1996

 

Biblioteca della libertà, XXXI (1996), January-February, n. 133
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000

 

ù Bütler, Hugo. Information and Liberty • pp. 3-11

It has been said that, in wartime, "the first casualty is truth". If this is so, then it goes to prove that inner and external liberty are both necessary if we are to have realiable, accurate information. The freedom of the press really exists and is safeguarded solely in open modern societies. It was not protected in the absolutist regimes of the past, nor is it protected in the ideological and fundamentalist regimes of the present. Yet if we wish to prevent it from degenerating into licence, liberty also implies restrictions: namely, assumption of responsibility. The first and fundamental responsibility of journalists and media operators in general is to tell the truth. Speaking of "objectivity" as opposed to "truth" does not shift the terms of the question. For public opinion can only form a healthy opinion on facts and faces on the basis of truthful information. The recipients of information also have responsibilities. The fact is that everyone has the newspapers and televisions he deserves. From this point of view, the remedy to a whole string of problems – such as publishing mergers or the smear campaigns which the press occasionally stages – is not so much legislative intervention (the passing of antitrust laws or the codification of the professional duties of journalists) as the effective opening up of markets and a firmly rooted civil ethos.

ù Ostellino, Piero. Journalism and Politics in Transition Italy • pp. 13-18

The oligarchic complexion which Italian journalism has now assumed is, on the one hand, the result of the "closure" and relative lack of competitiveness of big industry, proprietor of the major newspapers, and, on the other, of the "publishing cartel" created in recent years by editors. All of which causes considerable concern for the health of democracy in the country. Far from being inspired by ethical-political principles, the press takes its lead from contingent expediency as the occasion demands. It is, in other words, incapable of performing the dual function of "integrating" and "changing" the existing social order typical of the media in mature liberal democracies. This point is proved by the Italian press’s at once indifferent and demagogic interpretation of the recent waves of corruption scandals. Newspapers have, de facto, fuelled the tendency to attribute to the responsibilities of single politicians what was in actual fact a systemic phenomenon. The most significant consequences of this situation may be summed up in six points: the pitiably low level of national political culture; the low demand for modernisation; the low capacity of citizens to articulate and aggregate their interests; the slowness of political decision-making processes and their scarce openness; the obscurity of the financial market and the slack safeguarding of investors’ interests; inadequate control of the running of the public administration and insufficient protection of citizens’ rights.

ù North, Douglass C. Economics and Politics: How the Rules of the Game Are Changing • pp. 19-33

The thesis of this essay is that the huge increases in productivity as a result of technological development over the last 150 years have been made possible only thanks to fundamental changes in institutional and organisational structure (supply side); and that the tensions provoked by these social upheavals have triggered (and continue to do so) fundamental changes in the institutional structure induced by politics to attenuate the tensions themselves (demand side). Institutional changes on the supply and demand sides have been and are fundamental factors vis-à-vis the variation in productivity. In the different sections of the essay, the author specifies what institutions are and how they are changing. He describes the cause underlying increased productivity in the modern era: namely, the second economic revolution with its accompanying institutional and organisational imperatives. He also examines some of the institutional changes – both on the demand side and on the supply side – which have influenced and influence the dynamics of productivity. In conclusion, he attempts to outline the institutional dynamics of modern economies and consequences for the increase in productivity.

ù Savona, Paolo. Ethical Principles and Democratic Method in the Treaty of the Union • pp. 35-43

The institutions of the contemporary welfare states have revealed their vulnerability to inefficiency, abuses and criminality. Hence the need to review the question of their ethicality and rediscover the ethical values innate in market systems. Social and political forces and economic actors themselves are now engaged in the task, but not without a certain amount of hesitancy and inconsistency. In particular, most of the conflicts which prevent the accomplishment of the European design are the result – in Italy but not only in Italy – of the pursuit of an "economic shortcut". To solve the present difficulties, this means embarking once more on the path of state intervention. Within this framework, it is fair to ask whether the rules fixed by the Treaty of Maastricht are ethically well-founded. In other words, do its choices follow a democratic method? If the answer is yes, then the next question is: how can Italy be induced to adjust to the parameters of Maastricht? The answer to the first question is affirmative as far as the principles which inspire the European Union are concerned. Alas, the institutional forms adopted are not always consistent with the inspiration: a) because there is still no convergence of views among the partners on the need to bind individual and social conduct to the scarcity of resources available on the market; and b) because not all countries and respective domestic political groups have the same conception of the bases and limits of solidarity. The solution is not, apparently, the voluntary acceptance of coercion, for the coercion of ethically inconsistent institutions would postpone the accomplishment of the unification design – per se positive. It would be advisable, therefore, to adapt institutions and organisations to social objectives chosen with democratic methods.

ù Tosato, Angelo. Solidarity and Profit: The Role of Entrepreneurs
• pp. 45-56

This essay uses biblical exegesis to answer the question: is it possible to achieve a synthesis between solidarity and profit, or between Christianity (whose emblem is solidarity) and market (whose emblem is profit)? The author breaks his argument down into three points. First, he asserts that since profit is per se honest and welcome to God, it follows that the pursuit of profit is per se a virtuous, religious form of conduct. As such, it cannot clash with any other human and Christian virtue, solidarity least of all. Secondly, he claims that the relationship between pursuit of profit and practice of solidarity is not so much one of compatibility as of interdependence. Even if the producer is not moved by a spirit of solidarity but only by self-interest, he cannot achieve his interest without the community achieving its general interest too. The pursuit of profit is indissolubly individualistic and altruistic, motivated by solidarity. The third and final point in the argument refers to the present situation in Italy. It sets out from the realisation that the use of the term solidarity is profoundly hypocritical and incorrect, a cover-up for a veritable squandering of the common good. As Jesus taught, the political battle implies the unmasking of falsehood, while the battle for the effective practice of solidarity is fought on a broader field than that of economics alone. The task of solidarity in Italy today is, above all, political, cultural, and religious: that is, indirectly economic.

