Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Research or Advocacy on "Organized Crime" and the Antiquities Trade?

Chasing Aphrodite has interviewed Simon Mackenzie, an academic associated with the archaeological lobby, about his EU funded “research” into “organized crime” and the antiquities trade. See http://chasingaphrodite.com/2012/06/04/the-antiquities-trade-as-organized-crime-glasgow-team-digs-deep-into-the-market-for-ancient-art/

I’ve been dubious that academics with an axe to grind against collectors could really be expected to produce anything other than advocacy dressed up as "research" to help justify more clamp downs on collectors, museums and dealers, and greater funding for cultural bureaucracies and law enforcement. See http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2012/02/your-european-tax-euros-at-work.html If anything, this Chasing Aphrodite interview only seems to confirm those concerns. 

In that regard, I would note that Mackenzie rejects the notion that overregulation creates a black market and defines “organized crime” quite broadly to include any three or more persons acting in concert to violate some some source country regulation, no matter how draconian.  For instance, I presume under this definition an Italian farmer and his two sons who fail to turn over ancient coins they find on their own land to the State which will not compensate them are involved in “organized crime.” And what of a tourist who buys inexpensive antiquities for his children sold quite openly in a shop in Rome, but the shop owner refuses to go through the bother of securing export licenses for such insignificant artifacts?  Would Mackenzie and friends treat such tansgressions as "serious" enough to constitute "organized crime" too?  I bet they would.


Ed Snible said...

What did you think of his book _Going, Going, Gone_? It has been a while since I read it but recall it being level-headed.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I have read some of his stuff in the past. I agree it is of better quality than some other things I've read from the archaeological community. Having said that, it does appear that he and his associates are coming into this with some preconceived notions that suggest a preconceived result. I do think over regulation is a problem as is the utter refusal to consider programs like PAS and the Treasure Act as an alternative.