Sicily fact of the day

by on July 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

In lieu of the Austerians:

Today, Sicily’s regional government has 1,800 employees — more than the British Cabinet Office — and the island employs 26,000 auxiliary forest rangers; in the vast forestlands of British Columbia, there are fewer than 1,500.

Out of a population of five million people in Sicily, the state directly or indirectly employs more than 100,000 of them and pays pensions to many more. It changed its pension system eight years after the rest of Italy. (One retired politician recently won a case to keep an annual pension of 480,000 euros, about $584,000.)

Here is more.

1 Hoover July 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Public sector unemployment of 2%. Minche, it’s a free market paradise!

2 margda July 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

So privatize everything and anything in Sicily, lay off all those laggard public employees, make quick profit in the process, and that is your efficient capitalism!?

3 The Anti-Gnostic July 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Stimulus spending to boost AD.

4 JJ July 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Is there any way to measure the productivity gains of raising an entire generation native to the internet?

5 Cliff July 24, 2012 at 12:40 am

Productivity GAINS?

6 Lou July 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Sicily has two governments. The Government and the Mafia. The Mafia is more powerful and probably employs just as many people.

7 Ray Lopez July 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

One paradox of the US Big Society is that the number of Federal employees has stayed relatively flat since the early 1960s (in fact, has gone a bit down, see here: but federal government has gone up as a percentage of GDP from 15% to 25% (and the economy has grown a lot too). You can resolve this paradox by saying that Federal employees have become more productive (by contrast state employees are not as productive) due to economies of scale, and also transfer payments take up a lot of money, and it’s all automated. But in Athens, Greece I’ve heard something like half the population works for the state–they still use pencil and paper and have ‘make work’ overlapping departments. Probably true in Italy.

8 Brian Donohue July 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Regarding the US, I’m pretty sure this reflects “contracting out” of lots of government work that used to be done “in-house”. Of course, the “private sector” jobs where a lot of this work is now being done prolly have more in common with traditional government jobs than traditional private sector jobs, so I don’t think this news is as rosy as it appears on its surface.

9 kiwi dave July 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Part of it may be outsourcing, but I think Ray is right that the nature of federal spending is very different — pre-Great Society, federal government spending mostly went to “purchasing” services from government, particularly defense and infrastructure. For instance, defense made up over 50% of federal spending*, and transportation was 4% — those numbers for 2011 are under 20% and 2.6% respectively. By contrast, “human resources” (mostly made up of social security and other transfers), more than doubled from 30.5% to 67% over the same period. (source:

A government that mainly cuts checks according to rules requires a lot fewer employees per dollar spent than one that uses its money building highways and missiles.

* I realize that uniformed federal employees were counted separately, but I’m sure a very significant proportion of federal employees — then and now — are made up of civilians working in various aspects of the security state.

10 Roy July 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm

What exactly does being an “auxillary forest ranger” entail? For avll I know it could be the same as being a member of the Ranger Rick fan club, or maybe it is like the CAP, how much does this actually cost? In the US and Canada auxillary forest rangers are not paid, considering that Sicily has a hot dry summer climate with explosive resinous forests and horrific erosion problems, this might be a good thing.

Also I am usually incredibly averse to government spending but forest rangers are incredibly thin on the ground in BC, so that might not be a good comparison. These kinds of statistics are fun to bandy about but they are often too glib.

11 Bill Harshaw July 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Worthless data without knowing more context. For example, the state of Alabama, with a tad less than 5 million population, has about 80,000 fulltime employees and 29,000 part timers according to the census. Is that a valid comparison to Sicily? We don’t know unless we know more about the structure of government. (

12 Andrew July 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I agree with that. BLS data shows that the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico employs 270,000 people (and is the sole customer for several thousand more customers) on an island with a population of 3.7m.

13 Rahul July 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Might these be demonstrating the economies of scale in governance: Small islands / states end up with a larger fraction working in the government. Does US-state data support this hypothesis? That’d be a good case against small states.

14 vic July 24, 2012 at 3:26 am


15 Greg July 23, 2012 at 3:57 pm

It sounds like they may have way too many park rangers, but as far as total gov’t employees goes, I can’t tell if it’s so excessive to have 2% of the population employed by the gov’t. Does that include teachers and police officers, etc.? If 2% of the US were employed by the gov’t, that would be about 6 million people. Notice that we have about 7.2 million teachers in the US, mostly public school teachers I imagine:
Also, include soldiers, police officers, etc., and you can imagine we may have way more than 2% of the population being employed by the gov’t. I don’t know if this is an apples to apples comparison, since I don’t know what the Siciliy numbers include.

