Written by Robert Higgs for The Independent Institute.
What is the difference between a government and a criminal gang or protection racket such as the mafia? In a word, it is legitimacy. In practice, this vague notion suggests that people view the government—its institutional composition, its personnel, and its conduct—as morally acceptable or proper, whereas they view the mafia—at least in its conduct—as morally unacceptable or improper.
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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.