italy has five to twelve times as many laws as france or germany -- 8/08/16

Today's selection -- from The Pursuit of Italy by David Gilmour. The woes of modern Italy:

"[The] 2004 Transparency International's corruption index rated Italy more corrupt than any other country in Europe except Greece and more than many states 'in the developing world, including Jordan, Oman, Costa Rica and Barbados.' In one spectacular incident a senior official of the ministry of health was found to have embezzled enough money to hold fourteen Swiss bank accounts, large quanti­ties of gold and diamonds, $12.0 million hidden in cushions in his homes and an art collection that included works by Modigliani and De Chirico.

"The most lethal forms of corruption were inevitably those linked to organized crime in the south. There is an obvious connection between two statistics for Casal di Principe, a nondescript town a few miles north of Naples which in the 1990s had both the highest murder rate in Europe and one of the highest volumes of Mercedes car sales in the world. In his brilliant and courageous expose of the Camorra, pub­lished in 2006, the journalist Roberto Saviano observed that what he called 'Gomorrah' or 'Italy's other Mafia' had turned his region of Campania into the homicidal record-holder of Europe, the most violent place in Italy, the drugs capital of the continent, the toxic waste dump of the West and a world centre of illegal arms trafficking.

"While most Italians might remain unaffected by crime and corrup­tion, few were able to circumvent the obstacles set up by a slow, cumbersome and extremely inefficient bureaucracy. Even a minister for the civil service once admitted that Italians wasted between fifteen and twenty days a year simply trying to cope with the problems it caused. The tax system was so complicated and confusing that citi­zens often found it difficult to calculate even roughly how much they might have to pay. Nor was it easy to navigate the nation's legal sys­tem because, according to different reckonings, Italy had between five and twelve times as many laws as France or Germany. The law was perhaps the most frustrating of all aspects of Italian life. In the late 1990s it was estimated that there were 2 million criminal cases and 3 million civil cases pending, and the figure had apparently risen to a total of 9 million early in the next century. It is not surprising, then, that most civil cases are abandoned, four out of five crimes have gone unpunished and, even when a guilty verdict has been returned, the convicted in non-violent cases could spend an average of eight years at liberty before being in danger of going to prison."



David Gilmour


The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples


Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Copyright 2011 by David Gilmour


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