Abusive distribution of political patronage

Other Names:
Political favouritism
Corrupt allocation of government funding
Pork barrel politics

Patronage has developed from the distribution of largesse in the form of minor gifts, to the allocation of large architectural and defence contracts. Politicians also use their power to locate positions for people, whether in the government or private sector.


In 1998, the House Transportation Committee swiftly approved $217 billion in spending for highways, bridges, mass transit systems and bike paths, virtually assuring passage of one of the biggest public works bills in history of the USA. The 1,400 "high priority" projects – widely referred to as pork barrel spending – ranged from $100,000 to "upgrade pedestrian traffic facilities" to $97 million for a major demolition and reconstruction of an interstate bridge. In the USA earmarking or pork politics has long been used to secure highways, bridges and other pet projects for particular constituencies. From the 1980s this was extended to scientific and academic research.

Many countries, and notably Italy, are renowned for the system of political patronage and family ties through which individuals gain employment in the civil service. In Italy up until the 1990s political patronage in exchange for the promise of a vote had become one of the most common avenues to promotion and job-filling. The patronage has been extended by a well-established practice of allocating invalidity pensions prior to scheduled termination of employment.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST