della libertà, XXX (1995), January-March, n. 128
pp. 192, Lit. 18,000
Social security pay-as-you-go systems in Europe and elsewhere in the developed world are in financial trouble due to the ageing of the population, and due also to the greater generosity of benefits motivated by the increased political power of the elderly. These same political considerations make it difficult to reform the system, but reform will have to come eventually if the system is not to collapse. The most attractive, and most radical reform is to return to the original aim of social security systems, which is to help workers save so that they can be financially secure in their old age. This should be combined with the modern movement to privatise State activities. The best way to accomplish this is to introduce fully funded systems managed by private funds that compete for the old age contributions of workers. Such an approach provides an effective retirement system that would be insulated in large part from low birth rates, declining mortality and political pressure to raise benefits to the elderly; it would also encourage greater savings, smaller government spending and faster rates of economic growth.
Myths and Paradoxes of Tax Justice is the title of a well-known book by Luigi Einaudi. The present paper deals with similar questions in a related field. When a social security system is first introduced, it often appears as a device for distributing benefits to the living cohorts without anybody paying for them, or even with every subsequent cohort reaping benefits. Social security is furthermore deemed to be a powerful instrument for a more equal distribution of incomes and for allowing parliaments and governments to apply their long-sightedness. This paper shows that these and other widespread beliefs are either logically inconsistent or empirically disproved by the experience of most countries.
This is the text of Michael Novak' address on receiving the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. The author argues that the 20th century, the bloodiest in human history, has nevertheless taught us four painful but important lessons. First, truth matters, irrespective of one's faith or lack of it; from fidelity to truth arises inner liberty. Secondly, democracy is better for the protection of individuals and minorities than dictatorship. Thirdly, capitalism is better for the poor than either of its two great rivals, socialism and the traditional Third World state. Fourthly, vulgar relativism so undermines the culture of liberty that free institutions may not survive the 21st century. Until recently, modernity, notwithstanding its great practical discoveries in the fields of political liberty and economic liberty, was mistaken in its relation to truth, and thus to God and humankind. From now on, the deepest and most vital struggle of the 21st century will be the cultural one, over the sorts of habits necessary to the preservation of liberty. It is largely on the outcome of this struggle that the fate of free societies will depend.
Systemic change is an evolutionary process, based on a very complicated mixture of planned and unplanned, or, to put it differently, on a mixture of intentions and spontaneity. Intended, organised measures play an important role; the understanding of this logic makes the process shorter and diminishes transformation costs. Assisting the creation of a new social order requires the implementation of liberalisation and deregulation measures and the enactment of new rules defining certain abstract features of the new order; but the process itself is largely a spontaneous one, which finally establishes new political, social and economic arrangements. The transformation process is divided into three basic stages, each of which has both a spontaneous and an intentional side. The main tasks for the first stage include political liberalisation, the elimination of old subsidies, fiscal and monetary stabilisation policies, independence of the central bank and liberalisation of prices and foreign trade. In the second stage, overall privatisation must be accompanied by continuing macroeconomic stabilisation and the rationalisation of social policy. If these measures are successfully implemented, stage three, which might be termed one of early post-transformation, is reached.
This essay deals with two questions: 1) what is the relationship between Hayek's extended order and liberty? And 2) what is the future of the extended order in a world composed of many sovereign states, not all of which are concerned with liberty? These questions are to some extent linked and allow us to use Hayekian principles to understand and interpret the world around us. The conclusion is reached that today, following the collapse of the USSR, the worst danger for the Great Society (or extended order) comes from within; it lies in its very own genius for creating wealth, which, in turn, makes it possible to create great governments, great armies and great parasitic castes. On the other hand, information and competition on a global scale, such as we have today, between different societies and different sovereign states may suffice to keep freedom alive, to keep governments within reasonable bounds and to keep the military within safe bounds. If this were so, we would be living through one of the greatest periods in human history the one in which the Great Society became self-sufficient.
Two opposing tendencies are at work on the global scene today. On the one hand, we see both political and, even more so, economic internationalisation; on the other, we witness the rebirth of often virulent nationalisms, which are exploding chiefly in the European countries of the former Soviet bloc that are grappling with the problems of modernisation and opening out to the world. Liberalism must come up with a consistent answer to this, a problem upon which Europe's very future depends. The Friedrich Naumann Stiftung invited a group of liberal intellectuals from all over the world to discuss these issues at Sintra in Portugal. The result of their efforts was the statement presented here. The document strongly reaffirms the internationalist and universalist values of liberalism, rejecting all forms of nationalism and centralism. It also reaffirms the separateness of the liberal view of the state from socialist (socialdemocratic included) and conservative views.
