Italy’s in terminal decline, and no one has the guts to stop it

Everything that’s wrong with France is worse here

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

25 October 2014

9:00 AM



The Rome Opera House sacked its entire orchestra and chorus the other day. Financed and managed by the state, and therefore crippled by debt, the opera house — like so much else in Italy — had been a jobs-for-life trade union fiefdom. Its honorary director, Riccardo Muti, became so fed up after dealing with six years of work-to-rule surrealism that he resigned. It’s hard to blame him. The musicians at the opera house — the ‘professori’ — work a 28-hour week (nearly half taken up with ‘study’) and get paid 16 months’ salary a year, plus absurd perks such as double pay for performing in the open air because it is humid and therefore a health risk. Even so, in the summer, Muti was compelled to conduct a performance of La Bohème with only a pianist because the rest of the orchestra had gone on strike.

After Muti’s resignation, the opera house board did something unprece-dented: they sacked about 200 members of the orchestra and chorus, in a country where no one with a long-term contract can be fired. It was a revolutionary — dare one say Thatcherite? — act. If only somebody would have the guts to do something similar across the whole of the Italian state sector. But nobody will. Italy seems doomed.

The latest panic on global stock markets has reminded the world of the vulnerability of the euro, and this week pundits in the British press have been busy speculating about France’s possible collapse. Hardly anyone bothers to fret about Italy any more, even though last week its exchanges took the second biggest hit after Greece. Italy’s irreversible demise is a foregone conclusion. The country is just too much of a basket case even to think about.

Italy’s experience of the European monetary union has been particularly painful. The Italians sleepwalked into joining the euro with scarcely any serious debate, and were so keen to sign up that they accepted a throttlingly high exchange rate with the lira. The price of life’s essentials, such as cigarettes, coffee and wine, doubled overnight while wages remained static — though back then jobs were still easy to find and money easy to borrow. But when the great crash happened, Italy, as a prisoner of a monetary union without a political union, was unable to do anything much about it, and could not even resort to the traditional medicine of currency devaluation.

The only path to recovery permitted by Brussels and Berlin — that of austerity — has been counterproductive because it has only been skin-deep. If austerity is to stimulate growth, it must be done to the hilt, which inevitably involves terrible suffering and the risk of mass agitation. No Italian politician can stomach that.

Italy can’t blame all its problems on monetary union, however. The euro did not cause the catastrophe, but it deprived Italy of a means to combat it and exposed its fatal structural weaknesses.

The youth unemployment rate here is 43 per cent — the highest on record. That figure doesn’t factor in the black market, which is so big that the Italian government now wants to include certain parts of it — prostitution, drug dealing and assorted smuggling — into its official GDP figures. The contribution is thought to be sizeable enough to take the country out of its third recession in six years.

We should remember that Italian companies get state money to pay workers to do nothing and not sack them — currently about half a million workers are in what is known as ‘cassa integrazione’. So the real unemployment rate in Italy must be at least 15 per cent, and that does not include all those who have given up trying to find work. Just 58 per cent of working-age Italians are employed, compared with an average 65 per cent in the developed world.

Even including all the cocaine and bunga-bunga does not alter the extra-ordinary fact that Italy’s economy has been stagnant since 2000. Indeed, over the past five years it has shrunk by 9.1 per cent. Worse still, it went into deflation last month, the thing that everyone most fears — even more than hyperinflation — and which caused the Japanese economy to stagnate for 20 years.

Since the defenestration of Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 as a result of the bunga-bunga scandal, and the horrific gap that opened up in the value of Italian and German bonds, Italy has had three unelected prime ministers.

The left-wing Matteo Renzi, the latest of these, is billed as Italy’s Tony Blair because he has managed to force his party, the post-communist Partito Democratico, to forget the past and face the future. Initially, he promised that he would bring in all the necessary structural reforms within 100 days; but of course he did not, and now he says that he needs 1,000 days.

Il rottamatore (the ‘demolition man’), as Renzi is known, has just forced through a reform bill amid much fanfare and even physical fighting in the Senate. Renzi’s bill is supposed to abolish the mythical Articolo 18, which makes it virtually impossible to sack anyone in companies that employ more than 15 people. Yet if the bill ever becomes law, this being Italy, it will no doubt be so watered down by the time it reaches the statute books as to be meaningless. The unions have promised ‘un autunno caldo’ (a hot autumn) to protect their most prized sacred cow.

Same old story. Regardless of who is in charge in Italy, it is nearly always all mouth and no trousers, which to be fair is partly because the electoral system makes it impossible to avoid coalition governments and partly because the constitution, for fear of dictatorship, gives the prime minister little executive power.

Italian TV broadcasts wall-to-wall political talkshows (most of them left-wing even on Berlusconi’s channels) but they too are in crisis: the Italians, fatally disillusioned, are not bothering to watch television any more.

Italy’s sovereign debt, meanwhile, continues to grow exponentially. It is now €2.2 trillion, which is the equivalent of 135 per cent of GDP — the third highest in the world after Japan and Greece. And the more deflation Italy has, the bigger the debt and its cost in real terms.

In Italy, as in France, a dirigiste philosophy has predominated since the second world war. The government is run like a protection racket; money finds its way into every nook and cranny of the economy. Even newspapers are publicly subsidised, which is why there are so many of them.

Anyone who works in the real private sector — the family businesses that have made Italy’s name around the world — is in a bad place. Italy has the heaviest ‘total tax’ burden on businesses in the world at 68 per cent, according to the Sole 24 Ore newspaper, followed by France on 66 per cent, compared with just 36 per cent in Britain. To start a business in Italy is to enter a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare, and to keep it going is even worse. It also means handing the state at least 50 cents for every euro paid to staff. Add to this a judicial system that is byzantine, politicised and in possession of terrifying powers, and you begin to understand why no sane foreign company sets up headquarters in Italy.

I worked for a regional newspaper, La Voce di Romagna,as a columnist for a decade until a year ago, but gave up after my employer — even though in receipt of hefty public money — failed to pay me for three months. I was not entitled to dole money, because I was self-employed. Employees with proper contracts are entitled to the dole, but only for a year or so. Many of my colleagues have not been paid for up to a year. Now, though, La Voce is about to go into bankruptcy and close. I would not bet a single euro on those former colleagues getting any of the money owed to them.

Yet there is another Italy — the state-financed one — where life is, if not a bed of roses, still fine, all things considered — even though those Rome Opera House sackings have caused a little ripple of anxiety. Italian MPs are the highest paid in the civilised world, earning almost twice the salary of a British MP. Barbers in the Italian Parliament get up to €136,120 a year gross. All state employees get a fabulous near-final–salary pension. It is not difficult to appreciate the fury of the average Italian private sector worker, whose gross annual pay is €18,000.

The phrase ‘you could not make it up’ fits the gold-plated world of the Italian state employee to a tee — especially in the Mezzo-giorno, Italy’s hopeless south. Sicily, for instance, employs 28,000 forestry police — more than Canada — and has 950 ambulance drivers who have no ambulances to drive.

An Italian government that really meant business would make urgent and drastic cuts not just to the bloated, parasitical and corrupt state sector, but also to taxes, labour costs and red tape. Yet even now only Beppe Grillo, a modern comic version of Benito Mussolini, and the separatist Northern League advocate Italian withdrawal from the euro. Most Italians still don’t get it: the euro is the problem, not the solution — unless, that is, they go for real austerity in a major way, which they will not do unless forced to at gunpoint.

Italy, more even than France, is the sick man of Europe — and it is also the dying man of Europe. Italian women used to have more children than anyone else in Europe. It is common to meet old men called Decimo (‘Tenth’). Yet for decades the birth rate in Italy has been among the lowest in the world, and if it were not for immigration the population would be in decline. When Italian women refuse to make babies, it is a clear sign of a terminally sick society.

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  • Swanky

    No wonder I live in America (as a person with three citizenships, I have a choice). The Obamamorons are doing their best to turn us into the basket case of Latin Europe, but I hope to have my last days before we see the worst consequences of that. Not for the first time am I grateful not to have progeny to worry about.

    The single currency never made any sense. Not all the countries will be at the same point in the economic cycle at the same time. Some will want devaluation and others won’t, as circumstances dictate. If even an arts-major like me can realize that, why couldn’t the leaders of Europe?

    On another note, and switching hats here:

    When Italian women refuse… Yeah. Or maybe they realize that childbirth hurts and that every child you have makes you more and more like Used Goods, the Witchy Matron. Motherhood is supposed to be the apotheosis of femalehood. But it’s also the beginning of the death of femininity, in its compromising of your bodily integrity, your resilience, your youthful unused-ness, your freedom and range of choices…. I have always viewed motherhood with extreme suspicion. Partly because my mother, who sought it young, never particularly valued it (she was always a rather selfish and unthoughtful person), and so I never looked forward to it; and partly because I didn’t wish an epigone of me that was worse (how disappointing) or better than I (how disappointing, again).

    • Matt

      Who is going to take care of you in your old age? I guess it´s going to be someone else´s epigone if you can afford them.

      • miranda

        Who will take care of you Matt?
        Who will take care of me?
        No one – unless we can afford them.


        • Matt

          Hopefully I will get at least some help from my children if I need it. Counting on other people´s kids might be a problem if they don´t have them.

          • Swanky

            Children often resent that. Parents get to old age and often find that ‘the kids’ don’t like them very much. I wouldn’t make that part of the plan.

          • dan

            The question boils down to understanding the basis dynamics of nuclear family system. The parents invest in the children and support them to become economic viable. The children also take care of the parents in their old age. This is in consonance with the law of sowing and reaping. To completely trust on government social security for one`s old age is more risky than your own children. I completely agree with Matt and I for one contribute my own share for my parents. They were there for me and sacrificed part of their confort for me. It is reasonable for me to also be there for them. We are becoming selfish and self-centered. So i will advice to children or a child with your husband if you are married and training them. They will be there for both of you.

          • Swanky

            That’s probably true enough for most people, Dan. But it’s often a bit more complicated than that. Have you heard of the Roz Chast book, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?? That book literally illustrates what I mean.

          • miranda

            My step-mother’s children emigrated to the antipodes.

          • jg

            I would not count on children to take care of me- not fair to assume that-

          • Kit

            Is that your belief?, your children are there to care for you in old age? It is an interesting concept of childbirth.
            I fear you may be disappointed.

      • Kaine

        I for one welcome our robotic matrons.

        • miranda

          Pss – where can I get one?

          • EricHobsbawmtwit

            If Google won’t be able to make a fully self-driving car within our lifetimes, which they won’t, don’t expect anyone to come up with a robot capable of putting its hands into your knickers any time soon.

          • miranda

            How disappointing.

          • Wessex Man

            he always is, when he’s had time usually about twenty four hours he’ll come back at you with a stinging putdown that’s full of humour known only to him!

      • Swanky

        Big assumption there, Matt, that a) I’m going to reach my ‘old age’, and b) I’ll be unable to care for myself when and if that sad time comes. I practise anti-ageing and my life’s project is to be the strongest most intelligent and knowledgeable person I can be. Most people slide into ill-health because they don’t view themselves as their own masterpiece. I fully intend to live independently all my life.

    • Enrica

      Of course life’s changing when you’re going to became a mother is a point of view, is also true that babies will be future custormers, throug their work they are going to give money to pay societies pensions of who is gone for retirement to job.
      Italy is not like US, where everything concern protections is private or covered by an insurance (assistance, hospital,pension), infact we have got a welfare, not perfect certainly, with no many poor people until we run in EU (1996) and we have lost we lost our sovereignty and our currency.

