In the 2008 Italian film Gomorrah, tiresome members of a Neapolitan crime syndicate shuffle around in bad shorts, trying to make their business ventures run smoothly between hits. The unglamorous, stomach-churning revelation of Gomorrah, and the book on which it is based, is not the offhand violence but the diversity of commerce prostitution and drugs, yes, but also counterfeit evening gowns and illegal dumping of toxic waste. Of course, you neednt be a crime boss to be involved in illicit business practices. According to Nils Gilman, a historian and current consultant for the Global Business Network (which counts much of the U.S. intelligence community as clients), the very structure of the global economy demands it. Selling guns, money-laundering services, and humans whole or in parts are but the beginning. As Gilman set out in his 2004 book, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America, first-world interference in third-world countries has undermined traditional nation-states, leaving smugglers and warlords as economic forces on the world stage. And, according to his upcoming book, Deviant Globalization, criminal enterprises continue to grow at twice the rate of legal ones. Thankfully, Gilman is not simply a dooms-crier but to dismantle a system, you have to know how it was built.
Stewart Brand, cofounder of the Global Business Network, hosts.
Mon., May 3, 7:30 p.m., 2010