April 16, 2010

What's the problem with italian politics?

Mrs. Polverini, who recently won the regional election in region Lazio (the one where Rome is located, thus one of the richest region in central Italy), is now under a heavy storm of critics related to a conversation that was captured by a cameraman a few days ago. Another politician, Mr. Zaccheo, tells her that he was able to bring votes, and asks “Not to forget his daughters”, as a form of reward for his job. This is the Youtube link (video in italian).


As usual, I don’t like to spend time on the specific details of this single incident, but I’d rather look at the general situation that is so common in Italy.

To be honest, most italian politicians, from small pawns to powerful ministers, HAVE TO use these techniques and practices to win votes and thus elections. For Mrs. Polverini, being “catched” like this means that she will probably face legal action, but in a general sense she’s no different than all the other politicians. To be clear: this is NOT to justify her, but just to focus on the broader problem.

Our politicians live in a sick environment: there’s NO WAY to be a politician without facing the thousands of requests for favor that come from everywhere. We would need to introduce a great transparency, at every level, to avoid these situations in the future. One way could be to have Open Data; to have transparent and legit job selections for public administration positions, and to introduce meritocracy at every level. This path, however, doesn’t capture the votes, and therefore no politician is going to go after it. Do you see a big difference, here, between left and right wings? I don’t.

I think that the solution can come from a popular movement, from the ground, bottom up, possibly sustained by a neutral platform, and guided by energetic and capable people. People willing to change Italy and happy to be part of this change. Change doesn’t have to go through politics, to start with. It has to be on a parallel track, without becoming part of it. It should be “super partes”, neutral, and hunt down all the old ways of doing politics, forcing the opening towards the real desides that voters have. I don’t see any signal like this one.

For some reasons, I think that Larry Lessig doesn’t get all the rewards he deserves for his work (above all: FixCongressFirst.org) to change politics and life. I think that if a person doesn’t get that recognition, that person has the right to say “I’ll stay home, with my family”. That person would be right. Perhaps, there should be another way, then.

A possibility could be that an old crazy billionaire invests some tens of millions of Euros in a Foundation, and hires young honest people to make this change. I’ll cross my fingers.

Instead of focusing on this Polverini scandal only (which is important, of course), let’s ask ourselves what we would need to stop corruption, stop this sick way of doing politics. Well, this would be a huge change for Italy. And I admit that I’m one of these people that don’t think that Universal Suffrage is necessarily a good idea. We could discuss this in person, if you’ll meet me somewhere.

Maybe, using a pure “Unix” approach, we should use drastically simple rules: - No politician over 40 years old; - Public Administration employees can be fired; - Every politician should disclose his monetary assets and earnings; - the national television company, RAI, has three channels: let’s convert one of them to English, another to Chinese, and keep the third one in Italian. - We hire Lessig and let him create a true Politics 2.0 platform.

Well, this would already be enough to breathe fresh air.

What do you think?