P.J. O’Rourke, acclaimed author and Economist for Rolling Stone Magazine, once remarked that there are three ways to spend money:
1) YOU spend YOUR own money – and therefore, search out the best deals, price compare, get the best quality for the lowest price.
2) SOMEONE ELSE spends YOUR money – and here, he says, it’s like an ex-wife with your credit cards. Spends with wild abandon, but within the card limits (hopefully) or until she’s cut off.
3) SOMEONE ELSE spends SOMEONE ELSE’S money – an absolute free-for-all, no price controls, no checks, no limits, a case of pigs feeding at the trough. This, is Government Spending.
And, while this is applicable across all governments in all nations, it’s especially true for Despot Dictators and the Bush Administration at War. But it’s the Italians who really add that touch of color and drama to their spending. While Americans lament a $78 hammer, the Neapolitans once gave funds (through that seemingly bottomless pit of EU money) to two guys to set up a ‘modeling school’ (read, whorehouse, with owner-employee discounts). But I digress.
Last week, with all the hullaboo surrounding the huge piles of trash overflow and the Italian government (note: terms interchangeable), a small item missed most radars:
Italy’s incredible website, www.Italia.it built to promote -- as the government is wont to say -- “our petrolium”, was shut down. Given that Italy has so much going for it, it doesn’t really need promotion as a tourist destination, long as the Colosseum is standing and Tuscany doesn’t go coop, but, again, I digress. See article here.
The site’s closure wouldn’t be much to remark about, if it weren’t for the 58 million euro – that is not a typo - $85 million they put aside to make it. Now, I know there are exceptional websites out there. Some companies spend lots on them.
What would be a good benchmark for a really terrific website? $500,000? $1.5M? We’re not talking the making and running of Google Search Engines here. I'm sure there are even better templates than what they came up with.
In fact, the site boldly boasting, In Italian and English!!!! was most distinct for being totally impressive – in how fast you wanted to navigate off of it. What else would you expect from a government-run website?
But this domain, in real terms, was bigger than Nero’s Domus Aurea, his golden palace which once covered over 2/3 of the entire city.
Once again, the very people who this bad management affects, the honest Italian taxpayers, should be rampaging through the streets calling for the Technology Minister's head...did I mention - in a feat Dick Cheney would be proud of - he gave the contract to an IBM subsidiary? If I remember correctly, he once ran IBM].
If this ‘sacking of the treasury’ happened in Asia, the guy would have committed hari-kari by now. But instead, it gets just a brief mention on page 17. People simply shrug their shoulders, knowing that, just like the ‘modeling agency’, it’s just part & parcel with bad governance and ‘business as usual’.
And while Nero’s domain went down in history as the biggest, most incredibly outrageous waste of money, all for the glory of one megalomaniac, I for one, would like to submit an entry in Wikipedia that in 2007, history repeated itself.