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Flinn

The Dude goes into politics! - The mythical Conflict of Interest...

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First things first, today I'm celebrating my 10th blog post on this series! It's now well more than a year and a half that I started it, so time to make a summary of all the chapters, just in case someone really wants to know the full story

The Dude goes into politics! Past Chapters




Now, where to start from? I'm pretty sure most of you are familiar with the concept of what a conflict of interest is, and I know that this...phenomena is global, sometimes more present, sometimes less: let's say that it's part of the human nature. But I'm also pretty sure that you don't know that in Italy we have turned this whole thing into a form of art, one of the finest actually: do you people remember a certain politician which was President of the Council of Ministries, President of a famous football team, President of a big news/tv network, President of the largest financial holding, all of them at the same time?
And it's not even a recent thing: as a matter of fact it's rooted in our culture and it's part of our heritage from back to the Roman age: at the time, what we today call "conflict", was the base over which their society was built.

However, I hate it, with all my heart. I can cope with it being a thing of life just like taxes or death, what makes me go crazy is the fact that nothing is actually done to prevent it in practical terms (I mean as opposed to theoretical stuff like laws that no one respects.. conflict of interest per sť is covered by the Law, but if you don't enforce it, such a law is useless, isn't it?).
On the other hand, things could be organized in a way to not to create the opportunity to have a conflict of interest, or anyways to reduce such opportunities to the minimum; but it's quite the opposite to be honest, it "looks like" that the system is intentionally designed to foster this behavior. Yes... I'm using quotation marks just for decency.

As for my direct experience of it in this adventure of mine, I'm not anymore surprised of how inefficient the administrative system is, and the smaller you go, the worse it gets. Let me explain you by telling my own story.
I told you that the municipality where I live has like around 1300 residents, of which approx 900 are potential electors (I'm taking out minors, disabled and those who actually live abroad or in any case don't bother at all). Of those 900 people, only 700 are actually going to vote: keep this number in mind.
Now, our Municipality has 13 employees, of which 10 do live in the same Municipality; each of them has a family/group of closed relatives or friends of about 20 people, for roughly 200 people. Do you get were I'm aiming at? Add to that that due to their role/job they might have the ability to influence more people (either with intimidation or favors) and you have at the least 250 people potentially connected with those employees, maybe even more actually.

Mark this sentence: that means that how you actually manage them can have a huge, even decisive impact, on your next electoral campaign. That's CREEPY, honestly.

So once you realize this, you have only two choices: you go the hard way or the soft way. Hard way means that no matter how important, influential, potentially harmful they might be, you keep them in line, and you make them work hard; result? You get a single mandate, maybe not even a full one, during which all that you can try to do is to fix the most dramatic situations; short period this can bring to great results, but they are almost always sterile on the long rung.
Soft way means that you do all that you can to not to antagonize them, which means that you win yourself good chances to get a long career as an administrator, but it will be a constant pain to get the things moving properly.
There's a middle ground of course, but it's very rarely seen to happen: it's when the admins (usually the Mayor) do have such a strong political weight that they can overcome the possible backlash of pissing off their employees. Honestly, I've seen this happening only once in 40 years, and anyways once that Mayor had to quit (you cannot do more than 2 terms), everything he did was discarded.. sometimes it takes time for the revenge to take place, but it's inescapable.

Imagine this multiplied for the thousands of small municipalities we have in our country.. also consider that something similar happens at the upper levels (all the way up to the Parliament, in a different scale and with different interactions, like with the legal powers..) and serve yourself a cake of utter inefficiency... but I would not venture as far as to pretend to change my whole country, though there could be such a easy solution for our small problem: hire people who do not reside in your municipality, not even in neighboring municipalities, and make this a national rule.

I have a dream, but it's because I drank too much of my wine, I think.

Updated March 10, 2021 at 11:13 AM by Flinn

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  1. King Athelstan's Avatar
    I don't think that's just limited to the muncipalities in your country I'm afraid. Nepotism, corruption, sweeping favours and personal relations play a part a bit too world-wide for my liking