    • miranda

      I was lucky with my choice of mother.
      My mother, sadly, was not so lucky with hers, but even so she survived and flourished, as you appear to have done.
      You might have made a better job of motherhood than you think and I haven’t seen many disappointed mothers – deluded ones yes, but not disappointed ones.

      • Swanky

        Oh, I would have made a wonderful mother. A self-sacrificing one, to a great extent (I only have to look at how I treat my dog as evidence). But that was never on the cards and I don’t regret it.

        • miranda

          As long as you have what you need (lucky dog eh?).

    • markinla

      The whole argument about declining populations is ridiculous. At some time the population has to stabilize. That it goes up and down around a set point is nothing to worry about and no reason whatsoever to bring in people from the third world who will only take the Italian out of Italy.

      We already can replace people with machines for millions of low skill service jobs. We just need to speed the process up. The country no longer needs a large population to hold off foreign invasion. If the country really needs more babies I am sure the Italians know how to make them, there just needs to be the necessary incentive and emphasis on families in society.

      • Swanky

        Good points.

      • A post amazingly ignorant of demographics.

        • markinla

          With nothing to add but name calling it seems you aren’t very bright. Please explain why Italians can’t have more children or what ever point you were trying to make. Maybe you think Italy has an obligation to take in immigrants, sorry they do not.

      • When people don’t have a secure income, a stable livelihood and the potential to own their own home, they don’t have as many children or put off children for as long as they can. In Britain the state discriminates against working parents in favour of the non-working, hence the latter have more children than the former. With benefits a non-working couple, or low earning couple, can make far more than one with an average wage. The difficulties of buying a house nowadays are known by everyone, but even here couples on benefits …

        • markinla

          In Britain the elite seem to hate the native Britons same as in the US and wish to import a new populace. They think their new permanent underclass will be more compliant than the natives, they are wrong.

          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            Well the problem is that the Italian elite seem to hold the Italians in just as much contempt: its import more immigrants here and there – no more Christianity or Christmas, and to top it all: more taxes for you to pay for them!

      • Brogan75

        tell the muzzies who come ashore in Sicily and make 5 kids each, knowing somehow they will get a roof, food , a job for free all paid by the italian taxes. Same happens in Britain anyway.

    • balance_and_reason

      Miss Swanky, can I just say a big thank you for sharing your fascinating personal insights , we are indeed the richer for them. The story about your mother had me in absolute stitches…..

      • Swanky

        Some people like my contribution. You could always give me a miss: I promise I won’t mind.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      I suspect that’s how a lot of women in the West think.

      Childless, hurt, and alone…except for some cats (or in your case, a dog).

      It’s all quite sad, really.

      • Swanky

        That’s life for you. In my case, too, don’t forget the husband!

        • Laguna Beach Fogey

          Your bitterness comes across on the screen. As I said, you’re definitely not alone in this. It’s rather sad.

          • Fenton!

            So you think life is a bowl of peaches? What are you, 18? Or — GASP — as I live and breathe: IT’S DAVID CAMERON!!!!

          • Swanky

            Bitterness? Nah. More like tart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdGx8PUMxFg

    • Brogan75

      The birth rate is dropping everywhere in the western world, as having a baby needs planning and a lot of money. My parents were sharing an ice cream when dating back in the 60s; now we need the gym, the pilates, the latest Iphone etc. plus the media idea of Good looking has brainwashed us so much that we became extremely picky when choosing a partner. Nobody wants to do a sacrifice any more.

      • Fenton!

        Well, quite right. I don’t want to sacrifice: I want the good life — and, though I’ll probably never get it, the high life. I want a man so ravishingly handsome that my thoughts turn sultry whenever circs permit. I am extremely picky and I’m going to remain that way. With ears like mine, why wouldn’t I be?

    • GrR

      Because EU leaders are smarter than you ?
      Your citation is primitive in economic terms.

      • Swanky

        I don’t think they’re smarter, no. They’re rather like your avatar: fab body, but nothing doing from the neck up.

    • Mike Chellman

      I’m going to post just so other woman don’t become convinced by your attitude. First, I’m glad that you find US a good place to live. All intelligent Americans want that for the poorest refugee from Samolia to the richest Chinese. But i have to tell you and everyone that having children was the most wonderful thing that I ever did. The raising and nurturing of my children wasn’t very difficult; it was mostly fun. Growing children and helping others makes life worth living.

      • Swanky

        Mm, but you see, you look at it from a) a non-economic point of view — I was a poor waif barely capable of providing for myself, and b) the parents’ fulfillment. Are children here just to fulfill their parents? Isn’t that arrogant and selfish? I have not had an easy time of it. I consider life a penalty as much as a gift. I shall not be sorry to depart it. I did not ask to be here. And in my opinion, having had some considerable experience of life, I think both my parents failed me. They did not do what *I* would have done; they basically gave me a life raft and said ‘happy sailing’. I do not consider that helpful or loving. Neither of them has any idea: I suppose because of their relatively low class which had not caught up with the world I was living in.

        My point, essentially, is that children are not super-pets, to groom so that they’ll lick you and bark for you later. That is a disgusting view, and I don’t even view my own dog that way.

        To have a child is an immense responsibility. The irony is that because I am more aware of that than most, I have been least inclined to commit myself to the emotional cost of it.

      • Swanky

        Any intelligent woman* realizes that it’s not in her interests to be a mother. That is why the human race took so long to progress beyond the Neanderthals. All the brightest people died off. The people that reproduce the most are the stupidest among us — measurably so.

        If you could choose to be either sex, all other things being equal, which would you be? —

        Women: Bleed monthly, somewhat distressingly, from a hole that is difficult to stop up and feels uncomfortable when you do so? You leak, and it’s embarrassing, and you spend time scrubbing your clothes and cursing. By the way, this leaking process HURTS.
        In addition, you get to be pregnant, wherein a being not yourself takes up real estate you fondly formerly viewed as your own body. Then, through the tiny hole that was tight enough to give your man the hallelujahs, you now have to expel this new body. It’s like Alien, only not so quick and probably not so dignified. Also, the male of the species does not venerate you for this sacrifice but historically holds you in contempt. (I LOVE that one. Men are great — aren’t they???)
        If this is not enough, you are the Keeper of the Family Hygiene and are expected to clean the toilets that men are such experts at making filthy. Is this a cosmic joke? You betcha. Is there a remedy? I haven’t found one.

        Men: When you squirt, a child is born. How lovely. You get up and you dress and nothing changes, except that there’s someone else with your name in your house and your woman requires recovery until your next squirt.

        Muscles, muscles, muscles! And what did men do for them? Precious little. But nature determined that women should have fat waddlesome hips for the baby, while you have slim straight hips for you. They should have no muscle (to speak of) for the baby, and small frames (same reason), while you can be strong strapping tall everything you. Get the idea? Nature takes strips off women because it’s all for the baby. If you’re a man, Nature gives the bounty of you to You.

        This is why Nature is the original misogynist. What women have for the sake of the species compromises them as individual people. What men have for the sake of the species benefits them as individual people. How could I have a daughter and feel good about it? It’s like creating another slave, another servant.

        *With the exception of Kate Middleton, for whom motherhood is a role-cementer and guarantor of status. But over 99% of modern Westerners are not in that position. And even she has spent months puking her guts out while Wills is just tickety-boo, thanks very much.

  • wycombewanderer

    Living in France and trying to run/set up a business here I find it hard to believe that any country coulkd be in a worse stae with a worse attitude to small businesses than here.

    The only good thing that will come from the failure to reform either country is the collapse of the Eurozone and the end of the EU.
    I really think France is heading for riots soon.

    • rodger the dodger

      Yes, it is. France is the lynchpin in the next phase of the sovereign debt crisis, which is about to hit the core countries of the Eurozone. France CANNOT be saved. It’s too late. It is simply a matter of time. And once it goes, so will the rest. The collapse of the EU proper will follow. Arguing about the UK pulling out is a moot point, because the EU is finished anyway.

      I give it a year before the ball starts to roll. Many have been saying this will happen for a long time, now, but people can behave irrationally for many, many years. Decades, in fact – as we have seen.

      It will soon reach breaking point…

      • NorthernFirst

        “It will soon reach breaking point…”

        They were saying that six years ago too.

        • miranda

          And they were right – just don’t put your money on when.

        • Remove the “soon”. The euro is unsustainable. It is absurd that a country of olive farmers is bound into an economic union with one of the most industrialised nations in the world. Something has to give at some point. The trouble is that this idea of European unity seems to exert an incomprehensible witchcraft upon Europe’s politicians, and they will tolerate an awful lot of voter fury before breaking with the EU.

          How many times have we seen it here, where a prime minister will fall upon his sword before admitting he’s simply carrying out Brussels’ instructions, the Euro-constitution/referendum/Lisbon treaty fiasco being a classic example. The railway privatisation being another.

          A currency should exist to serve a nation. Currently in Europe, all things are being sacrificed — whole nations and peoples, if necessary — to the euro’s survival; not prosperity, mind you, merely survival. Europe now exists to serve the currency. That cannot last, and it won’t, but I worry that, the longer Europe’s leaders attempt to suppress the public’s disgust, the greater will be the final eruption. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear.

          • markinla

            Politicians care not for the welfare of their countrymen only for their positions in the hierarchy. The Austro-Hungarian Empire hung on a long time playing one ethnicity against another so that the royalty could have more people to lord over. The EU is the new AH Empire.

          • Athelstane

            The EU is the new AH Empire.

            And yet you’ll find a fair bit of hankering for the old Austro-Hungarian Empire today in those lands, given what replaced it over the succeeding decades.

            At least the Habsburgs presided over a far smaller, fiscally sustainable bunch of lords (i.e., civil servants and minor nobility) lording it over others than Italy does today. And managed to keep the locals from ethnically cleansing each other, no mean feat. It wasn’t fiscal collapse that destroyed the AH Empire, but war and ethnic strife.

            But perhaps Italy is headed for a similar fate: dissolution.

          • Alexsandr

            lets not forget that Italy was not unified till after WW1 when Trieste became Italian. How similar are Sicilains and Piedmontese? Perhaps we will see devolution and breakup.

            Of course Sicily has the severe problems of immigrants from Africa.

          • Muawiyah

            And it’s own emigration problem. Hence the immigration problem.

            I have no idea how many Sicilianos left Sicilia since WWII but it’s A LOT. Other islands and territories around the Western Mediterranean where Catalan or Ocitan are or were spoken have seen similar abandonment. Can’t even find a trace of the Catalan speakers North of Venuto, but they likely left for America with the Siclians, Corsicans, Valencians, and Languedocians.

            It’s like there used to be a country and now it’s gone.

          • miramare

            yeah, who knows why generally people decide to emigrate.
            mmmmhhh maybe poverty? Lack of job?
            Really, who knows…..

          • miramare

            and how similar are a corse and a breton?
            How similar are a bavarian and someone from east germany?
            And a basque and an andalusian?
            Come on, all the nations and all the borders are just “conventions”. Italy is not different from the rest of the european countries

          • Tess-toss-tyrone

            Viva la Padania!

          • miramare

            and viva aksoi the middle-earth, the fantabosco and the far far away kingdom!
            Long live to all the fantasy-lands!

          • Tess-toss-tyrone

            You are hopelessly beguiled.

