A family to look after

photo: Walt Reuther Library

Each evening, before going to sleep the Italians think about their public employees. For each one thereís a little prayer each night. Like a good father of a family we worry about managing to guarantee that they get a lunch and a dinner. A thought, that for the most scrupulous among us, always fearful of not fulfilling our commitments, becomes a nightmare. We moan in our sleep and wake up our worried family members. In the morning, once weíve opened our eyes, we rush off to work to provide for the upkeep of our THREE MILLION THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SEVEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN employees.

We donít always manage it. Thatís true. And when that happens, we get into a bit of debt. The public debt increases and the cost of our public employees does too. In a linear fashion. A population equal to almost the whole of Ireland weighs on our shoulders. We are practically providing for the upkeep of Ireland. In return we have services that are efficient, punctual and that make Sweden envious of us. We shouldnít always complain. On the contrary.

The number of public employees should increase until weíve got the entire active population of Italy. Letís get us all taken on and letís eliminate employers. Weíll become employers of ourselves.
Will GDP go down? Will we die of hunger? No because we can always work in outsourcing for the other countries, for some Ministry of the third world. And if thatís not enough, we can offload quotas of employees to the European Union. We will abolish the private and reward the public.

This hateful discrimination by which only certain citizens can become public employees must cease. The public must be public, belonging to everyone. No one will complain any more about inefficiency. Pay rises will be programmed for everyone. Weíll be all a great family to be looked after.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:31 AM in | Comments (38)
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Afini:AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH very very funny!You just brighten my day,thank you :-))))))))))

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 12:03 PM


I guess so.

Posted by: A Fini | September 1, 2006 11:10 AM

Eva, you say that because nobody would pay a cent for you.

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 10:57 AM

Amara thanks,for explaining ciao :-))

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 09:55 AM


Posted by: Test Test | September 1, 2006 09:14 AM

Eva: Many scientists _are_ working on the "messes on Earth", so they are not lacking things to do. For planetary scientists, studying processes on other planets goes a long way to understanding how the same processes work on Earth (physics is physics, no matter where in the Universe), so at at the end, the scientists' who work on planets complement the scientists who focus on the Earth, and vice versa.

It's inherent in man's nature to grow and explore and learn about the universe. Our technological / scientific tools can be used for good and useful activities too. It's possible to improve humans' environment and living conditions and ourselves at the same time of expanding our species to learn about other worlds.

Alessandro: The Italian scientists usually have other reasons than money to stay in Italy.

Posted by: Amara Graps | September 1, 2006 07:36 AM

A Fini,I will respond for Amara, not everybody,sell themself for the mighty dollars,

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 03:35 AM


Thanks for the answer. But it makes no sense to me.

One the one hand, you have great work opportunities and a very good pay in a very good country (like the US, for example).

On the other hand, you have little opportunity, little money, poor career prospects and also live in a pretty unpromising country (like Italy, for example).

Why anyone would chose the second option over the first is beyond me. The only "logical" explanations I can find is... inertia or lack of initiative.

If one loves his/her job, there is very little doubt as to which one is better.

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | September 1, 2006 02:13 AM

Amara I do not deny that you guys are doing a great job and service,the only thing I do not understand,instead of working on project outside this planets,why can we concentrate on solving the mess on planets earth,that would be much appreciated,fron all of us who live here,ciao:-)))

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 12:53 AM

Alessandro Fini: You ask why any scientists are still here in Italy given their gross underfunding.

First: scientists are a a mild-mannered bunch, who usually put up with more crappy conditions than the average worker, simply because they love their work.

Second: many Italian scientists have large support from their families (help with accommodations, property, etc., which would otherwise absorb more than half of their salary). That's how they survive on their meager salaries. In the large picture, science in Italy is subsidized by the Italian families.

Posted by: Amara Graps | September 1, 2006 12:03 AM


You explain that Italian scientists are very talented but are underfunded and grossly underpaid, compared to their colleagues abroad.

