Italy Shrugs

by David Pryce-Jones

A friend in Italy sends me what he calls some food for thought about that country.  The coalition government under Enrico Letta is trying to push through the Legge di Stabilita, the term for a budget that satisfies the requirements of “the wise men in Brussels,” in the euphemism of my friend. This budget has provoked 3,093 amendments. Here goes: “Assuming it would take five minutes to read and understand each amendment, this would translate to some 250 hours. If they worked continuously for five hours a day it would take 50 days just to read the amendments, let alone debate them.”

Meanwhile the National Debt has reached two trillion euros. With an interest rate of a modest 3%, interest payments come to some 60 billion euros a year before any repayment of capital. A new tax on property was due to collect 4 billion euros but proved so unpopular that the government renounced it and now debates how to replace it.  My friend has a nasty feeling of living in the collapsing world Ayn Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged.  Where he lives, shops, and services are closing down, and people just shrug their shoulders. “Another Italian miracle is needed. Will there be one?” he asks.