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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawlessness and Mass Psychology

When governments pass legislation deemed unjust by a population, people will find a way around the law. This is what happened in the United States in the 1930s, the era of prohibition and bootleg gin. That era spawned a class of gangsters associated with Chicago; the myths and lore surrounding such figures as Al Capone persist to this day. It is the stuff of Hollywood - wild partying by guys and molls and brutal shootouts between rival gangs greedy for shares in the lucrative market in illegal alcohol.

These images from Chicago in the '30s are becoming a reality in Moscow. This city has witnessed three shootouts in the space of two days this week; seven people are dead as a result. All three incidents smack of gang war among rival factions greedy for shares in a lucrative market in just about everything. Unlike Chicago in the '30s, the market is not illegal; it would be wrong to say that people are finding a way around the law. Instead, this market might more accurately be called "alegal" - a marketplace that autogenerated in the vacuum left by communism and that has thrived on a lack of effective legislation.

This is not to say that no regulations have been adopted by city or state authorities as today's "wild capitalism" takes root and grows. But nobody heeds these orders; it is as though they do not exist. Part of the problem is the anarchy that so often moves in when nations open the door to freedom. A graver part of the problem is the fact that so many of today's biznesmeni - the ones in the fancy cars who go around collecting "protection money" from Moscow's fledgling businesses - are former Communist functionaries who happened to have capital within their grasp when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And whether or not the entrepreneurs in the new class of super-rich actually hail from the ranks of the Communist bureaucracy, the fact remains that the style of the decades of "stagnation" - the assumption by the nomenklatura that they have the right to live an elite existence above the law - is very much still present in Russia. For nomenklatura, simply substitute mafia and the picture is clear.

The lawlessness we are witnessing in Moscow today stems from this attitude. It is all the more dangerous since, unlike Chicago where the gang wars ultimately sprung from ill-considered legislation, the rise in violent crime here springs more from psychology. To put it another way, passing laws will not solve the problem created by the mind-warping perversions of lawfulness thrust upon this society during the Soviet decades. What is needed is a cultural shift in attitude, and this will be truly hard to achieve.