Then, I am not surprised of the brain-drain. Quite the contrary. I really can't figure out why there are any left in Italy at all!!

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 31, 2006 03:32 PM

Robert Tuppini:
Yes, 1/2 or more are working from pitiful paying temporary contracts the rest are working from pitiful paying permanent contracts. I use the word 'pitiful' to describe salary amounts that are less than 1/2 of the salaries of equivalent workers in the rest of Europe.

I think that they are included in the number given in B.G.'s post. I would like to expand a little more for readers who are not familiar with the scientists in Italy (who do exist, despite the Brain Drain still in action).

Given their salaries and given their extremely low research funds, Italian scientists are extremely resourceful and clever. Anyone can see for themselves of the results: try typing 'Italian research*' into scholar.google.com, for example (returns 1/2 million papers).

In the two institutes group I work in in Rome, we presently have Italian instruments flying on ESA's Mars Express, NASA's Cassini, ESA's Rosetta, ESA's Venus Express, ESA's Smart-1, exploring Mars, Saturn (and their moons), Venus, the Moon. More instruments are being developed for exploration of Jupiter and Mercury and we are 1/3 or the NASA Dawn mission to the Asteroid Main Belt to be launched next June. The number of people for these projects number about 20 for the scientific aspects with another 10 or 20 on the engineering side. Now multiply that particular effort of my small group about four times to encompass the rest of the planetary scientists in Italy, and then multiply that effort another five times to include all of the astrophysics projects.

That's astrophysics. Multiply more for high energy physics, geophysics, solid state physics, biomedical, and so on.

Posted by: Amara Graps | August 31, 2006 01:16 PM

Raffaella, ok... so what have they found lately?


Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 30, 2006 09:31 PM

Robert: You don't consider scientists and research workers as public servant, but they have been considered in the number of 3.377.918, because thet's the official number of public employees, namely the workers who are payed by taxpayers.
As you ca see, NOT EVERYBODY of them is lazy and parasite.
That's all.:-)))))))

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 30, 2006 11:35 AM

Amara Grapes

Yes I have met scientists in Italy (my sister in law is a Physicist). I have the greatest respect for them. Many of them are employeed on very short term contracts with little job security by independent or semi government entities that recieve Government funding. I don't consider them public servants in the context of this argument.

Posted by: Robert Tuppini | August 30, 2006 09:48 AM

Public Servants jobs should be performed by anyone, by coscription and in turn..

Posted by: Frank Parignani | August 30, 2006 02:00 AM

Robert Tuppini: I don't think you have met scientists in Italy (admittedly small number, but they do exist, and they are public employees).

Posted by: Amara Graps | August 29, 2006 11:57 PM

Alessandro: I agree with you.
That's the point.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 29, 2006 03:09 PM

The problem is not really the civil servants themselves... it is the system as a whole that doesn't work.

It is like a badly designed clockwork. Each piece may be pretty good, yet the machine does not work!

(And in the Italian public sector many of the pieces are also rotten...)


My take is that it's far too late to fix the mess. What we're looking at is a situation similar to that of Argentina. Just worse.
Good luck to all who place their bets with Italy!

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 29, 2006 03:08 PM

In the old Communist Countries people used to say: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us".

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | August 29, 2006 03:00 PM

What about the concept of taxpayers?

Because you are a taxpayer you pretend that the service supplied you by the public organisation must be of good quality.

But if you are not a good ( or not at all ) tax payer your expectations and requirements are probably much inferior.

It could become a pervert circle.

Lets say simply that the public servants are paid with the money of the taxpayers and therefore it is their duty to do their job otherwise they could be fired, by whom : the taxpayers...