          • miramare

            Called “beguiled” by someone who trust in an invented nation and he think to be the heir of the celtic people (!!!!) it’s really really funny 😀
            Please, say hi from me to all your friends with the horned helmets
            You are really one of the most funniest inventions that the north of italy has made during its long history

          • Marco Paganotto

            And what the f… is Padania???

          • Muawiyah

            The Romance language speakers North of Venuto West to Milan and over to Languedoc in modern France SPOKE a version of what is now called Catalan in Spain and Occitanian in France/Italy.

            So did the Sicilianos! And the Corsicans.

            I’d say there’s more in common between the Piedmontese and Sicilians than there is between the Piedmontese and the Italians around Rome.

            I’ve been looking into European party voting patterns. One interesting line up has the folks in the old Pyranees kingdoms voting pretty much the same as the guys in Northern Italy, and fairly in line with the guys on the Western Mediterranean islands and Barcelona.

            You can get all European election results, by party, on maps shown by province or election district.

            There was a very good reason the Frankish kingdom was broken into three countries ~ one of which was called Thurungia ~ didn’t last long, but it wasn’t exactly based on nothing more than an exact reading of the Emperor”s will.

            Even in the good old days Europeans recognized serious cultural and linguistic differences.

          • Alexsandr

            Lets remember the moors were in italy, as they were in spain. And also the kingdon of the two sicilies (the southern bit of the leg and the island we call sicily today) was a spanish colony, which explains the similarity of the 2 languages.

          • Muawiyah

            PLUS, the family that ruled Anjou (and England) for a very long time ALSO ruled Sicily, et al. The last nominal king of Sicily was Rene of Angiers/Anjou in fact ~ towards the last couple of decades of his life ()1460s, 70s) he cashed in his holdings in Northern France and Brittany then moved with his entourage to SE France ~ the net has references to several towns he moved to. I’ll guess he purchased castles in several places.

            That bunch spread out a bit, but earlier DeGuesclin had taken a large number of stray Breton knights (with the same surnames as Rene’s group) to Valencia and then on over to Ciudad Royal where they wrapped up the Reconquista.

            NOTEWORTHY ~ Rene was a relative of both Ferdinand and Isabella AND he’d employed Christopher Columbus for many years in his wool and rug shipping business. Small world in those days ~ many fewer people!

          • Muawiyah

            Modern Italy was created by a conspiracy fostered by Napoleon III.

            He did that to Germany as well. And there were others lined up…..

            The Germans let him move to London.

          • toumanbeg

            “The trouble is that this idea of European unity seems to exert an incomprehensible witchcraft upon Europe’s politicians”
            Ego. Europe was last united under Charlemagne. Since then every European politician worth his daily bribe has been trying to match the Iron King. Nappy and Hitler came close.
            The EU failed when the politicians tried to jam the idea down the throats of the citizens. Olive farmers can co-exist with industrialist so long as both parties are willing to give a little to get a little. politicians were too lazy to build consensous, so they tried force. Now those politicians are gone and the ones that followed are left with sullen, angry, disobedient citizens.
            A dream without a plan is a waste of time.

          • Sam_Beresford

            Great post

          • Karol667

            “A country of olive farmers”
            Until 2002 Italian industrial production matched that of Germany, with less population, so I would not call them “olive farmers”.
            Italy never de-industrialized as much as other western countries (cough cough Britain), but around 2005 it started contracting and its industrial production rose by very, very little.
            Corruption and a high fiscal load are finally catching up.

          • I was referring to Greece. And yes, I’m aware that’s an exaggeration, so you don’t need to lecture me on how there’s more to Greece than olives.

            Although, the longer their half-hearted austerity continues, the less there is to Greece apart from olives.

          • Scon

            You are “aware it’s an exaggeration”, but you would rather use disparaging language anyway.

          • It’s called a “metaphor”. Do you know what a metaphor is? Apart from a perfectly normal figure of English speech that you almost certainly use yourself on an hourly basis, probably without even thinking about it?

            An example off a metaphor would be, “You’re a dick head.” But if I say, “You’re a dick head,” I don’t mean literally that you are the bulbous tip of a penis that has somehow acquired an ability to write, as you’re well aware.

            And when I write if a nation of olive farmers, I don’t believe you genuinely believe I’m suggesting that, of Greece’s 11 million population, every one of them farms olives. I don’t doubt for a second that you’re well aware that I’m actually sliding to a relatively basic economy based on low-income production such as agriculture, but you’re being the bulbous tip of a penis.

          • Muawiyah

            An aside: I actually prefer Spanish and Tunisian olives for cooking oil.

          • Tom Sanders

            Nation of shop keepers. Same as.

          • Henning Heinemann

            A country of farmers is what they should be, it’s what all the post industrial western nations should be. We have developed not only the technology to replace ourselves in industrial manufacturing, we have developed the technologies for efficient, year round, indoor agriculture in unused industrial buildings. We have come full circle out of the industrial revolution from the most advanced technologies to applying them to the two most valuable commodities on the planet, food and fresh water. The demand for food and freshwater globally is not declining and never will. Drought is starving once arable land from the moisture the crops need.

            We need to shift focus on what we value and what we as a species need going forward; food and water.

          • If the Middle Ages was such a desirable era, one can only wonder why we ever abandoned it.

          • BillBasham

            What about xbox?

          • John

            “A country of olive farmers”? Italy?

          • Greece

          • Henning Heinemann

            Unsustainable? That’s kind of a joke isn’t it? It’s sustained by faith, same as the US Dollar. It’s all debt based, the entire concept of ‘consumerism’ is a Ponzi scheme basis, it always requires people to feed it more or it collapses. We feed it debt in trade for ‘shiny pebbles’.

          • Kasparroist

            Olive Farmers? Like Ferrari and Finmeccanica?

          • Like Greece. As I made clear in my other posts.

            And yes, I am well aware that not everybody in Greece is an olive farmer. It’s called a “metaphor.” I’m sure even Italian uses them.

          • Kasparroist

            Well, I understand you but do not forget the immeasurable cultural debt with Greece , Our Mother .

        • toumanbeg

          Want a date? 2035. With the understanding the Russ_Putin doesn’t invade before then. Russia hasn’t much of an Army today. The Red Army is more of a watered down pink but it is still waaaay better then anything NATO can put together. The only functional military in NATO is America’s and anyone that thinks President Obola will send troops to Europe to fight there is delusional.

          • rodger the dodger

            2035 for the EU to break up? Way too far. You think France can hang on for another twenty years as a basket case, and Germany will pay for it, while they are both surrounded by basket cases expecting Germany to pay for them? Forget it.

            2035 is more like the USA to break up, and China take their place as number one on every level.

          • toumanbeg

            What are the alternatives? Europeans are not living in Utopia but nobody is. Utopia doesn’t exist. Europeans grumble but they are not going to throw the gates open for the 4 horsemen.
            China will fall before either the USA or the EU. Or rather the Chinese government will.
            When a state fails, it is the rich and powerful that feel it the most. Their wealth and power is gained by gaming the system. When the system collapses, they get hurt.
            The poor are already poor and don’t have far to fall so they don’t fall far.

          • markinla

            Wrong. when the South American countries devalued, it was the middle class who got creamed. The wealthy had inside connections and knew to convert their wealth to dollars or gold and after the devaluation to convert them back and be wealthier as a percentage of the national wealth than they were before. The poor were still poor and the savings of the middle class were devalued.

          • toumanbeg

            Moving the goal posts are we? I said nothing about the middle class. That is all you. Do you include the middle class as poor? What Economic theory is that?

          • markinla

            No YOU said the rich are hurt the most and the poor unaffected. I am just pointing out that the rich were not hurt in SA.

          • Orson OLSON

            SOLUTIONS? – North Euro, South Euro.

          • monique

            Oh! I’ve finally found someone who shares my opinion.
            All it takes is a quick trip round the south of Europe to understand that the north and south are just not compatible.

          • Muawiyah

            Europe would improve its compatibility quotient by simply breaking up into the constituent states as they stood about 1492 (or 1440 for Spain).

            Smaller groupings would minimize conflict internally in every area.

          • Vengeful Fruitcake

            If France were in the South Euro that would effectively scupper the EU project.

          • Tess-toss-tyrone

            Yeah. Marks and liras.

          • Tess-toss-tyrone

            If Obammy gives the millions of illegals amnesty, the race riots of Ferguson go nationwide or the dollar collapses in hyperinflation, the USA might not make it through 2015.

          • markinla

            Anybody who thinks the Red Army is going to invade western Europe in the nuclear age is dreaming. The goal of any war is to seize the wealth of the weaker country and take it for your own. Nothing will be left once the nuclear bombs start flying.

          • toumanbeg

            How many nukes does Germany have? Poland? We know the Ukraine gave their’s up for a promise since broken. There is a message there if you want to open your eyes and see it.
            Surely you don’t think President Obola is going to start a nuclear war over a bunch of white dudes in Europe?

          • markinla

            How many does NATO have? How many does France have? If the Red Army invades Germany it has to take over all of Europe without any nuclear weapons being used. Britain and France have their own although Britain’s are technically under NATO control.

          • wycombewanderer

            no they are not.

            They are under Sole uk control.

          • markinla

            Thank you for the information. I was just making the assumption that all NATO weapons of that type would not be used without NATO concurrence. Since I am wrong it is even less likely the Red Army would attempt to invade western Europe.

          • Tess-toss-tyrone

            No way. But he will fling the doors open to his Ebola bearing bruthas from mother Africa.

          • John Schrader

            I’m not sure Obama would defend all of the US. He would talk tough though.

        • rodger the dodger

          In terms of irrational behaviour for decades, six years is nothing. Come back in two years time. The first phase concerned the peripheral economies, now it has migrated to the core as a result of what they did to ‘save’ the periphery.

        • Alexsandr

          1m on the streets of Rome on saturday. I saw them.
          Police and caribineri were there in force with riot shields and firearms.

      • miranda

        I think you right, but don’t make the mistake of putting a time to it. Like the man said “There’s a deal of ruin in a nation”

      • I care nothing for the EU and its stupid, stupid currency. But if the eurozone does fall apart, I’m terrified for the impact it will have on Britain.

        • Gughino

          on the world, I’d rather say…

        • Frank

          You can rest assured that our great retail banks will be forced to reveal that they have bought lots of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, etc, debt. They will then have to mark all this down to zero, so Britain is heading for another cash infusion for our banks (good thing they have such excellent boards of directors and that we have the FCA to protect us).

        • ClausewitzTheMunificent

          And what exactly does Britain have to offer? It pimps out London to the rest of the world as a “financial capital” but the rest of the country feels like a post-industrial ghost-town

          • An almighty exaggeration, but what’s your point?

          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            Oh merely that since we’re all screwed, might as well not gloat too hard!

          • Who’s gloating?

      • Bill Adams

        “It takes time to ruin a world, but time is all it takes.” — Fontenelle

    • Mahound

      What’s so utterly crazy about France is that I don’t even think Marine Le Pen can save it, just as dirigiste as the rest she is. Sure, they can leave the Euro and devalue, but what then? Without reforms it will just be a slow – but somewhat less painful – decline into irrelevance.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Agreed. Sad to say, since I like the country and its people, but though the French can be very stroppy indeed (like sacking & burning government offices) when they do this it is rarely any kind of anti-State pro-liberty gesture – they’re just demanding a bigger personal share of State handouts for their own group, whether it’s farmers or whatever. They all moan like crazy about the onerous tax burden, but will not vote in sufficient numbers for anyone offering the despised Anglo-Saxon notions of free markets, self help, low tax, small State…

        • mark orchard

          Not quite true. Hundreds of thousands do vote for the despised Anglo-Saxon notion of free markets. The trouble for France is that they vote with their feet. Quite a few of my London colleagues are French, all with the character and integrity a nation would be foolish to lose.

