New markets expanding for dirty businesses.

AuthorMosettig, Michael
PositionMcMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal World - Book review

McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal World

By Misha Glenny

Knopf, 375 pages, $27.95

When journalist and author Misha Glenny was attending Bristol University in the 1970's, little could he realize that his generation's motto of Drugs, Sex and Rock & Roll would, along with Russian oil, provide the foundation for a global shadow economy that now accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all economic transactions worldwide.

Glenny went on to become a widely-known and respected figure in international journalism in the 1990's with his reporting for the BBC of the murderous debacles in the Balkans. His experiences there serve as the launching pad for an extended investigative book on international criminal and gray-market operations across Eastern Europe into Russia, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia. The laundered takings from prostitution, drugs, contraband smuggling and counterfeit music and video discs and tapes often end up in an increasingly globalized financial system--that is the darkly symptomatic side of globalization. In response, the U.S. and EU governments flail away at globalized crime with often counter-productive responses, the worst being the on-going "war on drugs."

Glenny's initial analysis is that the new Mafias have their roots in the collapse of communism in the East, which coincided with the opening of expanded trade and capital markets in the West. Few Western officials or institutions realized the implications of these simultaneous developments:

One group of people, however, saw real opportunity in this dazzling mixture of upheaval, hope and uncertainty. These men, and occasionally women, understood instinctively that rising living standards in the West, increased trade and migration flows, and the greatly reduced ability of many governments to police their countries combined to form a gold mine. They were criminals, organized and disorganized, but they were also good capitalists and entrepreneurs, intent on obeying the laws of supply and demand. As such, they valued economies of scale, just as multinational corporations did, and so they sought out overseas partners and markets to develop industries that were every bit as cosmopolitan as Shell, Nike or McDonald's. The title of his book, McMafia, reflects this global reach as criminal "corporations" aspire to penetrate markets the world over--mirroring the global goals of legal entities such as McDonald's, Glenny explains.

The first epicenter of post-cold...

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