Sep 14, 2009
A Slight Case of Murder

Edward G. Robinson stars as Remy Marco, a gangster gone straight. Remy started out as a bootlegger during Prohibition, but when the 21st amendment passed, his former monopoly was ended, and he suffered several bad years. Some of his former associates knock over a truck carrying bookies’ money, and one member of the mob kills the other 4. The bodies are in Remy’s summer house, so naturally hijinks and hilarity ensue.

It is the backstory, which receives little notice on the screen, that is interesting. The government intervenes in the market by declaring formerly legal transactions to be illegal. Since the transactions were for a product that many enjoyed, an illegal market ensued. That market, free from government regulation, engaged in fiercely competitive behavior. Ultimately one man emerged as the monopolist in that product. As the monopolist he was under no obligation to maintain quality control, so he sold what was actually an inferior product. Because he was convinced by his underlings silence that the product was good, he received no negative feedback, so a correction of the product quality was impossible. Once the market opens up, competition reduces his market share from 100% to a good deal less. The government intervention in the market created a distortion when booze was outlawed, and another when it was repealed.

Needless to say the film does not go into any detail about this. As entertainment the film is light, enjoyable fluff.