          • Malcolm Stevas

            I’m aware of the clever French City-based expats, but surely a few hundreds of thousands are not significant in the context of a nation with a population even bigger than ours… That’s why they’re in London: their votes in France are too few to make a difference.

          • Chris Morriss

            Their official population is larger than ours, but given the grotesque under-reporting of our real population it’s a meaningless comparison.

          • Ex Democrat

            Your comment reminds me of another diaspora caused by horrible government. Here in Texas I have met and worked with many Venezuelans in the last decade or so (I have hired one or two as well). What they have in common is that they decided that they could not be successful in socialist Venezuela, and so they decided to take their families and leave. Most of the Venezuelans I’m talking about are very smart people and good workers; I have no doubt that they more than pull their weight here in the U.S. I can’t imagine that things are not worse in Venezuela without them.

      • rodger the dodger

        Le Pen wants to stamp the state’s boot heel all over France as much as Hollande does, perhaps more so.

    • ms_antz

      Try Croatia 😀

    • tombecker76

      I am Italian (living abroad for a decade by now).

      I can just tell you: far worse state (and I speak French, so don’t think I am clueless about France).

    • Ex Democrat

      The Obama Administration’s opponents sometimes accuse President Obama and the Democratic Party’s leaders of wanting to transform the U.S. into a France or Italy. From your perspective in France, do you think this argument has any merit?

      • wycombewanderer

        Not much, it’s the national psyche that counts.

        65% of French school leavers want to become fonctionaires(civil servants) I doubt that is the case in the US.

        In France anyone who wants to run their own business is thought of as mad or bad or both.

        France is a great place to be a fonctionaire, retired, or a drunk.

        • Ex Democrat

          Thank you. I shared your response with a couple who are friends of mine and my wife, who are personally very conservative but vote only for left of center polticians here in Texas and nationally (for example: Obama). They know France well from multiple visits and are great wine fans. They had nothing to say about your comments, which to me attests to their probable accuracy.

        • Muawiyah

          Most immigrants into the states want their kids to become government employees, or doctors, or school teachers, or anything but folks who work in drycleaning businesses.

  • beenzrgud

    We are now seeing the fault lines appear that have been predicted from the outset. Countries with such different economies and cultures cannot exist in an economic union. Since the start of the EU the rules for economic union have slowly been dropped in favour of some haphazard social project. People like Barosso and Juncker are now hoping to use Germany as a piggy bank to continue financing this crumbling monstrosity, but I have a feeling the Germans will tell them where to shove it.

    • markinla

      The German people do not want to support all these freeloaders. However, the German government wants to be the important player in European affairs like they think they deserve. You can never underestimate how much a politician will disregard the wishes of their own people for their own self-interest.

    • Ken

      They now seem to be eying British bank accounts with their demand for more money because we have been successful.

  • Peter Stroud

    How can the EU continue with its ridiculous single currency? How can fanatics like Junker and Barosso continue to preach the monetary union dogma when such basket cases as Italy, Greece and now, France, falter largely because of it? It is becoming clear that Germany cannot continue to subsidise these failing states. The EU is becoming more and more a place from which to bid – farewell.

    • Hegelguy

      Well said ! But never underestimate the pigheaded stupidity of a politico. They will go on to the end, no matter how much destruction they cause. Look at Cameron baiting the Scots in spite of 45 percent of them having recently voted to leave the UK.

    • Axl Foolie

      tell me: when and how do Germany subsidised those that you call failing states?! what’s the evidence, for god sake?!

      • miranda
        • Axl Foolie

          laughable! does Germany want to exit the EU?! stop the threatening, dare to do it! is it Europe strong enough to bear German selfishness and lies?!

          • miranda

            What is laughable?
            You asked a question – he in passing, gives an answer.

          • Willie McBride


        • Willie McBride

          That’s just half of the picture.
          Provided the Germans are, to use an understatement, very clever people and perfectly able to achieve their interest, why did they enter the Euro anda abandon their beloved self-managed D-Mark?
          Maybe because of all the money German banks lend (often recklessly enough), a big part flows, or flowed, before 2009, to the south of Europe, to let “PIFIGS” consumers afford German goods?
          Those very German goods, by the way, which are artificially devaluated by the Euro, which is clearly cheaper than a German national currency, and therefore favours German exports and solely allow its merchantilistic policy?
          That Germany, which internal market and salary increase are almost frozen, after Schroeder’s “new deal”?
          And I could continue very easily.
          But yeah, of course, the German elite is just throwing money down the drain to reach their utopian dream of an united, fraternal Europe, sadly flawed from the beginning by Southerners incompetence.

          • Friendly Neighbour

            Why did they enter the Euro and abandon their beloved self-managed D-Mark? Because they wanted to reunite with East-Germany and in order to do that they had to swallow through their throat the precondition of accepting the Euro from their dear friends the French who knew full well that that way they could let their dear neighbours pay for all their future deficits until eternity So you see the French were full of good intentiions with the introduction of the Euro. And remember this is an understatement.

          • Medici1

            If a few countries move around, the PIFIGS could become a Pfennig. The Euro could be devalued into a penny.

    • Liberty

      Because Juncker and Barosso are two of a fabulously well paid, insular, 10,000s strong, self reinforcing elite who have no connection with the real world other than through tours via limousine, staying in luxury hotels, hosted by people like him who fawn on the EU and never having to meet anyone him disagrees with them. The EU elite are like Louis XIIIIth, not a clue about real life at all. They did of course begin quite modestly but that was decades ago. One of the key reasons for inventing the euro as to have a currency of their own and not have to deal with £s, DM, Francs, etc because of their association with independent nation states.

  • end of eu…… tick , tick, tick
    …and Barosso appears on Andrew Marr declaring all is fine with the EU Economy

    • John Hawkins Totnes

      And our problem is, Andrew Marr and his friends believe him.

  • marco

    It’s “rottamatore” not “rottomatore”

    • Kaine

      Let’s call the whole thing off.

  • AJAX

    No 1 will take the Lombards seriously until they support Lega Nord & declare national independence from the ball & chain (i.e. the dead-beats in the South) that was fixed around their ankle by Garibaldi & his cohorts in the 1860’s.

    • pointlesswasteoftime

      The Mezzogiorno is a far more hospitable place than Lombardy and the people I met there were very enterprising and hard-working. Calling other people dead-beats and blaming them for your problems solves nothing.

      • Gughino

        even deny the reality is good for something

      • Brogan75

        oh yeah, better place, better food, better weather blah blah blah. A pity they pay no taxes, cost of living is 1 fifth, everybody gets a job because is relative of someone else.I can continue all night.

        • pointlesswasteoftime

          You make some of my points for me… Sounds like you’re jealous. As for paying no taxes – well, your Prime Ministers have hardly led on that have they. As for Italian business – a lot of your big companies (Alitalia for instance) are as unscrupulous as they come, and aren’t the northern fashionistas guilty of some dodgy dealing. ?I seem to remember D and G in the headlines? I would say they fit the description “dead-beats” – just more famous and successful is all.

        • Matteo Tarantino

          But if they are all state employers, they all pay taxes automatically. So what gives? Are they state employees because they know somebody else or are they entrepreneurs not paying taxes?

          • koralloxxxx

            omg. state employees DO NOT PAY TAXES. it’s basic arithmetic.

          • Controcorrente7

            Right. Cause they simply are “THE TAXES”… So easy.

        • senhorx
          • Brogan75

            LoL of course.

    • Brogan75

      it’s not going to happen cause Lega Nord is a bunch of muppets, they bark but not bite

    • miramare

      lol, wait and hope my dear corregionale.
      We are in the 2014 and do you really still trust about this bullshit?

  • Gerschwin

    You can bet it makes no difference how bad things get in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal or even France, what matters is that the Eurocrats and European Leaders have nailed their reputations to the survival of the Euro and to that end they will never let it go. No matter how bad or desperate things get they will continue to paper over the cracks and muddle through from one crisis to the next keeping their state flunkies salaried and pensioned to ensure enough keep turning out and voting for them. Welcome to social democracy comrade dudes!

  • I can only imagine how many times the Rome Opera House were compelled by passing circumstance to sack their staff, over the course of the 20th century.

    As an empire which then became warring city states which fought tooth and nail for survival, for over two thousand years, do you know what? I think they’ll be fine.

  • Robertus Maximus

    We keep reading about another gaping hole torn in the rusting old hulk of the EU, but when is the bl**dy thing going to finally sink? Does anyone have a spare torpedo to send the ghastly thing to the bottom for good?

  • Samson

    France is only a short hop across the water, and is connected to us by a tunnel, so it’s not surprising they figure more in our concerns. Also, whilst France have an idiot socialist in charge, and a fast growing far-right movement, they still tend to lack the fully-insane cartoon character hey-I’m-a-rock-star-bunga-bunga of Italian politics. France going to s**t is inevitable, but it’s going to s**t politically, in the hands of bad politicians, whereas Italy is going to s**t because people think that Italian politicians are politicians.

  • The Greek government’s insolvency triggered a euro crisis. Greece’s GDP is
    about US$ 249,000 million. Italy’s GDP is around US$ 2,000,000 million.
    Nearly ten times more. The euro will not survive ten times the Greek crisis.
    France’s GDP is around US$ 2,600,000 m, which doesn’t bear thinking about in
    view of its actual insolvency and impending bankruptcy. So they don’t
    think about it. They just let Schäuble waffle. Germany’s is around
    US$ 3,426,000 m, which is not enough more to be able to bear the problem, which
    is what Germany, like the issuer of uncovered cheques, has promised to do.

    Jean-Claude I, by the Grace of God, Emperor of the Holy European Empire, has forbidden the Governors of his vassal states to contradict the edicts of Brussels High Command. Starting with David the Dodgy of the fiefdom of Britannica, whose serfs must house and feed any refugees from the EU who come to beg.

    But do not panic. Nobody in Brussels is. They must know what
    they are doing


    As bad as Italy is on paper, it still is the darling of Europe, if not the world, coffee and pasta still get made/sold the wheels keep turning etc
    Life in the ol’girl yet, Forza Italia!

    • wycombewanderer

      Unless I’m very much mistaken,the beans for the coffee come from the tropics and the wheat for the pasta comes largely from the Ukraine!

      • Muawiyah

        Interesting market ~ US duram wheat is shipped to Italy for conversion to pasta which is marketed worldwide. At the same time European wheat growing areas are into growing RED WHEAT used in baked goods ~ and that is shipped in vast quantities to the US as well as the new bread consuming crowd in China and SE Asia.

        Highly complex piece of business, but not much different today than it was when Libya was a major player in wheat futures (SEE: Roman Empire).

        On the time scale of centuries, Ukraine is not a reliable enough trading partner to be respected. Time on the Russian plantation ruined their reputation.

  • tomthumb015

    Insightful look at Big nanny Italy. I remember back in the 80’s I had to get some small box’s passed through ships customs in Genoa port. It took several long hours of paper chasing and rubber stamping. I bet its still takes just as long today. Italy is full of jobsworths and everyone inside italy knows this

    • Alexsandr

      spot on.
      lovely people. unless you have to do business with them.

      and don’t forget the Mafia in Sicilia

      • Muawiyah

        In Calabria ~ much nastier bunch.

