What boggles the mind is not the pervasiveness of corruption in Italian society, but its thorough institutionalization. So when magistrates exposed the nature of the rot (their ongoing inquiry began in early 1992), perhaps no one should have been surprised that the political system fell apart and that both state and economy were threatened. Some observers applaud the process; Italy needed a total shake-up. But sensible folks, especially leftists, also worry about what will fill the political void and whether the left will survive in decent shape.
Many Americans find it difficult to fathom how Italy functioned (or malfunctioned) and why an investigation should rock an entire system. A quick sketch of one pervasive type of corruption may help to clarify the picture. It’s based on testimony given to magistrates in Milan and reported in the magazine L’Espresso (May 23, 1993). (Although the following story focuses on the now disbanded Italian Communist party, it should be noted that the Communists were involved in relatively few cases of corruption compared to other parties and that none of the current cases has yet gone to trial.)...
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