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The Difference Between Mobsters and Magnates

September 30, 1990

Writing on gangster films in the Sept. 23 issue, both Patrick Goldstein and Peter Rainer attempt to establish a link between gangsterism and free enterprise. They make this appalling comparison by conveniently blanking out the meaning of the word free.

Capitalism involves the voluntary exchange of goods between people. Any form of coercion--by government or individual--is the negation of free enterprise. The gangster's stock in trade is coercion at its most brutal.

Al Capone told speak-easy owners to either buy his beer or have their kneecaps busted and their barrooms blown to pieces. This was hardly a voluntary exchange of goods. And when Vito Corleone puts a loaded gun to somebody's head and makes him "an offer he can't refuse," he's not acting as an apostle of Adam Smith.

The next time Rainer and Goldstein ask for a raise, Times management should take a negotiating tip from the Godfather and place a severed horse head in their beds. Maybe then they'll appreciate the difference between gangsterism and the free market.

RUSSELL DVONCH

North Hollywood

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