[Being written Friday morning]
Well, we’re almost at the longest day! For us at La Faula it’s a good milestone. In Agriculture the spring and autumn are the really pressured months. So here at La Faula we got the wine we needed to bottle bottled, the vine plants are grown, trained and producing grapes. We have passed the Easter, Pentecost and Corpus Domini holidays well. The swimming pool and fountain are going swimmingly (sorry!!). The grass is cut and even the sun and hot weather have returned! Phew!!
And in Italy the fat lady has sung; she has hit all the high-notes. As I wrote before, it is all over and what comes next is very clear.
And in this whole Italian story, unbelievably, only one person of importance, at one time got it all correct (apart from me that is!!). And what he said seemed so bizarre in an Italian context that it was dismissed as the fantasizings of a washed-up has-been. That man was Giulio Tremonti who was finance minister in the Italian Government of Silvio Berlusconi for most of the last twenty years when the Italian economy stagnated.
Just before Berlusconi’s government was levered aside, and while the first funding crisis was washing over Italy, Giulio Tremonti said that the only way out was for the Italy to modify its constitution to specifically state, as a paramount right, that in the sphere of economic activity everything that was not specifically prohibited was permitted. In this way the private sector would escape the dead hand of Italian bureaucracy.
It was an amazing proposition for Tremonti to espouse. Tremonti was, for the whole of his time as Finance Minister a Statist and Corporatist of the first degree with a belief in a managed economy and a hostility to free markets and liberalism as practised in what Italians call the Anglo-Saxon world. But he came to realise when it was almost too late that the only escape for Italy was to free its private sector from the Italian State in all its guises.
But Italy is not a liberal country, it and its people do not believe in liberalism. It is a Catholic Country based on hierarchy and people being told what to do by others. The idea of individual responsibility before god, not mediated by the Catholic Church, never arrived having stopped in countries to the north.
So Tremonti’s idea was just there, not taken seriously, without a cultural hook to hang it on. And, the real tragedy is that Tremonti was right. This really was last orders in the last chance saloon.
Instead, Italy went for an authoritarian Catholic, Mario Monti. He claimed that the Italians were disrespectful of the laws and liked to evade their taxes and that he was going to get what they kept away from the Italian State back. And so his government provided €1.4 billion (yes, billion) for measures to combat tax evasion. But nobody ever asked whether people should have been paying those taxes in the first place.
I don’t think there was much tax evaded. But whether I am right or not, the government did not succeed in raising its tax revenues substantially but it did succeed in driving numerous firms and self-employed people into closure and bankruptcy. And it did this while increasing spending on the public sector. So the economy sunk into a deep recession and more young people emigrated.
And Monti said that his measures while unpopular would be reinforced and that he had created a positive change in the ’behaviour’ of the country. But