Organized crime, or marginally organized crime for that matter, has had many golden ages in American history. From the paisans in the late 1800s, cracking heads on the lower end of Manhattan, to Bugsy and his boys in the desert heat of Las Vegas. But no time was greater for a mobster than prohibition, when any stunad with a backyard brewery could flip a bottle of moonshine for a profit. Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s new series about Atlantic City in the 1920s, brings us back to this golden age.
The lead character, Nucky Thompson, runs the show in AC — a local politician who’s always shaking hands, kissing babies and bringing in moonshine from the north. He has the whole town on lock, and with his brother as the police commissioner, Nucky isn’t just above the law — he is the law. Dealing with the likes of Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Arnold Rothstein, Nucky sets up his own little import business off the shores of Jersey. The only problem is, when there’s a dollar to be made, everyone wants a piece. So as Nucky deals with ambitious young soldiers trying to pull ahead, a Federal agent looking to bring him down and countless brawds to please on the nightly, he has to try to keep his bootlegging biz afloat. So, without further ado, here are lessons learned from Boardwalk Empire.
Where there’s demand, there’s money
With all the derivatives, options, short sells, and futures being traded on Wall Street, the simplicity of making green is lost. In Boardwalk Empire, we see the real sharks of The Street — Nucky, Rothstein, Luciano, Capone. They all knew the No. 1 rule of investing: where there’s demand, there’s dough. Bootlegging turned a five-dollar bottle of Scotch into liquid gold. These guys made enough money selling moonshine to keep 10 goomahs in 10 different cities stocked with jewels. Thankfully, the powers that be have come to their senses on the legality of liquor, but the old rule still stands true. Who knows what that hot commodity is today? Chances are, not your broker.
Watch out for the Boy Scouts
Almost anyone can be bought. Maybe they need some extra cash to pay the rent, they like fancy watches, or maybe they’re good Samaritans that give it to charity. But, occasionally you’ll get a real Boy Scout. The guy who refuses to take a shortcut, turn an eye or bend the rules. The crew in Boardwalk Empire has to deal with the federal agents who think they’re serving the greater good by ridding the streets of hooch.
Maybe you have to deal with a coworker who refuses to fudge that expense report. Whatever it is, avoid these self-righteous cafones like the plague.
Everyone needs to know when to make their move
At the start of prohibition, guys like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano were young kids earning nickels for grunt work. But when the time came, they made the hits and turned nickels into paper, and paper into empires.
There’s a definitive point in every Joe’s career when he has to stop working for the man, and start being the man. It could be pulling your clients away from the firm to start a shop of your own, or it might be knocking off three bootleggers looking to bring a shipment to the Second City. Chances are it’s the first. But if it’s the second, make sure it doesn’t happen on my turf.
Times have certainly changed since Nucky and crew ran AC in the roaring ‘20s. The flappers are gone, liquor is legal and Jersey is no longer a wasteland for organized crime. Well, not everything has changed. But despite the fact that we’re living in a different era, the principles of the street have stayed the same. You might not be looking to live the lives of Capone and Nucky. It’s not for everyone. But life is the same gamble, whether you’re running molasses from Canada or just trying to get ahead in the business world. And chances are you’ll get ahead a lot faster if you take your cues from the paisans on the boardwalk.