Veteran mob watcher George Anastasia from the Philadelphia Inquirer says the "primary reason" for the demise of the Mafia is because omerta -- the so-called code of silence -- is no more. However, mobsters were rarely prosecuted in a meaningful way back in the day, and the omerta which Anastasia contends was the glue which kept the Mafia together actually was little more than a quaint concept rather than an ironclad bulwark.
The real reason why wise guys thrived for decades in this country was because cops and politicians were in their pockets, and once the Kennedy brothers put an end to their protection and the federal racketeering law was enacted it's been downhill for the Mafia. Organized crime cannot exist without public corruption; it's that simple.
Although the old school guys may bemoan the purported loss of omerta, the fact is that they never faced the same clampdown from law enforcement as today's young bucks.
For decades the mob was the fourth branch of city governments across the country, and its rackets were protected and its messes were ignored. Indeed, even on the rare occassions when indictments were brought against mobsters, the judicial system was notoriously lenient with them.
For example, in 1971 the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime "conducted a study of 1,762 cases in state courts in the years 1960 through 1969 involving organized crime figures," and the results were shocking as reported by Nicholas Gage in a September 25, 1972 article ("Study Shows Courts Lenient With Mafiosi") for The New York Times:
The committee, whose chairman is Senator John H. Hughes of Syracuse, found that the rate of dismissals and acquittals for racketeers was five times that of other defendants. In New York City, 44.7 per cent of indictments against members of organized crime were dismissed by Supreme Court judges during the ten year period. Only 11.5 per cent of indictments against all defendants were dismissed, according to the study. In 193 instances where organized crime figures were actually convicted, the study showed that judges let the defendants off with suspended sentences or fines in 46 per cent of the cases.
It's easy for the geriatric crowd to pretend its generation of mobsters remained true to the code of silence when they never were put in a position to betray it. However, a new sherriff arrived in town in the name of the feds after local officials mostly refused to act. Mobsters now face real heat, and even the old geezers probably would rat if they were still in the game today.