Those of you that are familiar with my blog will know what I mean when I say that if Italy is to overcome its problems, the Country must first come to terms with and overcome the political “apartheid” that has divided Italians since the end of WW II.
The so-called “populist” Government for Change does not seem strong or determined enough to do that but it is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction. After 70 years of pure “parliamentarianism”, Italy’s present government is the first government comprised of only two parties. Since World War II, Italians have grown accustomed to revolving-door, multi-party coalition governments. Those governments rarely lasted more than a year or so and all were characterized by “antifascist” witchhunts enough to make McCarthyism look democratic by comparison.
After the War had ended, the “new” Italian leadership attempted to put back the pieces of a Country that unlike Germany had shattered into a socialist (fascist-led) Republic in the North and a Savoy-led Kingdom in the South.
The result was Italy’s Constitution of 1948, a verbose mix of western and socialist-inspired principles that, absent a law-making judiciary, attempts to minutely govern Italy’s political institutions that include a Parliament comprised of two houses (a Senate and a House of Deputies), a largely ceremonial President that sits as the Country’s “Head of State” but not “of Government”, making Italy a Parliamentary, Constitutional Republic encapsulated in a single jurisdiction, which Italians call the “Unitary State”.
For a land populated by sedentary peoples since ancient times, where different, albeit related languages, are spoken and where local custom, cuisine and culture changes every fifty or so kilometers, the “Unitary State” has proven to be more of a handicap than an asset.
That Italians are able to function at all in spite of their institutions is the real miracle of post-war Italy. Economically, Italians have ceased to grow since the years of double-digit inflation ended in 1989.
Not even a Professor of Economics like Romano Prodi who alternated at the head of Italian Governments along with media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi between 1992 and 2011 for two decades struggled to grow the Italian economy at more than 1%.
With a strong labor bias, Italy has become one of the World’s least business-friendly havens without really protecting labor, except on paper. The result is Italy has been getting little or no inbound foreign investments for decades!
But do Italians like or want foreign investors? Judging by their laws one would have to conclude that no, they do not. Giovanni Verga a Sicilian novelist explains the phenomenon in a work entitled, “La Roba” where an avid and arid former tenant farmer named Mazzarò is driven by his greed and cunning to accumulate more land than “the King” and succeeds! Close to death, he begins to slaughter all of his livestock crying out, “Roba mia, vientene con me!”, which roughly translates as … “You are my property and I’m taking you with me”!
Italian entrepreneurs to this day seem to want neither partners nor foreign competitors. Fewer companies are quoted on the Milan Stock Exchange than in Madrid, Spain!
Italian businesses prefer to remain small, family-owned affairs and consequently will not risk losing control or becoming more transparent by going public.
And so Italy’s biggest entrepreneur and employer remain the “Unitary State” with its public conglomerates and multinational companies. The few privately owned multinationals like Fiat have begun moving their HQ to more favorable business-friendly locations, more will follow unless someone does something soon.