!-- consent -->
Sometimes big, complicated things are best understood in microcosm. Consider, for instance, Stephan Faris’s portrait of Sicily for Bloomberg Businessweek:
Notable members of this herd of white elephants include “a partly built, graffiti-covered theatre where work has started and stopped 12 times… a hospital that took 30 years to build and was outdated before it was ready to open… an Olympic-size swimming pool that was sunk but never completed.”
The most striking example is a 20,000 seat polo field:
The story of Giarre helps explain why the island as a whole is in such a mess:
In turn, Sicily stands as a symbol for the country as whole:
One might wonder how such beautifully diverse and culturally rich part of the world can find itself in such dire straits. But as Stephan Faris observes:
In particular, he describes a culture of patronage in which “Sicily’s politicians became dispensers of benevolence, handing out jobs and favors, with little incentive to worry about waste.” It is a culture he blames on the fact that while taxes are gathered by Rome, the largesse of the state is exercised by the region.
But before anyone gets all northern European about the political practices of the south, consider the culture of patronage exercised by the European Union. Here we see the same disconnect between taxation and expenditure, i.e. funds are provided by member states, but dispersed by various EU institutions – as advertised on those little plaques attached to various EU-funded projects across the continent. And then, of course, there’s the Eurozone – the ultimate disconnect between where wealth is created and where it is dissipated.