January 28, 2023

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What is the spoils system and how does it work in Italy

Born in the United States in the nineteenth century, the spoils system is a criticized method of coordinating government actions and public administration.

the swag system (borrowed from the English term spoils system) is a principle according to which the newly constituted government, desiring to rely on the loyalty of the officials and directors of a public administration of its own values, shall replace those present with new ones which will satisfy it.

History of the spoils system

The mechanism was born in the United States during Presidency of Andrew Jacksonin 1829-1937, then reinforced by his successor, Martin Van Buren, in subsequent years. When Jackson took over, he felt that the US federal administration was under the control of the US government Industrial Based on bourgeoisie From New England (a region located in the northeastern United States consisting of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut).

Andrew Jackson was President of the United States from 1829 to 1837

The American president was from humble origins, which is why he did not trust the bureaucrats present in the United States Administrative apparatus United States at the time of his coming to power. He is also convinced that public services should not be the preserve of the elite but should be within the reach of all.

In short, the spoils system was initially designed with the goal of improving the American government system. Over time, however, the selection of new administrative staff often fell to the men who made it Financially supported, In the election campaign, the winning candidate, or loyal militants. Even if they weren’t particularly qualified in this matter. In short, politics He excelled on merit.

The spoils system and cases of corruption in the United States

The mechanism also spawned many Scandals and cases corruption. For example, in 1878, President Rutherford Hayes Forced to remove Chester ArthurHe was at that time Director of Customs Revenue New York port. This is after it was discovered that part of the taxes regularly disappeared in favor of the customs officers and Arthur himself.

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However, the latter became president in the following years and received approval, in 1883, Pendleton Lawthat somehow govern the spoils system. In fact, the law established a List of main functions whose owners should have been designated by a independent commissionbased on their own skills And assuming honesty. Thus, for the first time, a group of federal officials arose who could “resist” changes in government.

A year later, the new chief Grover Cleveland He decides to try to fight corruption and political appointments more vigorously. Despite the discontent within the Democratic Party, to which he belongs, he has managed to increase the number of characters they can “Escape” from the spoils system.

Choosing officials for political loyalty or competence?

At the end of his term, it was the “neutral” positions of the American public administration, that is, those that he chose Civil Service Commission, they are now 27 thousand. And at the end of the nineteenth century they will cover half bureaucratic machine. Indeed, it was a good choice, as corruption rates decreased and administration efficiency increased.

Trump United States
Donald Trump during a presentation by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler © Win McNamee / Getty Images

In 1939, another US law attempted to undermine the system, barring federal officials from exercising at the same time political activity. However, the spoils system has survived for local authorities (federal states, provinces and municipalities): today it is often applied above all to major senior managers. agencies. One of many examples is the one covered in February of 2019 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), headed by the then President Donald Trump I decided to put it Andrew Wheeler. And she is a climate skepticAnd lobby and supporter fossil sources (Just like the 45th tenant in the White House).

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In general, between the presidency Barack Obama It was Trump who would replace him 4100 members of the American public administration, although it is a part (it was the case of Wheeler himself) after listening to Senate.

How does the spoils system work in Italy?

in Italy The spoils system was “institutionalized” after the end of the First Republic. After, after “Tangentopoli”after the end of most Parties existed from the end of World War II onwards 1993 referendum seasonThe first elections were held the following year on the basis of the electoral system A Spread majority. Then the spoils system will enter the lingua franca of our country as well. For regulations, it is necessary to wait until the end of the contract, with The reforms wanted by Franco Pasaniniand then revised by Frattini’s law in 2002, and reformed in 2006.

Code currently states that the positions of figures such as secretaries and Directors General of Ministries stop passed 90 days Since the formation of the new government. A choice dictated by the same need that Jackson identified in the nineteenth century: coordinating the political orientation of executive branch and cabinet officials.

Judgments of the Constitutional Court

In 2006, the Constitutional Court was specifically called in to assess the spoils system, Confirmed from the mechanism. only in the name of a “good performance” For public administration, which is a priority in relation to The principle of neutrality. This, however, provided that the “autonomy” of the public administration itself was preserved. How do? By reducing the spoils system Senior positions In particular (with another sentence for the year 2010) the general managers of local health authorities.

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In short, the danger of the spoils system is that the administrative system becomes a fait accompli Depends on the policy. And that, especially in the Italian case, the constant change in the higher ministerial levels can slow down the bureaucratic machine (which was already in many cases poorly oiled). Instead, those who support the spoils system stress the difficulties the executive can encounter in carrying out its own policies, in the presence of officials and managers who may have an interest in hinder the work of the government.

Proposal by Sabino Cassese to the Meloni government

In a recent conversation In Corriere della Serajurisprudence Sabino Cassese He explained, “The looting system works so badly, it’s there for all to see. If it worked, we wouldn’t be here complaining about it every day.” Damage of public administrations.” As far as government is concerned, Meloni remarked: “It is at a crossroads: take the inclined plane of expanding the spoils system, or take a step back, abandon itEquipping the country with a bureaucracy that is stable, strong, capable, well-chosen, impartial, impartial and loyal in relation to any political force.

from here Proposal for a transitional rule Which also allows for evaluation skillsAnd convenience And independence of those currently holding positions, before proceeding with replacement. However, it will be necessary to first check if it is a Meloni government intends to abandon the spoils system; And secondly, if it will possess the political strength and numbers to introduce transitional legislation within the framework of a comprehensive reform.

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