Having acknowledged the universality of Reason, the Enlightenment sought to standardise Law and Ethics. Right from the outset this world view has been subject to much criticism: on the one hand, those concerned with the purity of races have been opposed to racial intermingling; on the other, Heterophiles have plead for cultural separation as the only means of preventing each culture from losing its own identity. Differentialisme, which we can identify with the New Right in France and Italy, and Multiculturalism, which uses the method of Communitarian philosophers, criticise the classical liberal idea of tolerance because it cannot protect the integrity of different cultures and ethnic minorities. Individualism is considered to be the main enemy of these traditions. The extreme right and left wings thus find a common goal in support of the idea of Community against that of Individualism, but their idealisation of every non-Western culture seems to give rise to a new myth of the Noble Savage. The fact that this Savage sometimes turns out to be Wicked rather than Noble does not concern them. From their point of view, even the Wicked Savage is better than Western civilisation.
In this essay, the modern phenomenon of the corporation and the moral problems it poses are examined in a perspective of methodological individualism. The author argues that the corporation came into being as the result of an evolutionary process; it was, he claims, an arrangement which men came upon through spontaneous individual interaction and used to cope with the uncertainty and dispersion of information typical of economic activity. In this sense, the corporation is comparable to other phenomena such as money or the market. It is a fruit of Smith's system of natural liberty, hence of common law as opposed to positive law. The author refutes the thesis of the corporation as a holistic entity, a non-biological person. Likewise, he refutes the thesis which explains the corporation through a theory of rights understood as vetoes. The consequence of the perspective he chooses to adopt is that government regulation of the corporation is admissable only in so far as it seeks to solve real problems of public goods. The idea of attributing penal responsibility directly to the corporation as opposed to the individuals active within it thus breaks down, as does the idea that corporations have unspecified social responsibilities. Also in vain, finally, is the attempt of contemporary business ethics to impose on corporations and their management in particular exogenous constraints, particular moral obligations arising from a specific moral code and not from ordinary morality.
della libertà, XXX (1995), April-June, n. 129
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000
This article contains a critical analysis of the theory of justice formulated by John Rawls in his famous book of the same name, and recently reiterated with basically minor alterations in Political Liberalism. Boudon has two main objections to make against Rawls's theory. First, he argues that the American philosopher's conception of liberalism in Political Liberalism is now so threadbare as to be virtually meaningless so much so that it might even be termed as no more than the liberalism of the man in the street. Secondly, Boudon questions Rawls's theory's assumption of reflexive equilibrium, of agreement, that is, with the alleged perceptions of common sense. Boudon cites a series of experiments to demonstrate that Rawls's solution to the problem of social justice the so called «maximin solution» is by no means the one that enjoys the greatest intuitive consensus. On the contrary, it proves to have only a minority following. Boudon concludes with a question: it is really imaginable for us to content ourselves with a procedural theory of justice without even attempting reflection on the legitimacy of ends?
This article is the chronicle of a meeting held in Rome at the start of 1994 to explore the outlines and problems of constitutional reform. The meeting was attended by constitutionalists, political scientists and experts and opinion makers. The participants are referred to under pseudonyms because what we wish to highlight is not so much individual positions as the sheer range of issues discussed, the different institutional solutions possible and their implications and established elements of consent or dissent. The issue addressed: the question of the adequacy or otherwise of article 138 of the Constitution as a way to achieve the reform required today; the possibility of calling a Constituent Assembly and limits on its authority; the relationship between referendum, bipolarity and the consolidation of majority democracy; the exploration of alternative forms of government (the Westminster model, a premiership or the French model?) that might be the subject of a preventive referendum; the hypothesis of a federal as opposed to regional state and the different implications this might have, especially on relations with the European Union and the question of the public debt.
In this article, the author analyses all the limits and shortcomings of cultural journalism in Italy's major daily newspapers. In his opinion, the greatest limitation of this kind of journalism is its tendency to quote itself. He argues that on the majority of occasions articles published seem to be directed at a narrow circle of fellow journalists, critics and author reviewed, not at the general reading public. An offshoot of this is the predominantly literary background of the journalists responsible; as a result, topics to do with scientific research and technological innovation are widely ignored. Another detrimental factor for the quality of cultural journalism is its parochial nature. It tends to confine itself to Italian matters (the only foreign countries considered worthy of occasional attention being France and Germany, with the United States hardly getting a look in). Finally, there is the tendency to standardise language and points for discussion to items feature in TV chat shows and attendant hype.
