Gang Rule: Understanding and Countering Criminal Governance

73 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2021 Last revised: 4 Apr 2022

See all articles by Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Gustavo Duncan

Universidad EAFIT

Benjamin Lessing

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Santiago Tobon

Universidad EAFIT

Date Written: February 2021

Abstract

Criminal groups govern millions of people worldwide. In Medellín, Colombia, for instance, gangs resolve disputes, police neighborhoods, enforce contracts, and tax businesses in their territories. Why do they rule? Many argue that criminals step into vacuums of order. If so, increasing state security services should crowd out gang rule. But interviews with Medellín gangs suggest this overlooks an indirect incentive to rule: governing protects other illicit businesses, such as drug-selling. We begin with a model of imperfect competition and show how drug profits and the need for civilian loyalty could drive gangs to respond to state competition by intensifying their governance. Empirically, we show this is what happened in Medellín over 32 years. When new borders exogenously increased government services on some blocks, gangs raised their civilian rule in protective response—especially in neighborhoods with larger drug markets. Strategic incentives like these severely complicate efforts to fight organized crime.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Blattman, Christopher and Duncan, Gustavo and Lessing, Benjamin and Tobon, Santiago, Gang Rule: Understanding and Countering Criminal Governance (February 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28458, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3785793

Christopher Blattman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Gustavo Duncan

Universidad EAFIT

Carrera 49 N° 7 sur – 50
Bogotá, 00000
Colombia

Benjamin Lessing

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Santiago Tobon

Universidad EAFIT ( email )

Carrera 49 No. 7 South - 50
Bogota
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://www.santiagotobon.co

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
4
Abstract Views
166
PlumX Metrics