Silvio Berlusconi

To The Economist

27 April 2001

Sir

In countries where corruption is rare, businesses which pay bribes do so to gain unfair advantages over their competitors. Such behaviour is rightly condemned as criminal. In countries, however, where corruption is endemic, businesses pay bribes merely so that they can continue to exist. Far from the taxpayer being defrauded it business that is forced to make protection payments to avoid the predations of any overmighty state. Business is as much the victim as when it is obliged, on similar terms, to make payments to racketeers and mobsters.

The real issue in Italy is how to end endemic corruption. Who can slay the dragon? Only someone who knows its nature and its weaknesses. That can only mean the racketeers (politicians, judges and bureaucrats) or their victims (businesspeople). It is plain that a dragonslayer is more likely to be found in the second group. It is little wonder that the political, bureaucratic and judicial establishment fears Italy's foremost businessman.

If you have fault with Silvio Berlusconi's programme then spell out your objections. That he has done business in Italy using the methods that Italian governments have imposed on businesspeople is not sufficient reason to reject him.

Yours truly,

Quentin Langley

Copyright Quentin Langley 27 April 2001

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