The course of the administration of criminal justice in Italy since the war has hardly changed at all, despite alterations to the rules which have guided it. Three constant features have been: widespread unlawfulness; an abnormal welter of ratified prohibitions; and a machine of justice that is both slow and ineffective. Not one of the three phenomena is independent; on the contrary, each is fuelled by the other two. The situation is aggravated these days by the tendency to celebrate symbolic trials on the social problems that periodically capture attention. The media exposure of such trials has turned them into a tool for grading the importance of problems and for discussing their solutions; for identifying the phenomena that need to be addressed; in short, for distinguishing the opportune from the harmful as opposed to the lawful from the unlawful. All this goes on with hardly any consideration being given to the rights of freedom and privacy of the citizen under investigation. Possible solutions to improve the relationship between citizen and state range from decriminalisation and the rationalisation of administrative rules and resources to preventive controls. An improvement in quality is also needed, however, in terms both of the professional rigour and of the ethical correctness of all concerned, judges and lawyers in primis.
The debt of Italy's pension system is like a time bomb; if it were to explode public finance would explode with it. The pension debt gets swept under the carpet in so far as the financial statements of social security institutes are not annexed to and consolidated with the national budget. This state of affairs could be remedied by rewriting article 81 of the Constitution. Priority must be given, however, to actuarial pension reform, both per se and to send international markets a positive signal of credibility. In this essay, Francesco Forte argues that, while the target of pension reform must be an actuarial-type balance with the exception of a social allowance for the most needy to be predetermined in proportion to the GDP public social security cannot convert to a system of capitalisation. Forte concludes by asserting that pensions are neither an independent variable of economic performance nor a dependent variable. They are instead an interdependent variable. The structural reform of pensions, if carried through quickly and rigorously, would have a favourable effect on the GDP growth rate since it would reduce the interest rate and increase investments. It would thus create greater scope for the future improvement of pensions themselves.
This essay presents the conclusions of a survey sponsored by the Centro Einaudi to estimate the rough costs of setting up and running a national political party in Italy. To estimate the bare minimum cost, the general features of the party's organisational structure and activities are described; these and the apparata necessary to make them workable are translated into expense items, which are then estimated. At this point, hypotheses are made on the amount of the membership fee followers should pay to join the party and the number of members necessary to keep it alive. Finally, the survey hypotheses a calculation of the costs of running at elections, a figure to be added to the estimated cost of running the new party.
Francesco Ferrara (1810-1900) was arguably Italy's most important economist of the last century. One of the central points of his thinking was the question of the role of banks of issue. His position was a radically market-oriented one. He believed that leaving individuals the utmost freedom of choice is the best possible policy governments can undertake for the prosperity of nations and that money was no exception to the principle. The pages published here are a clear, highly readable exposition of these theses. They deserve attention not only for their historical interest, but also as a refreshing reminder not forgetting, of course, the great divide between Ferrara's times and our own of the free market principles of money and banks, today too often identified with the mere pursuit of objectives decided authoritatively by technocrats.
della libertà, XXX (1995), July-August, n. 130
pp. 108, Lit. 20,000
The end of the Cold War has led, in many countries, to a weakening of the principal democratic institutions, more particularly to a decline in the strength of political parties. The phenomenon is common to all the most established democracies, and is especially intense in the United States. The results of opinion polls data show that, since the sixties, distrust in the government and even among individuals has increased drastically. The media television especially appear largely responsible for the trend. The situation is further aggravated by a tendency, constitutionally congenital in the American system, towards a decision-making «gridlock» inside government institutions. This has been exacerbated, in turn, by the new laws on electoral campaign funding, which have weakened the parties and made candidates and elected representatives increasingly dependent on the financial support of organised interest groups. Blaming the present malaise on an enfeeblement in civil commitment appears a much less plausible argument. Today, as in de Toqueville's times, Americans are effectively one of the world's populations whose civil society is strongest and best equipped to organise itself autonomously. The results of polls again show that citizens continue to believe in the «American Dream» and traditional anti-statist values. Reforms strengthening the role of parties are unlikely to come to pass; but the ongoing strength of American civil society does suggest that the country has the wherewithal to emerge from its current state of distrust and malaise.
