Americans concerned with government corruption really should study Italy.
“You know Italians,” septuagenarian Elio Ciampanella was quoted in the New York Times last week. “If there is a law, they will try to find ways to go around it!”
But it is not just ordinary citizens — the people — who are evading bad laws. It is government workers who won’t do their jobs, and who engage in a wide range of corrupt deals and shady incompetence.
I know, this seems awfully unfair to the Italians. What I’ve said is the case with governments around the world. But not equally. (Scandinavian countries have a long history of government worker probity, if not ultra-competence.) And Italians do have a well-earned reputation for government corruption.
Arguably, it’s the form freedom takes in Italy.
Be that true or not, Mr. Ciampanella’s story, as related in the Times, is a fascinating one. He asked for a government-subsidized apartment, and had to wait ten years to get one . . . only to discover the problem wasn’t a lack of apartments, but a surfeit.
Yes, the government owned too many apartments to keep track of!
And so they didn’t.
And gave special deals to “special people.”
In other words: incompetence and corruption as a way of life.
Market institutions that behave so chaotically and with so little attention to efficiency go out of business. But government? That’s “necessary,” so: too big to fail. And so, commonly excused.
No wonder, then, that the common-sense approach to government is to limit it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
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