Feature

Belgium: The Flemish as the ultimate Belgians

Is any government in Europe as dysfunctional as Belgium’s? Yes!

Dave SinardetLa Libre Belgique

Is any government in Europe as dysfunctional as Belgium’s? asked Dave Sinardet. Yes! The Belgian province of Flanders embodies all the nightmarish bureaucracy, nepotism, and “political paralysis” of the larger polity, only in microcosm. The Commission for Administrative Efficiency and Effectiveness recently analyzed Flanders, and the picture was bleak: “The multiplication, fragmentation, and compartmentalization of administrative bodies” is complicated by metastasizing regulations, and the resulting mess oppresses citizens and civil servants alike. Fittingly, the report was just another example of the redundancy it was criticizing, since two other government commissions had already released reports that reached the same conclusions. Everything bad about Belgium is replicated at the Flemish government level. Even the famously idiotic “Belgian waffle policy”—under which all public improvements must be dispersed equally across counties just as batter flows evenly into all divots of a waffle iron—is followed slavishly in Flanders. The result is a lot of superfluous bridges and roads and enormous public debt. Still, at least the Flemish can take heart that they are not second-class Belgians. If anything, they set the pattern.

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