The distinctive features of Italy are its huge structural deficit and high and growing public debt. Public finance is struggling through a state of emergency, suspended midway between the incoming inland revenue of the present and concerns for the future. New rules need to be drawn up both on the public spending side and on the revenue side. Reflection on the Vanoni reform of the early fifties provides valid pointers for the current situation: first, attention to the organisation and application of the tax system; secondly, the need to not only to proclaim laws, but also to actually enforce them; and, finally, awareness of the need to support and ease the taxpayer's collaboration when it comes to imposing taxes. The subsequent tax reform of 1971-73 profoundly altered the roles of the taxpayer and the fiscal administration (towards which the legislator had been negligent and inattentive for years). Today the costs of fiscal obedience are high and need to be contained. «Legislative pressure» is enormous and also weighs heavily on the judiciary. It is necessary to guarantee transparent tax laws; this may be feasible by following the advice of the Constituents and codifying laws as a safeguard both against the abuse of law by decree and against normative instability.
In the world of Italian taxation, it is now vital to replace the moralistic view of the State-citizen relationship with a market view. The transition towards a liberal mentality is a transition from a culture of fines, sanctions and prohibitions to a culture of incentives. It is necessary to restructure the fiscal system, reducing and re-ordering tax coefficients. It is necessary, in other words, to make fiscal honesty pay for firms, developing a strategy which awards anyone willing to emerge from the hidden sector of the productive economy.
This essay is a critique of Michele Rostan's study published in the last issue of Biblioteca della libertà. The author feels that to avoid the future repetition of events of the past that is, the burgeoning of the cost of political parties and the charging, direct or indirect, legal or illegal, thereof to the entire national community it is necessary to make a radical change of approach. The idea that politics has to be funded with the bureaucratic intercession of the public sector (for example, through mechanisms such as the raking in of an 0.8% quota on all income tax returns) has to be replaced by the idea that it is up to the single individual to express his own will in this regard. The true alternative would be direct funding by citizens of their own political parties and candidates accompanied of course by a system of constraints, limits and controls to prevent a «survival of the fittest» situation from emerging. The question of the funding of parties cannot be solved if it is not framed within the broader problem of the «parties' public statute»; that is, their subordination to law, in accordance with the line of argument put forward at the Constituent Assembly by Lelio Basso and Piero Calamandrei, and later taken up by Luigi Sturzo.
This essay is a critique of Michele Rostan's study published in the last issue of Biblioteca della libertà. The author formulates four main arguments. The first is that the study probably underestimates the costs of central party structures, and overestimates those of peripheral ones, which in future might be organised on a regional as opposed to provincial basis. This point is borne out by the fact that the responsibilities and powers previously entrusted to statutory internal party organs are likely to be transferred to parliamentary groups. It also seems somewhat unrealistic to imagine that parties can finance themselves exclusively through membership fees. Since, in the wake of a recent referendum, it is now impossible to reintroduce the public funding of political parties, new mechanisms (something along the lines of an 0.8% quota of taxes or partial tax abatement on contributions to parties) will have to be thought up. Lastly, if and when representative democracy is replaced by forms of direct democracy, and the choice of leaders substitutes that of parties, it is foreseeable that the entire political cost structure will change, and that the weight on it of the funding of parties will grow progressively lighter.
This essay describes the link between income growth, technological progress and public intervention, with special reference to the regulation of property rights. Since the early nineties, Schumpeter's vision of economic development has returned to centre-stage in the theoretical debate on growth. Technological advancement is regarded as an economic good produced by optimising agents who, foreseeing future profits, rationally decide to invest in research and development. These straightforward considerations determine two fundamental consequences for the resulting growth process: the market power of innovators and the externalities intrinsic in the development of new knowhow. The road to growth followed by an economic system based on decentralised decision-making is in general sub-optimal and subject to the influence of timely public intervention. A crucial role is played here by intellectual property rights and the government's consequent choice of institutional regulation procedures. Nonetheless, the essay shows how it is impossible to predict whether decentralised equilibrium determines an excessive or insufficient investment in new technologies, and how even the simplest interventions to support research may have perverse effects on the well-being of the community.