16 Jim July 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm

They sure packed a lot of spurious comparisons in there. I mean, the Cabinet Office? It pretty much is just an office! It doesn’t really do very much, and every actual government department is much larger.

17 Brett July 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Does Sicily have a history of instability and possible separationism from the rest of Italy? That kind of public sector job pattern sounds like either the Italian government was buying labor and social peace with jobs, or that whoever runs Sicily has a ton of pull in the Italian central government and can re-direct funds to it.

18 Roy July 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Oh yes!

This is true for most Italian regions, but Sicily has a much deeper seated seperatist tradition than almost anywhere else in Italy, and then there is the Mafia which the Italian state went to war with economically in the 90s, another reason to buy Sicilian peasants off.

If you think of the amount of damage Sicilians are capable of doing to Europe if there are no visa or t
Border controls between it and Europe, this might all be money very well spent.

19 Joebummer July 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm


20 dearieme July 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Just as well we don’t have the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies any more, eh?

21 GiT July 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

The US has 2.5 million state level (.83% of pop) and 5.6 million local public employees (1.87% of pop), in a population of 300 million. All together, 12 million people (4%) are directly employed by the state.

So, what’s interesting about the fact of the day here?

22 Anon. July 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm

>Out of a population of five million people in Sicily, the state directly or indirectly employs more than 100,000

That has to be a typo, it can’t be that a quarter of all public employees are forest rangers.

23 SmokeyTheBear July 24, 2012 at 12:10 am

That was my thought as well. Maybe, they really, really like camping.

24 GiT July 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm

*Auxiliary* forest rangers. It could simply be the case that a large number of people join the volunteer fire brigade in their local town.

25 Steve Sailer July 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

The U.S.-approved strategy of the Christian Democrats after WWII was always to tax the productive north of Italy to subsidize the backward south. This has had some success — the south of Italy isn’t as retrograde as it was — but it has been expensive. (It also required a lot of looking the other way in regards to the Mafia. Mussolini had flattened the Mafia, but the U.S. invasion in 1943 revived it, with Sicilian-American soldiers playing an important role helping their Mob relatives fill the power vacuum in Siciily.)

For about 20 years, one sizable political party in Italy, the Northern League, has campaigned to kick the south out of the country. In general, Italy is one of the rare countries that sprawls far more across latitude than longitude, and latitude diversity creates greater stresses.

26 TGGP July 23, 2012 at 9:42 pm

California & Florida also seem to sprawl a lot across latitude, relative to other states.

27 Steve Sailer July 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

And there are big cultural differences within those states, even though those differences are no more than 150 or so years old. The differences within Italy are ancient.

28 dead serious July 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

There are also big cultural differences between NYC and Buffalo, NY, between Philadelphia and Altoona, and Seattle and Spokane.

What is the premise of your supposition that latitude matters more than longitude in creating cultural stresses amongst a country or state?

Maybe it has more to do with larger cities vs suburban/rural settings than geographic location.

29 msgkings July 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Exactly. Sweden and Norway and Argentina and Chile are other ‘latitude spread’ countries and I don’t know of major north/south divides in those. Though there might be…

30 Steve Sailer July 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Your examples aren’t countries with dense populations up and down the length of the country. Italy has been densely populated for a long time, so the wealth flows from north to south needed to bring the two ends of the country into some degree quality are expensive and corrupting. Think of it as the EU problem of Germany and Greece in miniature in one country.

31 Peter Schaeffer July 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm


Apparently, Sweden does have a North/South divide as does the UK.

32 brett July 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I think there needs to be austerity in some places of the world. i’m not in principle for or against austerity. i’m not ideologically committed to one policy or the other, unlike other ideologues like cowen, roberts, etc. while sicily (and likely other parts of italy) should pursue austerity, why should places in the u.s. pursue austerity, given that some places in the u.s. have relatively low levels of public employees and low levels of public investment? why should the u.s. pursue austerity when it can borrow at EXTREMELY LOW RATES, which italy and other countries with more bloated public sectors and investment cannot?

33 kiwi dave July 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Italy is one of the rare countries that sprawls far more across latitude than longitude, and latitude diversity creates greater stresses

Actually, there are quite a few: Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Mozambique. Arguably Portugal, Sweden, Norway. The latitude/longitude point is conceptually valid (Jared Diamond talks about it). Cultural and economic continuity is a lot easier to maintain across longitude than latitiude. Having said that, in the countries I listed, I don’t think the north-south divide is the primary political dynamic (with the exception of Vietnam, and I think that was due to outside intervention).

34 Mavi Boncuk July 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Yes after reading tu this article, we can understand why Sicilia to face to fact that economic downturn.

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