Posted by: gabriele | August 29, 2006 02:08 PM

of course, because I'm.....;-))))))))

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 29, 2006 01:58 PM

And you know why? :)))

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | August 29, 2006 01:40 PM

Robert: You missed the point.
Of course I agree with you when you say that the service level in Italy is very low. But is always and everyvhere low, also in private field. The concept of service is lacking, you can see it as foreigner as soon as you set foot in Italy.
But Beppe's post said something else, and it sounds like the nonsense of the Lega Nord: namely that 3 millions of italians are completly manteined from the other part, like "Roma ladrona, la Lega non perdona"
For this reason I said it was demogogic. Read the italian side of blog, you can see the many comments of leghisti who are applauding.
PS) yes, I'm public employee. ;-) I don't feel ashamed about it, I do my job with conscientiousness and honesty, I don't need to thank anybody for my maintenance, at the contrary, I feel useful for the comunity.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 29, 2006 09:47 AM

I agree with Robert, of course not everybody is bad,but the system at large is,and mostly it breeds this kind of attitude,ciao

Posted by: evakulnura | August 29, 2006 08:08 AM

No one claims that ALL civil servants and government employees are parasites.

However, it is hardly deniable that Italy has an oversized bureaucracy, which burdens and hinders its citizens, rather than serve them.

The widespread denial of the problem is also a clue as to how difficult it would be to solve it.

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 29, 2006 01:49 AM


But I still love Italy with all my heart. I think that criticism is needed and healthy and is also positive as it can stimulate debate and gives people pause for reflection helping the country and all of us grow.

I remember in the 1970's in the U.S. UK and Australia many feminists were aggressive and exaggerated many facts - but it made people sit up and notice and think about what they were saying. But if they had wanted only to appease, they would have gained very little.

Similarly this country needs a very loud wake up call.

Posted by: Robert Tuppini | August 29, 2006 01:23 AM

Raffaella - Not just "most", but nearly every public service employee I have had contact with in Italy is like I described.

Even if it was "most" as you say, "most" public servants being incompetent, lazy and mene freghista is too many. It should be "none" or few".

Perhaps you, like many Italians, are so used to the poor level of service in Italy that you accept it as normal?

I love watching the old black and white Italian films from the 1950ís and 60ís but I donít like living in one in my everyday life.

Posted by: Robert Tuppini | August 29, 2006 01:08 AM

Robert: The public service it's not only made of power persons, there are also many normal persons who are doing their job correctly. As well nor every self-employed worker or professional man is a tax-dodger.
It's the world EVERY that is wrong. I don't think you know personnaly every public employee, so taht you can say that they are ALL the same. At most you can say that the MOST of public employees you have known in your experience are so.
I'm sure you understand what I say.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 29, 2006 12:48 AM

I still remember that fourty years ago I was waiting for over two hours in line to collect my Italian Passport when a guy with a bottle of wine in his hand jumped the line and told the Passport Officer that the wine was for his mother whom he knew and could he please have his passport right away? The Officer seemed to recognize him and promptly handed him his passport. I keep repeating it, the Italian motto should be: "Li ho fregati!".

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | August 29, 2006 12:25 AM

Bob, if something happens to you and you have to go to the Police, those lazy asses don't give a shit.
They just like to bother honest taxpayers with their authority whenever the will suits them.

Last year my brother in law told the Vigili Urbani (trafic Police) in Bergamo to come and remove a car which results stolen, from a parking place (as you know parking in Italy is regarded as gold).
Well, I think almost 1 year is gone and nobody came to remove the car despite some phone calls made.

Lazy asses.

They are just lazy asses.

But if you park 2 cm out of the line, they jump right there to give you a ticket, making sure that you move away from your car first.

It's just this habit to shrug their shoulders that bothers me, like if it's in our system to have to pay for who doesn't want to pay and always to get the short end of the stick.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | August 28, 2006 11:31 PM

Sorry I forgot to mention teachers in Italy. From the azilo nido to university they qualify under all 5 categories. If anyone is interested I can give them a very lengthy account because I taught at all levels of education here.

Posted by: Robert Tuppini | August 28, 2006 10:56 PM

Iím sorry but I donít think that it is a generalisation. Itís my observation that in Italy as soon as a person gets into a position of power in the workforce they become one or more of the following things;
1. corrupt
2. lazy
3. inefficient
4. under qualified
5. incompetent

By position of power I mean anyone who has the means to keep there job because:
a) they control who should be fired e.g managers, company owners, company directors etc
b) they are a (state) public servant and cannot be fired without massive union intervention, strikes and legal action.

