Italian Miner Avoids Work for 35 Years, Retires at 52 and Generally Kicks Ass

“Rock for your thoughts?”

This story is a few months old but I’ve been meaning to share it ever since my friend William Gillis posted it on my Facebook wall so thanks William!

Carlo Cani, an Italian miner “…confesse[d] he dr[ew] a pension despite inventing an imaginative range of excuses for not venturing down a mine in Sardinia over 35-year career…” What do those “imaginative range of excuses” look like? Well they span from simply stumbling around the mine pretending he was drunk, to feigning illness and pretending to suffering things like amnesia. Why did he do this? To pursue his love of jazz!

Oh, and also because he has claustrophobia and didn’t want to work in the mines for a living.

Apparently he was able to draw these pensions and get these sick days through compliant doctors (god bless those doctors) and just generally being really good (apparently) at lying:

“I invented everything – amnesia, pains, haemorrhoids, I used to lurch around as if I was drunk. I bumped my thumb on a wall and obviously you can’t work with a swollen thumb,” Mr Cani told La Stampa daily on Tuesday.

“Other times I would rub coal dust into my eyes. I just didn’t like the work – being a miner was not the job for me.”

And he still managed to get a pension after all of that time!

Now, the article, don’t get me wrong, doesn’t look at this positively. It says that it only reveals the underlying problems with the Italian system of pensions and how much fraud goes on, etc.

In fact,

…another Carlo Cani, who is no relation but lives in the same area of southern Sardinia and has his number listed in the phone book, said: “People round here are absolutely furious about this – to think that someone could skive off work for so long and still get his pension. He even seems to be proud of that fact.”

First off, that’s a weird coincidence (unless the name is just really popular) but more to the point not only does the original Cani do this, get away with it and manage to live off it and pursue his passion but he’s not even ashamed. I mean, how much more of a sit-down (instead of stand-up) slacker can you be?

But some people are reasoning that it isn’t “fair” and especially when employment in the economy is low and unemployment is so high (around 40% according to the article). Of course, I see where they’re coming from. I think there’s probably less intrusive ways to live a more slack-filled lifestyle. But Cani obviously didn’t care and wanted to go as all in as he could. It’s hard to say exactly because the story only quotes him so many times but just from his actions alone it seems like he wasn’t the sort of man who was interested in half-assing something.

Honestly, I have about the same sort of opinion on this as I do to someone who is “frauding” the welfare system – good for them! The state is an illegitimate organization, the money is already seized or centrally controlled by a given class of people and it’s all a sham anyways. So why not game it for all it’s worth?

Then again, you’re going to indirectly harm innocents or people who are just trying to make a living by doing tough work. And that doesn’t seem particularly praise-worthy even if my gut reaction to this situation is, “wow, this dude’s awesome!”. Upon a deeper analysis (not that it’s that hard to outdo that gut reaction) it just isn’t as simply easy as, “yay slacking!” though I wish it was.

In any case, I’m not against this guy gaming the system. The employment-employer distinction is largely artificial thanks to the intervention of states into markets and the unemployment that’s happening in Italy is almost certainly linked to the state existing in the same place. If that’s how this guy wanted to get by and made it work for himself so he could enjoy life better then who is to say he’s wrong? He didn’t use violence against anyone and he also wasn’t trying to directly harm anyone’s chances of employment in the mines.

It’s also worth mentioning that it isn’t like working in the mines (even if it’s all you’ve got) is a fun job or something that’s probably going to give you a lot of fulfillment. It’s also not likely that Can’s actions led to such massive harm that people died or went hungry but it’s almost impossible to tell in any empirical way in any case.

I certainly understand why people would think less of a person like this but I’m more conflicted. This brings me back to my entry on The Ethics of Slacking which, while it focused on the ethics within the system still addresses some of the broader topics discussed in this post.

The bottom line is that I’m not sure that what this guy did was wrong.

Yes, the country is suffering. But is that this man’s fault? Yes, the unemployment rate is high. But does this man’s individual act really add that many barriers to entry to employment? Certainly no more than the state’s regulations and corporate constricting of access to capital does. Yes, he decided he was “too good” for a job and decided to pursue a passion of his. But so what? Does this make him inherently a bad person? Yes, he frauded the system. But the system is unjust and gaming an unjust system doesn’t seem inherently immoral to me.

So, take this article as a (hopefully) somewhat nuanced but overall positive look at an Italian miner who decided, “Nah fuck it, I’d rather play jazz!”

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