Murray Rothbard, who died recently, was not only a great economist, but also one of the leading philosophers of contemporary liberalism. All his life's work was centred round a single theme, seen from a myriad of different angles: that individual freedom is the sole moral foundation of society, and no moral or material progress can result from imposing on people goals that they would not accept voluntarily. In 1966 the Biblioteca della libertà had the honour of publishing an essay by Rothbard. The original appeared in Italian and was never republished in English. Written in Rothbard's unmistakable rigorous style, the essay is a critique of the theses on individual rights put forward by another of the great figures in liberalism this century, Bertrand de Jouvenel. He observes in particular how it would be possible to solve many of the problems posed by Jouvenel on the question of freedom of expression by reformulating the right of expression in terms of property rights. As a tribute to Rothbard, we have decided to republish the essay for our readers. Although thirty years have passed since it first appeared, it has lost none of its original interest and topicality.
della libertà, XXX (1995), September-October, n. 131
pp. 144, Lit. 25,000
Although by far the majority of citizens and political movements are in favour of European unity, the latter is by no means proceeding apace with political, strategic and economic requirements. The cause is to be sought in the institutional mechanisms at once too weak, too oligarchic and too bureaucratic which have paved the way towards European unity thus far. The idea behind the conference «The Europe of liberalism and open society» is to rethink these mechanisms in a liberal direction. More than a mere economic theory, liberalism has been and is a vision of people, of society and of political institutions. Its contribution of ideas may prove vital for the attainment of European unity.
The first item on the agenda of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference will be the dilemma between enlargement and cohesion of the European Union. The widely canvassed solution of a two-speed Europe was recently reformulated by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in his proposal for a two-tier Europe (with the Northern area of the DM on the one hand, and the Latin or Mediterranean area of the Ffr on the other) held together by the Paris-Bonn axis. But neither of the projects solves the problem of the «democracy deficiency» in community institutions. Hence the diffidence and aloofness of European citizens vis-à-vis the very idea of a united Europe. It is now necessary to rethink the constitutional foundations of the Union. Seen from this angle, the Proposal for a European Constitution described here by Frank Vibert is an invaluable contribution. The only way to make up for the present lack of democracy is by creating effective European citizenship. But this seems somewhat at loggerheads with the project's proposal to accentuate the role of national states to the detriment of community institutions.
The traditional «centralist» model of European unification is now so lumbered with problems as to appear obsolete. The path to political union followed hitherto has led nowhere simply because it is littered with too many errors: the attempt to reach the destination by a roundabout route, the mechanical transposition of national government models at European level, incrementalism, functionalism, the failure to assert clear liberal values. Now that communism has collapsed, the great risks which European institutions have to avert are statism and elitism. Hence the liberal project for European political union drawn up by the European Constitutional Group sets out to prevent the errors of the past and present being perpetuated in the future. It pivots on four main points: the Union's exercise of powers delegated by member states; concern with integration processes as opposed to their end results; the preservation of multiple jurisdictions; and the involvement of national institutions in matters of Union jurisdiction.
The first part of the essay examines the issues raised by the overlapping of the Italian and the European constitutions. The European system asserts the general principles of competition and the prohibition of state aid to enterprises (as well as specific obligations in monetary and budget matters). It thus tends to dismantle and always will do the social democratic mould of the Italian system. This is to be regarded as perfectly constitutional in so far as the Constitution itself allows for a neoliberal version of the welfare state. The question of the so-called «counterlimits» to «limitations» of sovereignty which article 11 of the Constitution authorises Italy to acknowledge to a supranational organisation such as the European Union holds no practical weight in this respect. In view of the world political and economic situation on the threshold of the twenty-first century, we have to champion the Union at all costs. In the future, in fact, international competition will be increasingly between large continental blocs. The second part of the essay analyses the consequence of this argument in terms both of the Treaty of Maastricht as it stands, and of the modifications proposed by the European Constitutional Group, from the theoretical point of view and with regard to their practical applicability.
Although Giovanni Bognetti's perplexities about the feasibility of a European Constitution with a radically liberal and market-oriented flavour are well founded, Frank Vibert's project is also open to substantial criticism. A «European minimal state» or confederation such as the one hypothesized by Vibert would fail to combat the powerful interest groups which jeopardise the liberty of the system. It is true, though, that all thrusts towards centralisation need to be contained. In this respect, the theory of competitive federalism provides a number of interesting pointers. The main priority is to offer incentives both to vertical competition (between top European institutions and national states, and between states and regions) and horizontal competition (among the national states themselves and among regions). Hence the need to learn from the experiences of other federal states. First of all, it is necessary to make a clear-cut distinction between the competences of European institutions and those of national states. Secondly, compulsory referendums may be envisaged for transfers of competence from one level to another. Finally, a specific set of tools has to be developed to control expansionist tendencies in the fiscal sphere albeit acknowledging the need for small but guaranteed European sources of revenue.
