Italy: Standing Army

Jailing idle bureaucrats

Never before had Italy's bureaucracy seemed so diligent, so strangely un-Italian. Government offices were positively jammed with civil servants, so many, in fact, that there was not enough furniture—or enough work—to go around. One frustrated supervisor in the general post office in Rome finally informed his standing army of employees: "Tomorrow everyone will have a chair and a desk. For too many years, we've been working with too few people. Now everything has changed."

Indeed it has. Historically, Italian bureaucrats have given special meaning to the old expression dolce far niente (it is pleasant to do nothing). Absenteeism...

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