Resource Allocation in “The Godfather”

Yesterday I was watching “The Godfather” for  . . . oh . . . about the millionth time and something struck me.  A problem in all three movies is that the Corleone Family wants to treat its resources as property while the other dons want to enforce a sharing norm, which they describe as “wet our beaks.”

In the first film, Don Vito refuses to provide legal protection for the drug trade.  This leads to a war that is settled at a conference where Don Barzini offers the following critique of having a property rule for corrupt officials:

“Times have changed. It’s not like the Old Days — when we can do anything we want. A refusal is not the act of a friend. If Don Corleone had all the judges, and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can — present a bill for such services; after all — we are not Communists.”

What Don Barzini is describing is a compulsory license backed by some kind of reasonableness standard. In other words, the Mafia does not set a price schedule for using another Family’s assets.  It just asserts that no right of exclusion exists and, presumably, if the “bill for such services” is too high, then that would violate the norm and could lead to violence.  I also find it interesting that Barzini embraces this compulsory license as an example of capitalism, since there are folks who think of such a mechanism as excessive regulation (at least when imposed by the state).

UPDATE:  Yes, “Take The Cannoli” would have been a better title for the post.

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1 Response

  1. Jim Maloney says:

    But the license is compulsory only as to licensing within the microcosm of the Families, not as a generally available compulsory licensing comparable to that which might be “imposed by the state” with excessive-regulation objections resultant. Also, Barzini distinguishes his proposal as not “Communist” because he is by no means proposing that the corrupt officials to be “shared” are community property free of charge, but rather that the resources be shared on a reasonable basis among the “players.” Reminds me quite a lot of the open-source phenomenon such as that under which Linux evolved.