The most praiseworthy feature of the European Constitutional Group's project is the highly systematic nature of its content. But this is also a weakness. Its organisational proposals especially the one to strengthen the Council's role would risk being counterproductive, if they were implemented without strict constitutional constraints in monetary and, above all, fiscal matters. The «social» inclinations of European mass and elite political culture are, de facto, so deeply rooted that it is unrealistic to think that there will be room in the short and medium term for fiscal constitutionalism as clear-cut and explicit as that argued by the Group. To date, the chief effect of the integration process has been to improve the market compatibility of national social protection systems. There is no reason to fear that this tendency will be reversed in the future. What the world system asks of Europe today is a massive project of state-building on a continental scale. The price to pay may be a Europe with more clout than is strictly necessary. But, in view of the prize at stake, even liberals should be prepared to pay it.
The author agrees entirely with the premises adhered to by the drafters of the European Constitution project outlined by Frank Vibert. The Treaty of Maastricht has to be revised according to a pattern of explicit constitutional principles, known and taken up by public opinion in the various countries of Europe. After all, the project clearly sets out to be not a «rationalisation» or possible offshoot of the European institutional and constitutional model pursued since the Treaty of Rome, but rather a deliberate «breakaway» from it. The proposal is undoubtedly an attractive one. It also happens to make sense. Numerous doubts still linger, however, as to its feasibility. It is hard to understand, for example, why legitimisation through member states should allow the Union to remain forever and for always, positively (setting limits) and negatively (setting itself limits), within the desired limits. One wonders whether the Europe designed here can win the consensus needed for the text to be approved; and, if it were to be approved, whether it can achieve a consensus of prevailing European public opinion such as to be applied in the way its promoters intend.
All existing federal states have undergone a process with varying degrees of profundity but, in all cases, wide-ranging of progressive centralisation. This has happened despite the fact that federal constitutions contain specific clauses to protect against such a risk. The European Union has to learn from the experience of the past, and hence to avoid repeating mistakes. Analysis of the experience of other federal states (of the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Australia in particular) demonstrates that centralisation processes occur mainly in five areas. It is here that specific constitutional safeguards have to be introduced. They comprise the procedures for the revision of the Constitution, the composition and role of the federal constitutional court, the Union's power to raise taxes, the guaranteeing of the member states' right to secession and, finally, the need to introduce asymmetrical voting rules for ordinary legislation rules capable, that is, of facilitating decisions to decentralise and restore competences to the lower levels of government as opposed to decisions to centralise and regulate. If it is to be liberal, the Constitution of the future European Union must contain specific, rigid guarantees on these five points.
The principle that the government of the Union should be entrusted with competences such as to shape it as a «minimal state» is a good one. In real terms, though, limiting the Union's budget to 1.27% of the Community GNP appears somewhat excessive. A 2% ceiling would make more sense. It would, for example, leave room for transfers to the weaker countries, especially those of Eastern Europe. It would also allow macroeconomic policies supporting growth and employment levels, thus quelling, within some countries, the onset of unbearable tensions, the consequence of which would be protectionist pressure likely to jeopardise the single market itself. As to monetary unification, the guarantees contained in the Treaty of Maastricht are ample enough to avert the risk of monetary mismanagement. If anything, it is the opposite risk the growing tendency to consider only a zero inflation rate as acceptable which is a cause for concern. True, inflation has to be controlled, but descending below 2% would risk triggering a deflation process comparable to the one that is scourging Japan. Finally, to arrive at a single currency it is preferable to adhere to the convergence criteria set out in the Treaty of Maastricht according to the less stringent interpretation envisaged by article 104C, 2b and 6.
The future of Europe's monetary unification is analysed in the light of the experience of the past twenty-five years and in the perspective of what is considered to be a necessary revision of the present strategy. Pegging exchange rates and trying to impose uniform convergence criteria on all European countries will not only produce undesirable consequences, but will also bring us no closer to a common European currency. This outcome depends on whether we adopt a monetary constitution or not on whether, that is, we succeed in drawing up a set of rules of monetary conduct capable of providing adequate guarantees against European monetary mismanagement. In other words, a monetary rule is a necessary precondition for a common European currency. If, on the other hand, money continues to be used as an instrument of discretionary policy, monetary unification is unlikely to be achieved.
