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Crime, Law & Social Change (2006) 45: 227–230 DOI: 10.



Springer 2006

Review of Wages of Crime

Black Markets, Illegal Finance, and the Underworld Economy, R.T. Naylor, Cornell University Press, 2005

Wages of Crime is a provocative and thoughtful work by a thoughtful and provocative author, R. T. Naylor, a professor of economics at Canada’s McGill University. Most (all?) readers will surely agree that this book is provocative. Whether they agree that it is thoughtful, however, may well depend upon their political ideology and how sympathetic they might be to bashing the United States. Naylor’s thesis here is that the so-called “war on terror” being conducted (principally by the United States) since September 11, 2001 is little more than a hyped-up cover for a variety of questionable and illegal actions by U.S. law enforcement. The latter, according to Naylor, are not based upon any rational-empirical evidence and demonstrated need, but rather upon myth, hyperbole, confusion, and deliberate disinformation. One thing Naylor cannot be accused of is mincing his words! Having set himself the challenge of defending his thesis, it is appropriate for readers to ask how – and just how well – he accomplishes this task. To begin, a small note of caution and a disclosure – this reviewer is a lifelong Democrat who voted twice against President Bush, and who is no fan of the Bush Administration and its policies. That said, one gets an immediate sense of the book’s tone in the very first sentence of its introduction: “President George W. Bush,” Naylor writes, “does not believe in the greenhouse effect, shrugs off acid rain, and cannot see any hole in the ozone layer no matter how hard he squints” (p. 1). But before I take up the matter of the book’s tone a bit later, I should note that there are three major assumptions that Naylor cites and targets for refutation. The first is the assumption that there are great crime cartels on the world stage; second, that globalization facilitates these international crime cartels; and third, that the money generated by the international cartels is a threat to the foundations of the world economic order. What does the author conclude about these assumptions? In a word, that they are hogwash! The bulk of the book is then devoted to substantiating this judgment.



Professor Naylor’s description of the “mafia myth” in Chapter 1 is in keeping with that of a number of others, e.g., Joseph Albini and Dwight Smith. His delineation of the characteristics that make organized crime indeed organized crime is excellent. His conclusion that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) “failed to make much impact on the criminal marketplace” is, however, certainly not consistent with that of other astute observers (See, e.g., James B. Jacobs’ Gotham Unbound, NYU Press, 1999) who believe that RICO was “the most important substantive anti-organized-crime statute in history” (Jacobs, 1999:131). The discussion in this and the ensuing five chapters is generally lucid and well-written, if occasionally redundant and not well-sourced. The redundancy (especially prevalent with respect to the issue of finding, freezing, and forfeiting the money) is probably due to the fact that the chapters were apparently written as stand-alone pieces over a period of time. With respect to sources, this reviewer was sometimes reduced to wondering about just how does he know that. This was especially so in those instances where I checked the notes to determine the source, only to see that it was Professor Naylor himself in another publication? The NY Times appears to be a major source. Finally, the book’s index is quite limited. It is in the last chapter that Professor Naylor really reaches the zenith of his criticism of the U.S. and of U.S. policies. Chapter 7 is titled “Satanic Purses,” one of the countless examples in the book of Naylor’s creative ability to play with and play on words. He is very adept with turns of phrase and throwaway lines. There are the “neo-con artists” crafting foreign policy, and “the First Amendment right to freedom of (selective) religion,” and so on. In truth, there is much in the chapter with which this reviewer can wholeheartedly agree. Any follower of the news over the past four years knows that a litany of mistakes have been made by the United States, wrong-headed policies pursued, deceptions promulgated, etc., etc. A reasoned, carefully documented, informed and informative analysis of the war on terror by a reputable scholar such as Naylor is certainly in order. Unfortunately, that is not what we find for the most part in this chapter, which often reads more like a polemic than a scholarly work. Professor Naylor ironically commits some of the same mistakes of which he accuses the Bush Administration, most especially that of engaging in hyperbole. He is also seemingly addicted to “cuteness,” as in the use of catchy words and phrases. The following are just a few examples of Naylor’s approach: “To punish the perpetrators and prevent a repetition [of the 9/11 attacks], the most important response, apart from bombing wedding parties and eviscerating children in Afghanistan. . ..” (p. 288). Did mistaken bombings



of this sort occur in Afghanistan? Unfortunately yes! Were they official policy? Surely Naylor knows they were not! “If Helen of Troy’s radiant face wrote a major chapter in ancient world history when it launched a fleet of a thousand ships, Monica Lewinsky’s puckered lips deserve at least a footnote in more recent annals for helping to inspire an equally fateful flight of cruise missiles” (p. 295). Highly respected former national security advisor (in four administrations) Richard Clarke, describes this purported linkage in his book Against All Enemies (Free Press, 2004), as being grist for the right-wing radio talk mill and part of the Get Clinton campaign. Whatever one may think of Naylor’s political leanings, they certainly would not appear to be right-wing. Clarke says that the missile attack on suspected al Qaeda headquarters was in fact a response to “two deadly terrorist attacks” and “an attempt to wipe out al Qaeda leadership.” Were officials aware that there would probably be an effort to link this action to the Lewinsky scandal? Yes! Did that influence the response? Not according to Clarke, who as a former career employee has no particular reason to apologize for President Clinton’s personal failings. “. . .the fight against Islamic religious extremism is led from the White House by a president who is a Born-again Creationist, who insists that his cabinet ministers attend Bible class. . . .” (p. 300). Is Bush a born-again Christian? Yes! Is he a Creationist? I don’t know, nor do we learn here how Naylor knows that. Does Bush insist that cabinet members attend Bible class? Not to my knowledge. If the author is alleging that the war on terror is a religious war, I for one would be prepared to entertain the evidence pro and con for that allegation. That evidence and that discussion are not here. “. . . [Washington] think tanks manned by exspooks unable to find a real day job. . ..” (p. 304). Partially accurate, but mostly cute! One should beware of half-truths, and also supposedly serious scholars who try to mimic Jay Leno and David Letterman. Given Professor Naylor’s obvious antipathy to the Bush administration, one might think he would join hands with Bush critics – well, not necessarily! For example, he calls the anti-Bush film maker Michael Moore that “occasional well-meaning if na¨ve lefty critic of the Bush administration.” ı Finally, that Naylor applies his tar brush quite broadly is evident in this gratuitous slap at the hundreds, indeed thousands, of honest, hard-working public servants in the United States: “A senior U.S. Treasury official helpfully suggested that Somalis could use Western Union instead [for money transfers].



Leaving aside the question of whether the official was lining himself up for a corporate plum after he left what in the present day United States passes for public service [italics added]. . ..” (p. 319). Just what are readers to make of this? As I indicated at the outset, whether readers appreciate Wages of Crime or not, and agree with it or not, will depend upon their political ideology and their views of the United States. Professor Naylor is certainly a critical thinker who provides much food for thought in this book. Unfortunately for my taste, the scholarship is too often overwhelmed by an anti-American and particularly anti-current administration diatribe that I am sure others may find over the top as well.
JAMES O. FINCKENAUER Professor of Criminal justice School of Criminal Justice Rutgers University 123 Washington Street Newark, NJ 07102 E-mail: