Italy has one of the slowest judicial systems in Europe. At the same time, there exists anecdotal evidence suggesting that informal contract enforcement can be provided by organized crime. I present a simple theoretical framework to explain why citizens may turn to the Mafia for contract enforcement when the State is increasingly unable to fulfill this service. I empirically test the main model prediction using a novel database of Mafia-controlled areas across Italy between 2014 and 2019. I obtain confidential yearly data from the Superior Council of the Judiciary about the judge’s retirement, which I use as a source of exogenous variation in the State’s enforcement capacity. Results indicate that the Mafia expands its control over the territory when the State weakens its contract enforcement capacity.
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