  • Paul Frantizek

    This can’t be true. I thought once Silvio Berlusconi was ousted the EU/IMF/Goldman Sachs were going to lead Italy into a new Golden Age via the wonders of neoliberal corporatism. I read something like that in The New York Times and The Economist.

    • EricHobsbawmtwit

      If you want to discover an appreciation of the breathtaking efficiency of UK bureaucracy, just head over to Spain, Greece or Italy. Our public servants are a wonder to behold in comparison.

      • Alexsandr

        why leave out france?

  • EricHobsbawmtwit

    The Euro may be an immovable object but the people who elect politicians too cowardly to reform, are the unstoppable force.

    You can see why this might be so if you consider the turmoil of industrial relations, strikes and so on in the UK during the 1970’s and 1980’s. It takes an immense amount of political energy and a core population willing to vote for the medicine time and again.

    Besides, I don’t think the population of Italy or Greece have much desire for 15% interest rates when inside the Euro they’re paying close to zero. That’s the real issue here isn’t it. It’s why they’ll never leave.

  • Ambientereal

    Having the own currency gives the politicians the chance to “create” currency without backing what can be shown as a “crime”.

  • Malus Pudor

    I thought France was in terminal decline…. now it’s Italy… Greece is certainly stuffed….

    So what is the point of hanging about ?

    The two most ancient civilisations are stuffed and we are lectured to by twerps from Luxembourg and Belgium….

    Armageddon looms… time to get out of here….

    • Ex Democrat

      Where will you be going? My guess is probably not the U.S. (we’re out of fashion, mostly). Canada is very cold. Australia? Brazil? Switzerland? Thailand?

  • Mike

    Why should we care, the EU has exacerbated all the problems in Europe and its a dying project being kept alive beyond expectations by money from the tax payers of Germany, Holland, the UK. The sooner we cut all ties the better and let them sink in their own morass of corruption and profligacy.

  • rtj1211

    If Italy is in such dire straits, why in the heck is there such an enormous stream of North African immigrants prepared to drown crossing the Med to get there?

    • Gughino

      because life is even better here than there. for the moment…

    • cromwell

      Because Mussolini lost and north Africans have won.

    • Bill_der_Berg

      Gaddafi signed an agreement with Italy which required him to limit the flow of migrants across the Med. Now he is gone.

      That may be part of the explanation.

      • Brogan75

        The agreement was actually working well. Then Sarkozy Cameron and Obama thought it was good to remove a dictatorship (the only form of government working in muslim countries) to export democracy, and you saw what is happening: chaos. Of course everybody wants to make the trip to Europe. Someone will feed them. Thanks P.C. EU!

    • Brogan75

      1-Italy is the closest country to Tunisia Libia etc.
      2-illegal immigrants know they will be rescued if they are lucky enough to make the trip until Lampedusa.
      3-then they will get a roof & money at taxpayers expenses, if they stay.Even if there are no jobs and they intend not to contribute to the society
      4-many want simply tor each Germany Sweden France UK, Italy rescue them and pays the train ticket (our train stations are a 3rd world, try them)
      5-many criminals come to Italy cause they know that the criminal system is collapsing and they will never spend time in jail for street crime, now our streets are horribly infested by these people. It’s criminals’ paradise.
      6-it’s easier to go to Italy without documents via sea, than pay a flight ticket, when you need a VISA. They know they will not be deported back.

    • post_x_it

      Surely you know the answer to that. Italy is the closest and easiest entry point into the Schengen zone. Once they’ve landed there they can freely travel all the way to the port of Calais.

    • Alexsandr

      cos they get to Sicily, get some papers then set off for Calais.

    • Andy M

      Because Italy is one of the countries that won’t blow up their boats.

  • Trader Joe

    Europe is morally, intellectually, militarily, and politically irrelevant; the next time the Russians try and sweep in the east, please, just let them go.

    • EricHobsbawmtwit

      Except Russia is even more morally, intellectually, militarily and politically irrelevant, so perhaps not.

  • cromwell

    “Italy’s in terminal decline, and no one has the guts to stop it” Wheres Mussolini when you need him?

  • Civil_Servant_for_Revolution

    The author may have been living in Italy for some time and worked for a regional newspaper, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That “All state employees get a fabulous near-final–salary pension” is big nonsense, vying for top position on the list of politically correct neo-liberalist (make it fascist, it’s just as well) myths and downright lies. Public sector managers are well paid, but the rank and file decidedly are not, their average monthly salary swinging between 1,000 and 1,300 euros. Pensions for those hired after 1992 or so will be catastrophically low – starvation pensions. “No one with a long-term contract can be fired”. More lies from Mr. Farrell: tenured workers fired over the past years are now in the hundreds of thousands. “It was a revolutionary
    — dare one say Thatcherite? — act. If only somebody would have the guts
    to do something similar across the whole of the Italian state sector.”. Yeah, give us, of all people, Adolf Thatcher. The Banksters’ Revolution: Heil Neoliberalism! How to destroy a society turning a civilized country into the City necktied criminals’ backyard and then go down in history as a great statesperson. Mr. Farrell is slightly incensed because he lost his Italian job. But it’s not been “the public sector” to strip him of his job. It’s been his neoliberalist candy land. Meritocracy, private business is good, down with Big State, survival of the fittest and all that poor stuff for gullible idiots.

    • Brogan75

      Of course, they work 3 hours x 3 days a week and they are the laziest uneducated ever,mostly from the South, ALL of them finding a job because they have a family member already working there, and not because of merit. And they can never be sacked no matter what. Absolutely hated by the rest of the hard working tax paying country.

      This is a known TRUTH in Italy.

      • pointlesswasteoftime

        This is known PROPAGANDA in Italy.

        • Brogan75

          yes of course, pat pat.

  • archpoet

    Italy still grows its own food. It is possible in Rome to buy fruit and vegetables grown 10 kilometres away and picked the previous day. t has banned GMOs and labels its food GMO-free. It still has state schools that the vast majority of the population use – none of the educational apartheid you find in Britain. There is very little adult illiteracy. It is possible to get Rome by public transport for 250 euros a year, and safe night buses run all night. There is no street crime apart from pickpocketing. The police are visible on the streets, and it’s never hard to find one. Those two facts may be related.

    Quality of life there beats here hands down.

    • English_Independence_Movement

      Well that makes it all OK then.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “There is no street crime apart from pickpocketing.” LOL

      • archpoet

        What point are you trying to make?

    • Brogan75

      As an italian, “…safe night buses run all night. There is no street crime apart from pickpocketing. The police are visible on the streets, and it’s never hard to find one”

      This is your dream. Rome is one of the most unsafe cities in Italy,Milan is quickly getting there, Naples has always been. In addition to our criminals, EU let us import scum from all possible countries. Which then explains why Italian girls do not go out at night by themselves >> and don’t make kids any more.

      • Matteo Tarantino

        As an Italian, it seems to me you have no idea what you are talking about. Italy is virtually street-crime free. There are no youth gangs, no shootings, next to no vandalism. People park their cars outside and find them the next morning. You can safely walk across most of Milan and Rome at night. You try doing any of that in Detroit, then we’ll talk about street crime.

        • archpoet

          Thank you Matteo. I was reporting my own experience of four years living in the centre of Rome and going home in the early hours of the morning.

      • pointlesswasteoftime

        Having just been to Naples, I felt completely safe. Shame about the piles of rubbish and graffiti but the people were charming.

        • Brogan75

          oh yes a paradise. Everybody in Italy loves Napoli, it’s a known dream destination.

    • koralloxxxx

      you’re absolutely dreaming.
      not one word of truth.

      • archpoet

        Not a particularly intelligent response, if I may say so. Could you be more specific? Everyone’s experience is different, but mine reflects four years spent living and working in Rome.

        • koralloxxxx

          mine is from 29 years living between salerno (near naples) and milan. food in italy is good, yeah, on this you’re right.
          public school is horrible, it gives you absolutely nothing in 99% of the cases.
          adult illiteracy is enormous. functional analphabetism is scary.
          public transport works ONLY in milan and some other places in the north.
          police is completely useless, everywhere. at best, they can arrest u if u try to defend yourself from aggression.
          of course, if you’re rich and you live in nice neighboroods, things are quite different.

          • archpoet

            And Rome’s public transport system DOES cost 250 euros for an annual season, and has always served me well. 99%? I’ve obviously been very lucky in the people I met.

          • Alexsandr

            didnt work on fri 24th did it?

          • pointlesswasteoftime

            I travelled from Naples to Sicily by public transport – cheap by GB sandards and efficient.

          • koralloxxxx

            public transport from naples to sicily!?
            there is NO public transport from naples to sicily.
            what are you talking about?

          • Dr. Terrible (Mauro Toffanin)

            I think he is talking about the Bridge to Terabithia that connects Naples to the imaginary kingdom of Sicily. Now, I’m wondering how much do the tickets cost. 😀

          • Alexsandr

            there are about hourly trains from piazzza garaibaldi to palermo/catania, they cross the straights of messina on a train ferry.

          • pointlesswasteoftime

            Trains. Run by Trenitalia, the state-owned railway company. In my dictionary, that is PUBLIC transport, i.e. anyone can use it.

    • Dr. Terrible (Mauro Toffanin)

      Clearly, you never lived in Italy a single day of your life, I mean as a citizen.

    • Alexsandr

      I know someone who wanted to get his half Italian half English daughter out of Italy and to the UK so she could get a UK education. Why would that be?

  • Oddstar7

    Italy is just a bit ahead of the curve. The rest of Europe, including Britain, is going down the same road, and America is not far behind. It’s true that Italy’s fertility rate has collapsed, but the whole developed world’s fertility rate is collapsing, or has already done so.

  • Francesco Annunziata

    The situation is complex and delicate. This is correct. But I wouldn’t bet on the death of Italy (France or Europe). Italy (as well as France) has a huge potential and a path to recovery exists. Thanks to the pressure exerted on the country by globalisation, Europe, Debt, etc, Italians are forced to converge on measures leading to a transformative change. Such a change has started but takes time to be evident in terms of results. I want to be practical through a couple of examples:

    1. The Italian prime minister is 39 years old and has a consensus never seen in the country before. The President of Republic, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition Party and the ECB President are working and going in the same direction. We have never seen a positive climate like this in politics. As said, there is no other options such as currency devaluation at our disposal. So, if you think that Italy is not going to change because history demonstrates it, you are wrong!

    2. Italian companies have the heaviest ‘total tax’ burden on businesses but in a more and more globalised world they benefit from the reputation of Italy, its beauty, culture and lifestyle. Take a look at the export figures to get a confirmation and see how positive they are.

    I could carry on listing examples but I think that the message I want to convey is clear. I agree on the problems highlighted in this article but I disagree on the conclusions. In other words, precisely for the reasons explained in this article, Italy will find a way to unleash its potential. If I were you, I would start to invest in Italy with the goal of getting a good ROI in the long run. It will never be cheaper to do such a smart thing in future!

    • Swanky

      Not while it doles out welfare like a drunken Santa, it won’t. Odd that I didn’t see ‘socialism’ among your list of what ails Italia.

      • Francesco Annunziata

        I didn’t make any list of what ails Italia. I left it with the author of the article. On the contrary, I listed a couple of examples to explain that the situation is bound to get gradually better in the short run, much better in the long run. Welfare and other structural reforms are just a matter of time. If Renzi doesn’t manage to do it in a balanced and democratic way, “The Troika” will do it ( unfortunately, in a more painful way).