From the outset, Community treaties have always contained two different approaches to integration: integration by harmonization and integration by political competition among member states. The latter is consistent with the objective of a liberal Europe, made up of open societies and founded on individual freedom. The former, instead, leads to a bureaucratic, centralist European nation-state. Analysis of treaties and their enforcement reveals that it is the first conception that has prevailed. So much so that it may even rule out the second altogether in the future, if the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference fails to review the European Constitution from grass-roots level upwards. To hold back the drift towards centralism, the Constitution has to encompass the following elements: a clear spelling out of Community and national competences complete with solid procedural guarantees; the adoption of the home country principle in the sphere of economic integration; a genuine competitive system, binding not only on the private and public sectors, but also on member states and institutions; a system of harmonization, based on clearly defined minimal standards, solely in the fields necessary to make the single market work.
The regulation of competition and the «common market» concept of the Treaty of Rome were clearly conceived in a perspective that was still prevalently internationalist. The aim was exclusively to ensure the free circulation of production factors among member states. Subsequently there was an increasingly marked tendency to attenuate internationalist premises in favour of the «single market» notion. Hence the opening up to competitors on the so-called public and service sector markets. This second formulation is the one which prevails in the Treaty of Maastricht. Free competition has thus become a parameter to measure the legitimacy on the various regulations which influence markets, national markets included. Member states are still free to make use of undifferentiated aid aid, that is, available in broad sectors of the single national systems. Since this type of aid risks provoking distortions and competitive advantages, the home country principle has to intervene with its built-in mechanisms of normative competition.
The central problem facing Europeans in the integration process is how to control and limit the Union's power at a central level. The answer is to disperse and divide power as much as possible, both vertically and horizontally. To do so a «super-subsidiarity principle» has to be introduced whereby power can only be granted at a superior level of government if the substantial efficiency of this level with respect to lower ones is entirely demonstrable. Hence the need to oppose the top-down imposition of a single currency managed by a European Central Bank subject to political control and pressure. It would be much more advisable and also less of a risk to have a system of competition between currencies along the lines of the present one. A single currency today would risk destroying the single market, triggering protectionist reactions inside member states. It would thus destroy the only instrument ultimately capable of creating effective convergence the institutional competition made possible by the «four liberties». It would be far better for countries that have already achieved effective convergence to form a mini-EMU with a single currency. This would compete with other weaker, inflation-prone currencies, and other member states would be free to aggregate at a later date, once convergence among the respective institutions was achieved.
The author begins by questioning the decision to favour, come what may, the «political» as opposed to the «technocratic» path to European Union. He argues that EMU is justified mainly by considerations of political economy, and outlines a possible strategy for its building. «A hard core» of countries most likely the majority capable of loosely meeting the convergence criteria contained in the Treaty of Maastricht by the 1997 deadline should set up EMU in 1997 itself or, as the Treaty envisages, no later than 1999. This option would be economically and politically opportune. At the established deadline, the exchange rates of the currencies of the countries concerned would be irrevocably frozen and their management entrusted to the European Central Bank. Then, after a brief adjustment phase, the single European currency would be issued. If this strategy were adopted, Antonio Martino's criticism of the excessive incrementalism of the EMU procedure envisaged in the Treaty of Maastricht would become irrelevant. The success of the strategy proposed would depend to a large extent on the credibility of the ECB. The provisions of the Treaty which ought to be developed into a veritable «European Monetary Constitution» would appear to offer ample guarantees in this respect.
Odd details apart, our judgment of the process which began with the Single European Act in 1986 has to be favourable. The home country principle and that of the harmonization of legislation are not at loggerheads. They are, rather, complementary actions for the effective development of the legal systems of the countries of the Union. The principle of subsidiarity too which should be interpreted as a sharing out of fields not of action but of jurisdiction makes an evolutionary process possible, albeit respecting the specific character of each single country. On the other hand, to believe that the process of competition between systems always leads straightway to the prevalence of the most efficient system would appear to be belied by events inside single countries. Recent experience, for example, suggests that liberalisation processes may be quicker and more effective if general rules are established to regulate them. Finally, extreme caution is in order when it comes to modifying the role of the Commission. The experience of past years has shown that at Community level, the Commission has been the body most committed to liberalization.
