Protection rackets

The Mafia, I am told by a lady who might be an expert, follows an interesting practice in Southern Italy. They will not, in accord with some policy directive, bother the persons in any business enterprise with six or fewer employees. I assume their protection racket shields these companies the same as it would more formidable customers, but I am not an expert. Perhaps they are cruel, and leave them at the mercy of elected officials. But, prima facie, I admire this Mafia scheme, and would recommend it to the world outside Sicily and Calabria.

In Canada, the last business enterprise I conducted was a little literary magazine, now thirty years ago. It had, at maximum, only six employees, who as I recall were paid very modestly, and sometimes rather late. The Idler, as we called it, was an uphill struggle that gained a few thousand paying subscribers, without much assistance from wealthy friends. Paying the last printing bill, so our printer “could proceed” with the next number, was a perpetual source of tension.

Another source was the tax auditor who worked, at his own request, from the “spare room” in our tiny office. We might almost have thought of him as our seventh employee. After many, many fruitless months of diligent checking and cross-checking through our receipts and other arcane financial papers, he appeared to find that we were beyond criminal reproach. In any event, he went away and never came back; although we never could be sure that he had gone for ever. For the Idler was reputed to be a “conservative” magazine, which was (even in the grand old days of the Mulroney administration) something of a cultural anomaly within Canada’s “liberal” ruling class. They don’t take trespassing lightly, in their closed camp; and worse, some of them can read.

Now, had the Mafia been running the country, I gather, we might not have been disturbed. The whole neighbourhood consisted of institutions with (each) less than six warm bodies, counting cats, dogs, and parrots, and might have been allowed to just get on with it. Alas, we were not the only shop regularly crippled by “tax problems.”

We need a protection racket against our governments.