        • Swanky

          Well I certainly wish Italy all the best. It’s the one country that I am determined to visit even if I never see any others. So far I haven’t had the chance.

          • Francesco Annunziata

            Samuel Johnson: “A (wo)man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”

            Orson Welles: “In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”


            “Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Germany brew your beer. Let Asia assemble your phone”. We will design your lifestyle.” 🙂


          • Swanky

            Ha ha! Love it!

  • English_Independence_Movement

    People get the governance that they deserve.

  • English_Independence_Movement

    Wasn’t it only yesterday that we read of an Italians who’d avoided work for 35 years, yet was still entitled to a company pension.

  • toumanbeg

    Silly Liberal, Nations cannot go bankrupt. Their governments can and do. Like any Liberal, you are confusing the state (government) with the people (nation).
    Greece was forecast to be gone several years ago. It is still there. ALL Socialist governments eventually collapse. Consensual governments keep muddling along. They bend but they don’t break. They change leaders. Bankers and economic pundits come and go but a nation of the people by the people for the people just keeps creaking along. It ain’t pretty but it gets there.

  • davidofkent

    Surely, Italy is merely a very serious example of the problem that occurs when countries/governments/politicians think that they can merely ignore market principles and run the country on the basis of some directed economy. One aspect of this is to create employment by paying people to do non-jobs. The West has screwed itself by increasing its public sector beyond a size that can be justified by the size of the productive sector. So Italy is not alone; it is merely one of the worst cases. The same is happening in Britain. Until we rid our productive sectors of the millstone of taxation to pay for the public sector and an unaffordable welfare system, the country will continue to decline.

  • LC

    I just got out of this mess and moved to Britain – in Italy it’s gloomy, it’s going to be gloomier and there’s no chance of a change of direction anytime soon. That’s why I’m freaking out at the prospect of Ed Miliband hijacking the economic recovery of this country out of class envy.

  • thomasaikenhead

    Yet another article that avoids the real which is tax evasion by individuals and companies.

  • global city

    we all are in terminal decline….because the same basic drive is behind this decline


  • Rupert Williams

    This is an excellent article, and I think the author hits the nail on the head in all important respects.

    It is a commonplace to describe Italy as divided in two, but the point I make repeatedly to every Italian unfortunate enough to discuss politics with me, is that the divide is not between north and south, left and right etc, but between state and private sector. The private sector, despite the obstacles put in its way by the government (which never misses an opportunity to claim that it is working to increase growth innovation and employment) is still competitive on the world stage.

    However like Michael Phelps with an anvil tied to his ankle, it is fighting a losing battle against the state.

    I set up a business here in 2007 in my innocence. I wouldn’t do it again.

    By the way Berlusconi wasn’t defenestrated as a result of bunga bunga. Any fule kno that he was pushed out by Napolitano as a result of pressure applied by Merkel after threatening to take Italy out of the euro. Even the Italians have finally worked that one out. I will grant you that bunga bunga may have provided the opportunity but not the motive.

    • Francesco Annunziata

      I agree: “However like Michael Phelps with an anvil tied to his ankle, it is fighting a losing battle against the state.”

      Because we share a similar view, I paste here what I posted earlier. My view is just a little more optimistic:

      The situation is complex and delicate. This is correct. But I wouldn’t bet on the death of Italy (France or Europe). Italy (as well as France) has a huge potential and a path to recovery exists. Thanks to the pressure exerted on the country by globalisation, Europe, Debt, etc, Italians are forced to converge on measures leading to a transformative change. Such a change has started but takes time to be evident in terms of results. I want to be practical through a couple of examples:

      1. The Italian prime minister is 39 years old and has a consensus never seen in the country before. The President of Republic, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition Party and the ECB President are working and going in the same direction. We have never seen a positive climate like this in politics. As said, there is no other options such as currency devaluation at our disposal. So, if you think that Italy is not going to change because history demonstrates it, you are wrong!

      2. Italian companies have the heaviest ‘total tax’ burden on businesses but in a more and more globalised world they benefit from the reputation of Italy, its beauty, culture and lifestyle. Take a look at the export figures to get a confirmation and see how positive they are.

      I could carry on listing examples but I think that the message I want to convey is clear. I agree on the problems highlighted in this article but I disagree on the conclusions. In other words, precisely for the reasons explained in this article, Italy will find a way to unleash its potential. If I were you, I would start to invest in Italy with the goal of getting a good ROI in the long run. It will never be cheaper to do such a smart thing in future!

      • Jambo25

        The Nissan car plant in North East England now makes more cars than the whole of the Italian motor industry.

        • Francesco Annunziata

          Thanks for informing me

          • Jambo25

            I found that difficult to believe when I first heard it but its true. I had friends, many years ago, who drove Lancias, Alfas and Fiats. All stylish and desirable cars. When my son bought his last car he thought of buying an Alfa 157 but immediately discarded the idea and settled for a Golf GTi instead. Italian cars are just seen as ‘risky’ in build quality terms. Much poorer than British built ones.

          • Francesco Annunziata

            Tell Chrysler Customers too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gV_EUroCOI

          • Jambo25

            Fiat have got a tie up with Chrysler but most of the so called Chryslers are now built in South Korea.

          • Andy M

            Only ones of certain generations. Alfa have tried hard to escape that image by doing good engineering with their newer creations towards the end of the 2000s and Fiat is not really a problem and their cars tend to last fine nowadays. Saying that, I also specifically avoided buying an Italian car here in Italy simply because I swear by the Japanese when it comes to cars that last. I don’t think I’d buy a car that isn’t Japanese ever. Nissan X-Trail here, Honda Accord in England!

          • Jambo25

            Italian cars certainly aren’t the rust buckets they once were (The French were as bad.) but they still aren’t as reliable as Japanese or Korean cars and certainly not as good as British made cars under Japanese or German management.
            I think a lot of the things we used to believe about car quality are no longer true. German cars aren’t the automatic guarantee of reliability that they once were. VWs aren’t that great. My bro-in-law just bought an RV. He was advised to get one with German coach work but to avoid a German van as a base and go for a FIAT or Renault base instead.

        • Brogan75

          Well FIAT always sucked, we know.

          • Jambo25

            Older FIATS back in the 70s and 80s weren’t bad cars: 127s and Mirafioris for example.

  • moderate Guy

    “Just 58 per cent of working-age Italians are employed, compared with an average 65 per cent in the developed world.”
    Not in United States, where, under Obama, the number of employed Americans is down to bad old days of pre Reagan Revolution 62.7%. Not as bad as Italy but getting there.

  • afisher

    The only real question is which, if any of these independent countries will go toward fascism – which is growing in a number of countries. Then there will be real blood in the streets as these folks hide / kill in the name of nationalism / libertarianism all of which are actually fascism.

  • dailypenny

    It is almost impossible for business to work in either Italy or France. I don’t see how as nations they are going to fix this unless the Euro crisis is solved and the unions come to some sort of realization that money and benefits don’t grow on trees. But still, you have the problem of the failure of reform in both of the countries. It is really rough.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    Why no mention of the Immigration Invasion?

  • Al Bowlly

    Good luck to the Azzurri in the Six Nations, by the way.

    • Brogan75

      i have no hopes on that any more 🙂

  • WalterSEllis

    Try to focus, people. Farrell is writing about ITALY, not France, and what he has to say should matter to anyone who loves what’s left of that ludicrous country. Yes, the euro did a lot of damage and, yes, other countries, like France, are also going through hard times. But it would be nice if Spectator readers could concentrate for more than 30 seconds on what this article is actually saying.

  • “If austerity is to stimulate growth…”

    Only market-based interest rates can stimulate growth, hence the term CAPITALISM, where higher, market based, interest rates attract savings for new business opportunities. Every economist knows this, meaning the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan are intentionally sabotaging their respective economies.

    A new business that requires (1) a loan; for (2) the large capitalized venture it will undertake, can’t undertake the new business venture because the interest rate on the loan is too low to cover the large capitalized outlay. Hence why we see stall mode economies in the West and Japan.

    So who’s conducting this economic sabotage policy? Who else…

    Notice that not one political party in the West demanded verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    It gets worse–the West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested and detained the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of “Perestroika” (1986-1991)!

    The fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Moscow & Allies, which explains why verification of the “collapse” was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    The above means that the so-called “War on Terror” is a USSR & Allies-tasked operation being carried out by the co-opted governments of the West, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending “War on Terror”; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union from the “Atlantic to Vladivostok”; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

    Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West “lost” China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

    • Part II

      The purpose for the European Central Bank’s low interest rates economic sabotage policy…

      Two revealing quotes from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Soviet minister of foreign affairs Eduard Shevardnadze, and what they have in mind for Europe and NATO in the near future:

      “Editor’s Note: The phrases ‘From the Atlantic to the Urals’, ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’ and ‘From Vancouver to Vladivostok’ are interchangeable in the strategists’ lexicon. In the course of his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, delivered in Oslo in June 1992, Gorbachev said: ‘Our [sic] vision of the European space from the Atlantic to the Urals is not that of a closed system. Since it includes the Soviet Union [sic], which reaches to the shores of the Pacific, it goes beyond nominal geographical boundaries’. Note that Gorbachev, who had been out of office for six months, referred to the Soviet Union, not Russia. In an interview on Moscow Television on 19 November 1991, Eduard Shevardnadze continued speaking as though he was still Soviet Foreign Minister: ‘I think that the idea of a Common European Home, the building of a united Europe, and I would like to underline today, of great Europe, the building of Great Europe, great, united Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, from the Atlantic to Vladivostok, including all our territory, most probably a European-Asian space, this project is inevitable. I am sure that we will come to building a united military space as well. To say more precisely: we will build a united Europe, whose security will be based on the principles of collective security. Precisely, collective security’. These statements by key implementers of the strategy reflect the central strategic objective of asserting ‘irreversible’ Russian/Soviet hegemony over Eurasia, thus establishing the primary geographical component of the intended World Government.” — ‘The Perestroika Deception’, by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn.


      and here’s more on the upcoming “Atlantic to Vladivostok” union…


      and here’s Vladimir Putin in 2012 pushing the new union with Europe…

      “Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans. We are by no means indifferent to developments in united Europe.

      That is why Russia proposes moving toward the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – a community referred by Russian experts to as “the Union of Europe,” which will strengthen Russia’s potential and position in its economic pivot toward the “new Asia.”‘


      When the new “Atlantic to Vladivostok” union materializes, Communist strategists will have achieved two goals, (1) the further isolation of the United States in the world; and (2) the disbanding of NATO.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Italy: I was a stranger and you took me in.

  • GrR

    Euro currency may have its problems but everyone is free to leave euro and EU.
    UK can leave any time from this problematic union, why does UK remains in ?
    Oh, I have an idea, it makes money and profits. So cut the crap about euro and EU.
    All who stay they like it.

  • Bonkim

    A nation that considers eating the most important function in life does not deserve to last.

    • Brogan75

      It’s like saying that Britain considers drinking the most important function in life.What do you think ab that? grow up

      • Bonkim

        Not sure of that – Italians by and large are corrupt, many government employees have second jobs, shirk at work, etc, etc not comparable to the hard working British population.

