Ideology and Integrity

by Kieran Healy on July 23, 2005

Via “Tim Lambert”:http://timlambert.org/2005/07/lott-libels/, some evidence that these two properties might still be orthogonal. Tim reproduces an email exchange between John Donohue and a representative of the Federalist Society’s chapter at University of Chicago. They are trying to organize a debate between Donohue and the awful John Lott, but they fail through a sequence of scheduling problems exacerbated by Lott’s efforts (on his blog) to make it look like Donohue is afraid to face him in public. You have to give the Federalist Society person credit for an evenhanded and respectful demeanor in the face of relentless provocation from Lott’s trademark mix of misrepresentation, slander and evasiveness. Eventually the head of the Chicago chapter writes to Donohue telling him they’ve withdrawn Lott’s invitation to speak because of his repeated refusals to remove the libels of Donohue from his blog. So full marks to them for being on the up-and-up. The fact that the American Enterprise Institute remain happy to have Lott as a senior fellow, on the other hand, speaks for itself at this point.

A Friend in the Family

by Henry on July 23, 2005

Simonetta Agnello Hornby’s “article”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/04a67d56-f8da-11d9-8fc8-00000e2511c8.html on the Italian mafia in today’s _FT_ is a little impressionistic for my tastes. Its final paragraphs, however, have a nugget of insight about the pervasiveness of the Mafia in modern Sicily.

bq. “Mafiosita” lurks within me, and it came out powerfully last summer. I was at our family estate in Sicily. My grandchild cut his hand; while I was holding him in my arms, blood flowed copiously. I rushed to the telephone and called a friend: “Whom do you know at A&E?”, I asked. Had I been in London, I would have gone straight to the local hospital. I thought long and hard on that episode, and was shamed. Distrustful of the ability of the local health service to deliver services without an “introduction”, I had resorted to the “known ways”: personal contact. My friend is just a friend, but for people less privileged than I, the Mafia is always ready – at a price – to be the “best of all friends”, and it has friends in all places.

What she’s saying here is very reminiscent of Diego Gambetta’s “classic essay”:http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/papers/gambetta158-175.pdf on the Mafia and trust. Gambetta argues that Mafia members have come to play a key role as interlocutors, purveyors of introductions and guarantors of relationships in a society, such as Sicily’s, where people don’t trust strangers readily. But mafiosi have a strong interest too in ensuring that individuals don’t come to trust each other independently of their contacts through the Mafia. Hence, they act not only to guarantee relationships, but to reinforce the social belief that unless you deal with the Mafia and are under their protection, you are liable to be rooked. The Mafia and the culture of _raccomandazioni_ (personal introductions and recommendations as an alternative to impersonal transactions) are intimately intertwined with each other. As Hornby notes in passing, there also appear to be close linkages between the Mafia and Silvio Berlusconi’s _Forza Italia_; one of the reasons why publications such as the _Economist_, which might otherwise have been expected to support a right-of-center party with a purported interest in liberalization, have such distaste for Berlusconi and his doings.