In the case of public servants most are inefficient and incompetent, many are corrupt and I would say that nearly all are lazy. But they donít see it this way because the person working next to them in the office is exactly as incompetent and lazy as they are. They are ALL the same so they canít see anything better. There are no role models for them at work .Some even think they are doing a good job!

I am sick to death of the inefficiency and arrogance of postal workers, council workers, government department workers. I am disgusted seeing relatives and friends work 3 hours a day in the council or a postal sorting centre. Iím horrified at nurses and doctors I know who steal medicines or help people jump queues for a fee at hospitals. Iím tired of continually having packages arrive in the post from Australia already opened and with things stolen and then going and making a complaint and the post employees shrug their shoulders and donít give a shit (I caught the postman once and Posta Italia told me it was my word against his and I should forget about it because the case would take years and he might even sue me for false declaration and defamation!). Iím frustrated at queuing for 3 hours at every local, regional or state office only then to be told they a) donít know b) Iím at the wrong ďsportelloĒ c) they invent something that is usually incorrect just so they can get rid of you d) they close the sportello because itís their coffee break.

And yes, surprise, surprise, even police, fireman and other forces of order are corrupt.

The people that donít see or experience this, either live on another planet or are public servants themselves.

Posted by: Robert Tuppini | August 28, 2006 10:43 PM

yYou know, I don't like generalizations, they are very dangerous because they lead to the very dangerous axiom: "everybody is crooked, nobody is crooked"
I think we must distinguish crooked people from honest people, that means to recognize the own responsability of every one of us.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 28, 2006 09:17 PM

The problem with Beppe's comments is that he's painting all the civil servants with the same brush. Let's not lose sight that Beppe is a comedian and has to colour his observations with off the wall remarks. Redundancies, laziness, uselesness, privileges etc.. are abundantly present in the Italian bureaucracy, but of course not all civil servants fall into these classifications.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | August 28, 2006 06:23 PM

Hi Raffaella,

I do not find this article demagogic, but I understand that as in any sector there is people who cares of its job....

Public administration means not necessarily public service.

The fact that public employees cannot be laid off has created a "protected group", seen as untouchable.
This burdain is on the shoulder of the rest of the community...which does not benefit of the same privileges.

Sweden has massively laid off public employees during the 80es and 90es, even in the army an police forces.

Public workers do not benefit such privileges vs other sectors and this, perhaps, is the reason of why things run.

Posted by: gabriele | August 28, 2006 02:39 PM

As I wrote on the italian side I don't like generalizations. I find this post disagreeable and demagogic, it sounds like the banal discussions outside the provincials bars, or in the subway.
I agree, we need a better public administration, more efficiency and competence, less favoritisms and corruption, but I cant' agree with the statement 3 millions of italian workers were all crooked, parasites living behind other italian's back.
Among those public employees there are a loto of people who everyday are riskin their own life to save your life, like firemen, policemen, civil defence. If you end up in hospital, there are other public employees who are ready to save your life too.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | August 28, 2006 01:05 PM

So, let's start by voting on www.oneseat.eu !That's the beginning of EU-efficiency.Than, if that is resolved and you've EU-problem: adresse yourself to : SOLVIT ! The New Public Service, really working for you; http://europa.eu.int/solvit/site/index_it.htm. Asking different questions you can do at: http://europe.eu.int/europedirect. Hopefully one day the EU will be 'working'; at the time being, this EU (speaking for hoouuurss about working 40 h, 35h etc.)is not really ķp to date with all these 'slave-countries far away, people working 7 days a week , 12 hrs a day for nothing....but donot forget: we, in the EU, we buy their products.....because it is soooooooooooooooo cheap ! Have a good day and buy EU-products: Made in Italy is not too bad, isn'n it ?

Posted by: van herk d | August 28, 2006 10:53 AM

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