THE ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE: A COMMENT
"Commentators called the results the 'catastrophic scenario' and 'a recipe for gridlock' Amid the see-sawing results coming out of Rome on Monday, one thing was quickly very clear: against a backdrop of declining wages and pensions and a sharp rise in unemployment, a majority of Italians issued a clear basta to austerity. In the final weeks of his campaign Mario Monti, the country’s technocrat prime minister, tried to soften his austerity message, promising “reasonable” tax cuts and admitting that his policies, although necessary to restore market confidence in Italy, had exacerbated the recession. But that was too little, too late in the face of the populist anti-austerity promises delivered by Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo. “The result is the absolute majority of Italians have voted against austerity measures, the euro and Europe,” said Enrico Letta, deputy leader of the Democrat party. “This sends a very clear signal to Brussels and Frankfurt.” “We will try our best to avoid chaos in Italy,” he added, expressing the hope that the Democrats would emerge after a long night of waiting with a majority in he lower house. What Italians may also have voted for is a quick return to the polls, potentially after what is likely to be the difficult task of agreeing to change the country’s unpopular electoral law. “If these numbers are confirmed then in the next [few] days there will be an earthquake – not just in Italy but in all Europe,” Mr Letta said, warning of a “totally unstable government”. While the make-up of the next parliament could depend on the very last votes counted, projections based on partial results released by the interior ministry suggested the centre-left could emerge with a majority in the lower house but without one in the senate. The result, dubbed the “catastrophic scenario” by Roberto D’Alimonte, professor of politics at Luiss university, confounded opinion polls and the general consensus among investors that the Democrats would have the numbers to govern in the senate in a coalition with the centrist alliance led by Mr Monti. But the populist tax-cutting promises by Mr Berlusconi, the former centre-right prime minister, combined with a surge in support for Mr Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, demonstrated that Italians were ready to take the risk of rejecting harsh austerity measures they see as imposed by a hostile Germany and Brussels."Guy Dinmore, "Angry Italians deliver austerity warning." The Financial Times. 25 February 2013, in www.ft.com.
"What the countries of the EU have experienced in the past three years is austerity in the midst of a sustained and indeed, in some countries (Greece, Italia, Portugal, and to an extent Ireland) deepening down-turn. In those and indeed soon enough other cases, the alleged benefits of austerity, qua austerity, are soon enough shown to be completely baseless. Which is not to gainsay the idea that many of the economies of the European Union need, nay require profound adjustments to their economic structures and in particular to their labour markets. The issue is merely that in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the end of the Second World War, cuts in government spending and pro-cyclical fiscal policies are on the face of it, senseless and self-defeating."Charles Coutinho, "The Decline and Fall of the Politics of Austerity." Diplomat of the Future. 5 May 2012, in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com.
"The task of the Brunning Government does not get easier with time. In his efforts to put Germany's house in order, which means to bring about financial equilibrium, the Chancellor was bound to antagonise one or more of the parties at present supporting him....Speaking of the recent elections in Oldenburg, I said that they appeared to confirm the process of attrition amongst the middle parties which has been going on for some time past. If that process were to be continued might not the time come when the parties in question would disappear for all practical purposes....To sum up, the Brunning Government are at grips with two problems, i.e., difficulties with their supporters, which increase pari passu with the sacrifices which they feel it necessary to call for from the nation, and the achievement of some action in the domain of foreign policy which will hold out a prospect of a measure of relief in the near future for German economy".Sir Horace Rumbold (Berlin) to Foreign Office, 29 May 1931, in Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, Second Series, Volume Two: 1931. Her Majesty's Stationary Office: 1947, pp. 63-65. The election results in Italia which were announced earlier this week, confirm once again for all and sundry the political, nay economic as well cul de sac, that an obsession with Brunningism, id. est., the ne plus ultra of unmitigated austerity, results in. Notwithstanding the loud praises that the former Italian premier, Mario Monti, garnered from the European pays legal (read any number of leaders and features in say the Financial Times, et. al., as matter of practical politics, the ex-Premier's exercise in having the Italian nation eat and indeed like its economic spinach has not proven it would appear a success. Something predicted (in general terms) in this journal before. With that being said, where do the election results leave the not so bella Italia? Presuming that the Mr. Bersani of the Democrats Party, will be able to form a minority government, it is quite possible that with the threat of another election hanging over everyone's collective heads (except of course the 'Five Star Movement', which would love another election so soon), that the newly elected Parliament will be with us for quite awhile longer. The only issue is that this length of office is dependent upon their being no new austerity and reform initiatives by the Democrats Party. And, which this may appears a species of political cowardice, the fact of the matter is that sans such political trimming, there is every likelihood of the Five Star Movement garnering even more of the vote, if there is another election within the next six months to one year. What needs to occur is that the Five Star Movement, needs to be defeated, by good, old-fashioned, Fabian tactics. Let this populist movement, be politically hang out to dry. After a year or two, it will appear nothing so much as an exploded volcano. That once again depends upon time doing its work in allowing the natural idiocy of populism to come to the surface and discredit the entire movement. Something, which if Paul von Hindenberg had not been (erroneously and unnecessarily) talked into appointing Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933, would soon enough have overtaken the NSDAP by sometime in the mid to the latter part of 1933.