We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Scarcely even a scandal any more

The European Union has paid out vast sums since 2001 to improve Sicily’s infrastructure. What has Sicily to show for it? Nothing. No, less than nothing:

€700 million to improve the water supply? In 2000, the water supply was “stop-and-flow” for 33% of Sicilian households, now 38.7% have water worries. Incentives to entice off-season tourists? Cost €400 million, enough to buy up an airline. And yet the ranks of those thankless tourists haven’t swelled, but petered out: from 1.2% in 2000 to 1.1% in 2007. And as to the €300 million invested in alternative energy projects great and small: it’s true, there isn’t a single hillock without its windmill now, but Sicilian output is stuck at 5% of total consumption, as against an average 9.1% for Southern Italy as a whole.

The quote is from a translation of an article in the Italian daily La Stampa and I found it via Jim Miller On Politics. Jim Miller himself comments:

And we should recognize that the best money of all to waste — from the point of view of a pork-barrel politician — is someone else’s money. There would have been less wasted in Sicily if the money had come from Italy, rather than the whole European Union, and even less wasted if the money had come from the places where it was spent.

The European Union, corrupt as it is, is on average less corrupt than Sicily. Idealistic Sicilians possibly hoped that getting their state largesse via the EU would result in less theft and waste. A vain hope, as Mr Miller or Professor Friedman could have told them.

5 comments to Scarcely even a scandal any more

  • Nuke Gray

    So, Natalie, you would deprive every hillock of its’ windmill? Don’t you care about picturesque views? And windmill makers have got to earn a living as well as the rest of us, you know!

  • John K

    Amazing, you’d almost think there might be some sort of organised crime network on Sicily which might be embezzling these funds. Surely not!

  • The corruption is on the receiving, not the giving, end. The problem with Sicily is that it is full of Sicilians.

  • Paul Marks

    But Natalie, as Paul Krugman (following John Keynes) has explained, it is not the specific results of government spending that matter (actual things that can be of real use in the long term) – on the contrary, what matters is just spending the money, this is what the “stimulus” effect is from.

    After all the Mafia bosses will take the money and spend it on lots of nice things, and the people they give the money to will spend it on other nice things, and ……

    Sicily has been practicing Keynesianism long before Keynes was born.

    The results are plain to see.

  • Paul Marks

    In case anyone think the above is too harsh.

    Paul Krugman called the Austrian School theory of boom/bust a “moral theory” and to him the word “moral” was a sneer.

    And his ally George Soros wrote (in the house newspaper of the Keynesians – the Financial Times) that America needed “Not Virtue but Stimulus”.

    To Soros thrift, hardwork and honesty are things to be sneered at – all that matters is that government prints and spends lots of money, and that he gets a cut of it.