        • Andy M

          If I applied to Britain the same level of generalisations and stereotypes that you’ve applied to Italy, then British people would be drunken, wonky-toothed, serial doggers, who aren’t happy unless they’ve gotten into at least one brawl at the weekend and more than likely it was because a foreigner looked at them the wrong way. This is how Britain can be stereotyped, but it doesn’t make it true. The same can be said for your stereotyping of Italians.

          • Bonkim

            You may well be right if you meet some of them on Friday nights near City Centre pubs and night-clubs. But seriously the family centred Italian system is full of tax dodgers, public sector employees having second jobs, and corrupt to the bone – look up the indexes for Italy, Greece, India and some other Asian/African countries on the international transparency index. My impressions of Italians from personal experience – work shy, fashion concious, love to eat, tax-dodger and cheat when they can and family centred (Mafia mindset), Have you seen the Milan police in their theatrical costumes, all shiny helmets and gauntlets?

            Look up the numbers of governments they had over since WW2. Silvio Berlusconi of course come top of the hit parade any day. Pasta and anti-Pasta all the time as Germany is paying the bill. Look up the scandals of corruption surrounding Italian military and other deals with countries such as India the latest involving Westland Helicopters.

            I had to listen to one of them over a 6 hour dinner engagement in Milan how he hid in the toilet trying to avoid German soldiers on a train from Belgrade on the run from the front – German soldiers had the order to shot any Italians they found on the train. This chap thought that was clever of him.

            Look at the military history of Italians in Abyssinia, Afghanistan – yes they sent their air force there in 2002 but returned after one or two non-combat crashes. They will turn tail whenever there is heat. So yes stereotypes often not without good reason. Don’t mistake today’s Italians for the ancient citizens of mighty Rome.

            So no prejudice. I liked Sophia Loren though and thought Leonardo da Vinci brilliant. Italy has produced brilliant scientists and engineers too, and Italian arts and music unparalleled but don’t like pasta and anti-pasta, don’t like their social organisation.

  • Gwangi

    I feel strongly that ALL countries – European and other – should help Italy preserve and manage its ancient monuments.

  • How I was able to get my husband back from those home breaker

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  • Lydia Robinson

    “In Italy, as in France, a dirigiste philosophy has predominated since the second world war. The government is run like a protection racket; money finds its way into every nook and cranny of the economy. Even newspapers are publicly subsidised, which is why there are so many of them.” Add to the mix endemic corruption and the South which is largely run by criminal gangs and you have a complete basket case of a country equal to anything you might encounter in Africa.

  • Interesting, that public sector sounds like Ed Miliband’s wet dream. I have experience of Italians leaving that country to set up new tech business, so that bit rings true. But I never quite know what to make of these national decline stories – Japan seems to be doing pretty well all things considered, Italy is a lovely place to visit. Is it a case that it could be better but is not too bad? Relative decline?

  • Lorenzo Kobayashi

    “Yet there is another Italy — the state-financed one — where life is, if not a bed of roses, still fine, all things considered”
    School teachers in Italy get a 1200 euro (+80) monthly salary, university (associate) professors are paid 2000-2200 euro, more or less like a PhD candidate elsewhere in Europe. Not to mention police or military….As usual, we point to the excesses (the parliament’s barbers and the MPs) and then, in the day of reckoning, the “normal” people get the radical treatments.

  • GenJackRipper

    The problems started in 1946 when the monarchy was ended in a sham “election”.

    Restore the monarchy; minimalize the beurocracy; more autonomy to the regions. The Kingdom of Italy would take back it’s great place among big nations again.

  • LucaS

    Many people don’t understand the enormous differences between italian regions… simply put it should be divided in at least 2 (maybe 3) countries!

  • WFB56

    “The only path to recovery permitted by Brussels and Berlin — that of austerity — has been counterproductive because it has only been skin-deep. If austerity is to stimulate growth, it must be done to the hilt, which inevitably involves terrible suffering and the risk of mass agitation. No Italian politician can stomach that.”

    I can’t believe that I am defending Brussels and Berlin, but ,given that the 95% of the content of this article justifies every action and constraint applied by the EU and Germany how can anyone not see that the Italians have been living beyond their means for decades and its now time to pay the piper.

    The consensus in the City is correct, the country is beyond saving and only a fool would invest in any business there and that’s not the fault of the Euro – however, much I would like to say it is, its not.

  • Glaurung

    I don’t see why people believe that leaving the Eurozone is the ultimate solution. Suppose you leave the Euro and devalue by 50%. What happens next? A 50% devaluation is tantamount to a 50% default on your bonds. This means German, French, UK banks take huge losses and perhaps have to be bailed out by the governments again. Moreover, even though your products become cheaper after a devaluation, price of imports goes up. Italy is not rich in raw materials, in order to produce it has to import. But the price of imports has just risen by 100%. This means that within 1-2 years the rise in competitiveness due to devaluation is going to be totally annihilated by the rise in inflation. Currency flexibility is a good automatic stabilizer only if it is allowed to work continuously and gradually, or if an economy is not overly reliant on imports. I don’t think that a highly intergrated economy like Italy would respond well to a shock-therapy devaluation. Perhaps it would alleviate the pain for the first 1-3 years. But it would not solve any of the fundamental problems.

  • A Smith

    Remember, “austerity” just means “not spending money you don’t have.” That’s not austere, that’s just common sense–and what most families around the world do every day.

  • supplyguy

    I wonder how this all ends? How does a modern civilization collapse? Will the immigrants that are propping up the European populations turn out to be the Visgoths outside the gates (who are now being let in)? Will Europe burn or just fade away with a wimper into a 3rd world dictatorship?
    Interesting times that we live in.

    • Paddy Kilshamus

      This is how it ends. America will erupt into a race war, Blacks, Mexicans, Whites and Asians all at each other throats. Government will fracture in two and be unable to offer any solution. The vacuum will be filled by White separatists on one side and Nation of islam and La Raza on the other. Civil war will erupt and the military will come down on the side of the White group. Traitors in the Government and the Media will be killed in a bloody coup and after 5 years of war the races will separate totally and a new Constitution will be drafted. This scenario will play out across Europe also in differing forms. Peace shall reign and trade continue but the idea of equality will be seen for the pernicious lie it always was.

  • Controcorrente7

    I’m an italian citizen. This journalist simply tell the truth about italian situation..

    • GraveDave

      You don’t give out ‘dole’ willy nilly That’s still more honest than the Tory approach over here where they employ their own over boated armies of advisors and ‘helpers’ to think up novel ways of how to trick claimants out of money. And if few die along the way -so what.

  • Adam Murphy

    A FEW POINTS: You say that – after the introduction of the Euro “the price of life’s essentials, such as cigarettes, coffee and wine, doubled overnight”?

    This must be an exaggeration. I have friends who’ve lived there a long time on average incomes who never mentioned this.

    – “it [ Italy’s economy] went into deflation last month, the thing that everyone most fears — even more than hyperinflation — and which caused the Japanese economy to stagnate for 20 years.”.

    Japan is still a rich country that can withstand a tsunami and nuclear disaster without famine and violent revolution.

    “Italian women used to have more children than anyone else in Europe. Yet for decades the birth rate in Italy has been among the lowest in the world, and if it were not for immigration the population would be in decline. When Italian women refuse to make babies, it is a clear sign of a terminally sick society.”

    As women worldwide get more education and freedom they have fewer babies and better lives. The global human population continues to rise because fewer infants die now, thanks to better education and medicine. Immigration of people from truly sick countries like Syria is the obvious solution to declining numbers in rich developed countries like Italy.

    • ClausewitzTheMunificent

      Prices really did double overnight! It was shocking!

  • A Europe full of failed states …. you don’t need to be a prophet to see the trouble that’s coming …

  • Little Portuguese Boy

    Fantastic article, I really learned a lot!

  • Little Portuguese Boy

    Hey, all you Italian women out there who need a sugardaddy to get you pregnant and take care of you -> Call me 🙂

    • Fenton!

      Your phone must be ringing off the hook…. [I suppose that in the age of hookless phones we shall have to come up with a new expression. ‘Ringing out of your pocket?’]

  • Catholicism is lazy and deadly

  • Guest

    Italy, spain, greece and the rest are gone. The world is shifting to the Asia. Folks the good days are gone :))

  • King Shapour

    Dont get me wrong folks, but Italy, spain, greece and the rest are gone. The world is shifting to the Asia.

  • sasboy

    Now the Spectator turns on Italy……

  • Andy M

    I think it depends where in Italy. Here in Milan we have the Expo next year, loads of roadworks, construction of new roads, re-laying of tram tracks, new apartment towers are all underway and some have already finished (I type this from within one of the new constructs!). This is Milan though, and of course it’s the business hub of Italy, possibly Europe. Down south I know this won’t be the case, but it has always been said that Milan is the city that keeps Italy running and this has been the case since long before the banking crisis. I don’t think that it’s quite over for Italy yet while things do thrive up North in certain areas. I think some serious backing and further developing of the country’s remaining assets needs to be implemented.

    • Swanky

      Mmm, but can the heart keep pumping when the extremities have all broken off?

      • Andy M

        Milan, I believe, will be ok regardless of what happens to the rest of the country. There have even been talks of there being some form of Swiss ‘buyout’ of the Lombardia region. They already own half of one of the main lakes (can’t remember if it’s Como or Garda) and their half is the noticeably better maintained half. I don’t think the North of Italy is going to have any problems and if enough backing is given to the elements of the country which are still working, then I think that’s the only way the other ‘extremities’ you mention can be prevented from breaking off.

        • Swanky

          Thanks for the reply. Let’s hope you’re right!

      • hometruths

        I wonder the same about London and the rest of the UK…

  • Greg Halvorson

    This is what socialism does to a society — gives it cancer, kills every vibrant, living cell, then militantly silences anyone who proposes a cure.

    • Swanky

      Yep. Why we still have to state (and argue) this reality after a century of the most murderous and life-crushing socialism imaginable — well, really, beyond imagination — beggars belief.

  • Jo Gray

    To compare a world class opera orchestra’s contract with Italian bureaucrat’s pay scale or conditions is comparing apples and oranges. If the journalist cared to research a similar contract for another European or American city opera orchestra he would find very similar working conditions.We go through a stringent audition and tenure process, that deserves protection from the whims of a conductor who may try and fire a musician for playing a wrong note out of 3,000 notes they play in an evening. As a professional orchestral musician who started lessons at age 4, and who practices up to 4 hours a day before I even go into rehearsal, I would ask how playing a 3-5 hour opera, with the athleticism of a soccer player, or motor skills of a surgeon, could possibly be compared to sitting at a desk. Italy has happened to produce some of the best singers in history (Caruso, Pavarotti etc) and has a 400 year tradition. It’s true that producing opera is expensive, but I would hope the journalist who obviously has no appreciation of the level of artistry involved in being a professional musician would be more informed.

  • TheUglyHedgepiglet

    I think this is very good, but the author unfortunately conflates dirigisme and corruption. They may be related and often go together, but they are distinct conceptually and in practice.

    Some east asian miracle countries had large governments heavily involved in the private sector, but the effects were quite different. The quality of government is its own thing, which can be improved (in principle) whether you’re in a neoliberal, or a corporatist, or a social democratic setting. Maybe, maybe neoliberal reforms / austerity are needed–I take no position on that. But that in itself is not going to improve the quality of government and reduce corruption, which is also necessary.

    I recommend the new Fukuyama book with regard to this topic, particularly the cases of Italy and Greece.