In recent years, a great many political and intellectual stands have been taken on European unification. The vast majority of them have been to champion a certain single idea of Europe the top-down road to unification staked out by the Treaty of Maastricht. In a liberal perspective, it is advisable, indeed necessary, to question precisely this conception of European unification. Europe and liberalism are a well nigh indivisible partnership, since for liberals national spirit and nationalism have never in any way overlapped. It is necessary to ask, however, which European institutional arrangement tallies with a specific liberal vision. The contributions collected in this issue of our review not all of them written from a liberal standpoint set out to reiterate to public opinion the basic reasons and problems of European unity, well removed from the clichés and rituals which invariably accompany it.
della libertà, XXX (1995), November-December, n. 132
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000
ù Popper, Karl R. Why Are We Free? Computers, Mind and Rationality pp. 3-26
In this previously unpublished article Karl Popper examines the problems of human rationality and liberty from the point of view of knowledge and evolutionist theory. He begins by showing how the human mind is radically different from the computer: it does not, that is, depend on a rigid programme. On the contrary, the mind has an essentially creative character. It not only solves given problems, but also invents new problems and solutions. Here we have a confutation of both the materialistic and psychologistic positions. The mind does not boil down to matter nor does knowledge boil down to the pure psychological states of the conscious subject. The products of knowledge (such as mathematical theorems) have an autonomous value of their own. They are, that is, true or false irrespective of whether we regard them as such. The essential, unique characteristic of the human mind is that it understands and solves these objective problems. Popper also goes on to show how human creativity is bound up in the evolutionist function of language. Man invented the argumentative use of language; hence his capacity to judge situations and to distinguish between truth and falsehood. He is different from all other animals in so far as he has acquired the freedom to lie or tell the truth. This step in evolution marked the origin of rationality, of the conscious pursuit of truth and also the beginning of human morality.
ù Montorzi, Mario. Justice as a Value, Justice as a Function pp. 27-49
There are evident organisational malfunctions within the Italian judiciary. But if the problem of justice has exploded with such vehemence recently, the reasons have also to be sought elsewhere. One is the veritable crisis of social transformation which the country is now experiencing. The consequence must be a general readjustment of the institutional framework, and perhaps also of the general balance of constitutional powers which has emerged in the course of recent events. It is not necessarily true that justice has to be "just". It has, first and foremost, to be critical and rational and must, in no event, confer "political" powers on those responsible for exercising and administering it. The real problems of the Italian institutional framework reside in its increasingly accentuated passage towards a tutelary and censorial model of political obligation. In the process, the magistrature is assuming more and more the role of an autonomous political authority in direct, immediate contact with public opinion and tends to act outside any form of institutional mediation.
ù Stazi, Guido. The First Five Years of the Antitrust Authority pp. 51-57
The antitrust authority was set up in Italy five years ago to guarantee the market and competition. This article reviews its activity since then. The verdict is a substantially favourable one, fears that the authority would intervene excessively on markets having proved unfounded. Only on very rare occasions has the authority actually forbidden mergers and concentrations. In the majority of case, it has deemed them motivated by reasons of economic efficiency. The authority has done much to open up markets in sectors where monopolies used to exist, more or less explicitly created and protected by the state. The authority has played an effective role as an intermediary, helping to enforce Community antitrust legislation in Italy. It also performs an essential function as a legislation monitor, acting as both watchdog and advisor for parliament and government alike. Through its work it has helped to broaden understanding of the significance and value of the market and competition both within institutions and in public opinion as a whole.
ù Lottieri, Carlo. Family, Society and Market pp. 59-76
The author explores the relationship between family and society (but also between family and state) from different points of view. In the first part of the article, he traces to Rousseau the genesis of the modern, "democratic" neo-organicistic theory which has dominated political culture over the last two centuries. The second part sets out from Hayek in particular to deal with the relationship between the traditional family and liberal society, autonomous (self-governing) communities and the social system characterised by the free market, contracts and right of association. In the third part, the author identifies elements for a liberalist theory neither incompatible with communities nor blind to the need for fraternity. In the fourth part, finally, he studies the disastrous effects of state interventions: ostensibly purporting to have a planning function, they ultimately deprive free family communities of space, autonomy and responsibility.
ù Ricciardi, Mario. Bioethics and Liberal Ethics pp. 77-88
Today, nine years on from the publication of Uberto Scarpelli's first essay on bioethics, the moment has come to review the debate it triggered, especially among analytical philosophers. Scarpelli, who walks a reflective tightrope between divisionist meta-ethics and liberal ethics, has left an enduring mark on Italian bioethics, proposing a number of possibilities for research as the most recent developments in liberal political theory demonstrate. Scarpelli's approach is also an example of a "thematic" conception of practical philosophy. As such, it is firmly opposed to some forms of intuitionism that have become entrenched among analytical philosophers in recent years.