob took profits out of the community, only to enrich the mobsters. Some of the proceeds went back into the businesses, but since the mobs avoided paying taxes, their success didn’t help the larger society the way legitimate business supposedly does.
But I immediately was struck by the similarity, not the difference, between the mobs and the corporations that now run the casinos (and everything else). The corporations also evade taxes (and have been increasingly successful at that in recent decades). The corporations also bribe public officials to get their way. They also resort to violence, in subtle but extreme ways, getting the police or even the U.S. military to help them achieve their goals whenever necessary. They don’t give anything back to the community unless they have to, slashing workers’ pay and jobs whenever it is expedient. Basically they are the same as the mobs, except bigger, better financed and more efficient. Like the mob, the corporations also are a “shadow government,” unelected but with great power over ordinary citizens.
We can only hope that someday soon the corporations will be dismantled and put into a museum as one of the interesting evils of the past.

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