  • Gardus

    I live in Italy and I work in a company in the north of Italy, 40 people, family owned and built in 1955, which exports for 95% of his total turnover. You can say it’s the type of business who keeps the boat floating and gives Italy the manufacturing and quality image which it’s known for. The taxation is around 60% if not more, burocracy is impossible, work costs are unsustainable so it’s hard to be competitive in a global market. I cannot agree more with this article. Aside from the Euro and its problems, Italy has a totally ineffective political and judicial systems, curruption everywhere, a totally improductive and crime-infested south, an unbalanced instruction system where the good schools and the bad ones get the same amount of money, no research/academic investements. Tourism, both cultural and naturist (sea, mountains), is not optimized at all. People, especially in the north, are getting more and more fed up with this, there are nostalgic feeling for Mussolini, increasing desire to cut the nation in half and leave the south to itself, blocking illigal immigration and trying to protecting what is still sane in the industry and society. The north of Italy, let’s say from Tuscany included up to the Alps, if independent, could be the richest country in Europe….the South if left by itself would probably become similar to northern Africa…

    • miramare

      “increasing desire to cut the nation in half and leave the south to itself”
      This is totally false.
      The indipendent party, the lega nord, has been obliged to give up with its crazy ideas about indipendence because no one care anymore about this.
      Now its mainstream topic is immigration and no euro.

    • senhorx

      the North if left by itself would probably become similar to Ex Yugoslavia

    • Andy M

      I agree completely. I am also working in North Italy and I can confirm exactly what you’ve said. I think the North would prosper if they divided the country in two.

  • hometruths

    be blessed for creating Britain. A model nation for the world.
    our enemies,


    Confound their knavish tricks,


    God save the Queen!

  • Ariel Salvo Caliban

    Italy can’t collapse ’cause it died long ago. And what you see is a walking corpse.

  • Muawiyah

    Regarding Italy, the US Department of Defense is going to use it as a place where they send military personnel who may have had contact with individuals having AIDS.

    That is, Italy becomes a QUARANTINE CAMP

  • timbazo

    Italy’s enthusiasm for the euro was easy to explain. In the mid 90s, yields on Italian government bonds were spiralling out of control threatening default. Joining the euro with its illusion of stability brought them back down. Basically the euro bought Italy 20 years to reform itself, time which has been wasted.

  • Daniele Galassi

    Movement five star unique real opportunity for Italy

  • Grillo is the opposite of mussolini and the League is not exactly separatist (italian politic is very hard to understand for foreigners) but the real problem is information because every day television speaks badly of euroexit strategies and tells lies about real economy:
    in these condition people don’t know where’s the problem and blame NOT the government or the economic mistakes but the oppositions which never did anything.

    p.s. elections are usually bought from mafia (hundreds of thousands votes are exchanged for public contracts)…. so mafia and corrupted journalists (propaganda) are the pillars of italian politic.

  • davide marzorati

    Real hard to read! but i think is real true!

  • gaiaterra

    “All state employees get a fabulous near-final–salary pension ”
    This statement is not correct !
    The Dini reform in 1995 has drastically changed the rules of retirement
    for state workers.
    Of course, focusing on the elderly and then penalizing young people.
    The reform provides that from the1995, the method of calculation for the state employees have
    passed from the structure of “retributivo” (based on the last salary) to the “contributivo” (based on the real pension contributions paid).
    In this way, state employees were splitted into three categories:
    1 ) those that will retire (or have already gone ) with the full
    retributivo system, they will have (or already have ) a pension calculated
    on the final salary and that is, the same as it says in the post, for almost the
    entire last paycheck. Obviously there are a lot of people and mostly over 65.
    2 ) Those who will retire with the mixed system “retributivo” up to 95 and “contributivo” from 95 onwards.
    3 ) and those that will have the pension calculated only with the full contributivo system, that balance will correspond to the 50/60 % of
    final salary .

  • Unfortunately, we have given information and political men who cared only private interest and have used their power only in order not to lose him even at the cost of coming to terms with the worst offenders

  • MarcelloPecos

    How many words spent for us! Can’t you live without Italy?

    • Tom Sanders

      Nice to see many Italians commenting on here. I’m British but because of my g/f from Puglia I’ve read much about Italian history and culture. You are a beautiful country with beautiful people. You have ingenuity, engineering, art, science, the world’s oldest university, the best clothes, great films (I saw The Great Beauty), I could go on.

      Since the risorgimento Italy has been tragically let down by its leaders. I weep for it. Please someone resuscitate that wonderful country.

  • Buck McCoy

    As an Italian, living in Milan, I must sadly confirm almost every statement of the story. But Farrel’s conclusions are nonsense. After having outlined such a miserable – and I repeat, unfortunately quite realistic – landscape of corruption, parasitism and moral decadence, why in the World the main italian problem should be EU or its currency? Farrel plays the old Currency Devaluation Song, without even realizing that you can get the exact same effect by picking some money from every bank account or by lowering salaries. It would be an aspirin for a terminal cancer, anyway. I’m not going to question whether EU and Euro are an illness or a cure. Possybly, they’re neither. But one thing I know for sure: they aren’t The Illness as Farrell and the buffoons like Grillo and Salvini are trying to demonstrate. Italy would be doomed with any currency and in any continent because of all the stupid, illogical, foul, dishonest actions that too many italians commit everyday at every level of society. Corruption and criminal economy drain 60 billions euro a year from the italian economy, and I should be scared of the European Commission? No, mr Farrell: I’d actually love if the “Troika” took control of my country, because I’m not one of the 28000 forestry workers who steal their salary every month doing nothing all day. I’m a real worker (like many others here), I’m committed to my job and I struggle to be a decent citizen. I’m sick of paying for the other’s mistakes, living in a place where the quality of life is in a free fall. I’ve been waiting for years the day the actual, gargantuan injustices you described would end. The fact is, I don’t believe that day eventually come anymore. But the Euro isn’t even near the problem here, nevertheless. I can tell.

  • valemaz

    A lucid and truthful analysis of the Italian situation, if a little superficial when you talk about the Opera house case. The 200 employees were sacked in order for them to form a coop and lend their services as self employed musicians…which probably means lower wages, higher taxes and less rights. It is an unjustifiably cinical move in a country that should value its cultural heritage above all. Also, I am wondering on what grounds you define Beppe Grillo, the leader of the second largest party in Italy now at the opposition, a modern comic version of Benito Mussolini. It is a pity that an interesting article should be marred by such sweeping statements.

  • Fraser Bailey

    Well it might be dying, but I’m in southern Italy right now and it’s pleasant to say the least. No Starbucks, no McDonalds, no Subway, no mosques. Food and wine cheap and enjoyable, and all ruins and castles etc seem to be well preserved. Moreover, shops are open very early (even on Sunday) and quite late. Sure, they close at midday for a couple of hours, but so what?

  • FrankS2

    “Barbers in the Italian Parliament get up to €136,120 a year gross”. Plural barbers? How many do they need in one Parliament? Funny thing, all the barbers where I live in England are Italian (and self employed) – don’t they know what they’re missing?!

  • stevewfromford

    A “strong man” will emerge. It is inevitable once the chaos reaches a certain level and enough seek salvation.

  • marc biff

    Italian motorcycle manufacturers mostly based in the north all seem to be doing quite well.

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  • Aliop
  • Aliop

    The system is upside down… as this artist depicts the Italian situation: http://www.facebook.com/DeManos/photos/pb.43223672978.-2207520000.1415303179./10152434426442979/?type=3&theater

  • Ashen Munaweera

    The spectator.. Your right partially but extremely rude.. The population is terminally ill? Have u even gone to the country… I’ve freaking come to the Uk to find boredom… I respect it england though, you should.. I’m crazy but I don’t give u the ok to offend my nation.. Fu**k off

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  • John Cangemi

    Great article. I find it incomprehensible that Italy is not responding to this crisis with realistic reforms. That whole Sicily stat is ridiculous. But I am sure only the very tip of the iceberg.

  • Patrizia Broghammer

    ” A country of olive farmers” ” the country where food is more important than sex”
    When ALL this nonsense of “financial products”will find the end they deserve, you will see if it is more important to produce food or Iphones.
    The people who will drive a Lamborghini in the near future won´t be the financial guys of Wall Street, but the FARMERS.

  • Angelica Barbieri

    Invece di parlare di cose che non sapete sarebbe meglio taceste!!! L’Italia non fa figli perchè le donne giovani non trovano lavoro, se lo trovano sono pagate pochissimo e non possono quindi crearsi alcun futuro. Una donna come si deve non fa un figlio se non è in grado di mantenerlo. Direi che le donne italiane sono molto sagge in questo.

    La deriva italiana ( che c’è anche negli altri paesi europei..compresa l’Inghilterra), è stata causata SOLO dal furto della SOVRANITA’ MONETARIA.

    Pensate davvero che siamo tutti stupidi qui in Italia da berci le continue menzogne che sparano i media? Sappiamo perfettamente perchè siamo ridotti così…ogni italiano lo sa. Non raccontate le vostre palle colossali ai vostri cittadini…

    E siamo ridotti così soprattutto da quando il potere europeo..ci ha impedito di eleggere i nostri rappresentanti ed ha posto ai vertici mafiosi e collusi: perchè sia chiaro..che qui di gente onesta ed intelligente ce ne è tantissima come da voi!!!

    • Alfredo di Nuzzo

      Mi vergogno di essere associato a te in qualunque modo possibile. A parte che scrivere in italiano su un giornale inglese è un comportamento idiota, la tua conoscenza dell’inglese lascia parecchio a desiderare, dato che l’argomentazione sulle donne riportata da Spectator.uk è la stessa di quella “sviluppata” da te nel tuo post.

  • David Seal

    I’m so glad to have found this writer, somebody who shares the pain of living in a country that you love but cannot respect.

    Italy is indeed a complete “basket case”, and as the writer stated, the country’s demise is a foregone conclusion.

    I would add another factor that will contribute to it’s demise though. Something that is not mentioned in this article: The hope of a country in turmoil often lies in the youth. When a government is so corrupt and the people so gullible that they are incapable of making intelligent decisions in their choice of leader, then it is often University students who will take the lead in creating a revolution. Students will march on parliament, chain themselves to fences, burn cars if necessary…. they will do anything and everything within their power to bring about change. This is because they are young, idealistic, fearless, and they refuse to let their country and their future be hijacked by a self-serving older generation.

    Where are the students in Italy today, and why are they not taking action to address the corruption that all Italians acknowledge exists at an unacceptable level?

    The “where” is easy to answer. London is full of young Italians who have the ambition to start working and the intelligence to recognise that Italy no longer offers realistic career prospects. As for the “Why”… well they may be ambitious and intelligent but young Italians simply lack the courage and patriotism to stick with their country and try to sort the problems out.

    And for that reason, as much as it saddens me to say it, Italy’s demise is no more than it deserves.

    • LorenzoSantarelli

      Are you talking of Northern or of Southern Italy? Not all Italy is basket case….

      • Alfredo di Nuzzo

        All Italy is a basket case. Drop this snobbish superiority typical of a northerner. North Italy doesn’t work harder than South Italy, the corruption is on the same level, and more important. We are zombies. We are, ALL OF US, culturally dead. Our nation is not based on an agreement of unity between different ethnicity and cultures. It is based on a bloody war waged by only one State who managed to overthrown the others (including Venice). The emblem of this is Cavour, or the fact that our first King was called Emmanuel II. Since the unification we produced nothing but failure.

  • Truman Golden