Italy – an Eurozone Country in Crisis Part I

By | October 22, 2021

Italy (see facts) could trigger collapse in euro cooperation. Under Silvio Berlusconi, the country’s large debt increased. This has created doubts as to whether the debt will be repaid. Thus, banks and finance companies have raised interest rates on government securities. The EU dictated Italy to change government, raise taxes and cut pensions and other welfare benefits. No one knows if this is enough.

  • How has Berlusconi been able to stay in power in Italy for so long?
  • Where are the main social, political and economic divides in Italy?
  • What does the political landscape in Italy look like?
  • How are the Italians trying to solve their many problems?

2: Background

According to TOP-MBA-UNIVERSITIES, Italy was united into one empire when the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the north subjugated other principalities in the area and the revolutionary Guiseppe Garibaldi invaded Sicily in 1861. Many conditions made it difficult to create one nation:

  • large differences between the regions
  • religious contradictions
  • no common language (see p. 5). There were many local dialects that were very difficult to understand for people outside the local area. In the north, many spoke French. The development of the school, a common army, eventually radio and television, contributed to a common language – much based on the Tuscan dialect.

Northern Italy was the most modern part of the country, and there the small industry was concentrated. In southern Italy, the Spanish Bourbon family had the power in cooperation with large landowners, who ruled over poor agricultural workers. Poverty and miserable social conditions contributed to banditry and lawlessness. Child mortality was the highest in Europe, and the average life expectancy was only 43 years as late as the turn of the century 1800−1900.

An active state was needed, but it remained passive. The new state brought taxes and military repression. Only two percent – the wealthy – had the right to vote and did little for the rural workers and the poor.

3: The historical heritage

The great differences between northern and southern Italy, banditry and deep distrust of the state became lasting features of Italian society. In addition, the new state started with high debt . It took over debts from the former independent principalities and took out new loans in other countries to finance the conquest of the south and to finance the state apparatus and the army.

Clientelism was – and still is – another sad tradition. Clientism is a relationship between a protector and a client who receives goods or services from the protector. High-status people, such as landowners, landlords with tenants, lawyers and doctors, gave benefits
to people who depended on them – day laborers, tenants, clients and patients and regained loyalty . Today, clientelism is a widespread practice in politics and public administration. Those who govern – locally and centrally – give public assignments, positions and board positions and other benefits to “their” contacts, in exchange for these giving their votes in return. In other words, qualifications and competence often do not count, but contacts and loyalty.

The line between clientelism and corruption is unclear. Corruption does not permeate society, but is far more widespread than in Northern Europe: Bribes to get assignments with municipal garbage disposal or deliver equipment to hospitals, certificates, disability benefits or receive support as a blind person (without being blind), etc. In many places in Italy such conditions are unusual, but the newspapers regularly report such examples, especially in the south. The enormous tax evasion and not least organized crime are also part of Italy’s historical heritage .

The feeling of family and family solidarity is strong. Young people still live longer at home than in Northern Europe, and especially young men settle close to their parents. The grandparents often share their pension with the young unemployed in the family. The term amoral familism refers to a family system with strong inner loyalty, but which closed with its own interests to the outside world and did not establish bonds of solidarity with others.

The Italians’ bad experiences with the public sector have made the art of arranging important – l’arte di arrangiarsi . This expression can have both a positive and a negative meaning. The positive is the ability to find solutions yourself and be creative in difficult situations or when the bureaucracy puts sledges in one’s way. Many Italians see this as a national characteristic, of which they are proud. But the ability to find solutions can sometimes be driven so far that one moves on the edge of or above the rules. The commonly used term furbo means nap in a positive way, but also cunning or cunning with a negative meaning.

Italy - an Eurozone Country in Crisis 1