ù Iannello, Nicola. Free Marketers, Classical Liberals, Leftist Liberals, Libertarians... • pp. 57-78

This essay criticises the use made in the Italian political and economic debate of the term "liberismo" (economic theory of free markets, as distinct from political liberalism), however justified it may be in the context of historical analysis. The Italian language is unique in possessing this derivative of "libertà", or liberty. But far from being a conceptual advantage, this is a source of misunderstanding, especially vis-à-vis the most advanced schools of contemporary liberalism: the Austrian School, monetarism, Public Choice, anarcho-capitalism, libertarianism. Tracing these liberal schools to "liberismo" creates a dual distortion: first, assimilation under an economic doctrine and policy related to classic economics and overriden by the marginalist revolution in all the social sciences; secondly, the lack of distinction among all the various components. Those who use the term "liberismo" polemically are barking up the wrong tree, since they fail to realise that contemporary liberalism does not boil down to the classical, free market liberalism of the last century. Yet those who like to call themselves "liberisti" are also on the wrong tack, since they fail to grasp the originality of contemporary liberalism. In the final analysis, the use of the term "liberismo" in its worst sense is a means for leftist liberals to appropriate liberalism in the vain belief that liberalism can exist without firm economic premises.

 

Biblioteca della libertà, XXXI (1996), March-April, n. 134
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000

 

ù Deaglio, Mario. A Memo for the Government • pp. 3-15

Without entering into the political merits of the question, this essay attempts to outline the economic-institutional and structural problems which the Italian economy now has to address, problems too often swept under the carpet or distorted under the pressure of events and short-term economic emergency. It is thus possible to interpret the piece as a sort of memo for the government produced by the general election of April 21 1996. The author observes the Italian economy from a non-traditional viewpoint, that of markets and their operation. Hence his onus on the centrality of the crises of the stock exchange and money markets (par. 2) and, secondarily, of banks (par. 3), the effect of which is to deplete the Italian business world (par. 4). Favourable elements are also discernible, however; they offer opportunities that need to be exploited now (par. 5).

ù Russo, Giuseppe. Italy and Its Provinces: Quality of Life and Political Demand • pp. 17-27

The essay uses an original indicator to pinpoint differences in quality of life among the Italian provinces. The indicator is constructed by synthesising eight potential demands which citizens ought, ideally, to address to their respective political classes. The picture which emerges is one of an Italy in which two thirds of citizens – and probably also of electors – are potentially unhappy with the quality of life offered to them in the provinces in which they reside. Differences from area to area are sharp enough to allow classification of provinces into 11 homogeneous groups, each with its own distinctive socio-economic characteristics. The classification highlights not only traditional divisions between North and South, but also between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seaboards and between large and small towns. The author, finally, attempts a few preliminary conclusions on the possible political consequences of these differences.

ù Kasper, Wolfgang. The Rules of Competitive Federalism • pp. 29-57

This essay discusses the distribution of power between different levels of government (central, state, local), the consequences of fiscal centralisation and the possible strategies for and consequences of decentralisation. To set the scene, the author discusses the fundamental rationale for government in the context of global factor mobility and competition for mobile capital, know-how and enterprise. Thereafter, he tries to establish what it takes to give substance to the "Competitive Federalist Principle": namely, that a devolution of powers of governance to subsidiary levels of government often serves to protect the citizen from the opportunism and arbitrariness of rulers, and to strengthen the entire country’s competitiveness in the era of globalisation. Finally, given the political temptations to compete with subsidies, the author makes a case against discriminatory regional policies, with states entering into "bidding wars" by offering investment subsidies to mobile investments.

ù Petroni, Angelo M. Redistribution, Wealth and Freedom • pp. 59-72

Redistribution has become the central economic and political issue of representative democracies. On this one problem most other problems – from taxation to public deficits and the legitimacy or otherwise of political institutions – depend heavily. In this essay, the author argues that, from the point of view of democratic legitimacy and economic efficiency, present forms of distribution cannot be justified. Theirs is, effectively, a corporatist logic. For liberalism, the forms and purposes of redistribution ought to be entirely removed from the logic of the acquisition of electoral consensus.

ù Fliszar, Fritz. New Communitarians or Old Authoritarians? • pp. 73-83

The community idea is common currency for conservatives on the right and communitarians on the left. It risks generating a sort of obsequious "pragmatic" authoritarianism with utilitarianism as its ideological foundation. Unlike other principle-based totalitarian ideologies, utilitarianism is capable of developing into an end-state theory entirely devoid of principles. From a liberal viewpoint, the only acceptable classification of political theories is the one which distinguishes between procedural theories and end-state theories: that is, between theories founded on rights of freedom, hence designed to allow individuals to pursue their idea of happiness, and theories which, by opposing individual rights as a matter of principle, or because they are devoid of relevant principles, either wish to impose their idea of happiness on individuals or randomly distribute opportunities for success in the pursuit for happiness. The truth is that communities have no more rights over the rights of individuals than the state has. It is necessary to grasp this if we are to prevent authoritarianism reappearing dressed in "communitarian" clothing.

ù Cavour, Camillo Benso conte di and Croce, Benedetto. 150 Years in Vain? The Middle Classes, Politics and Taxes • pp. 85-98

This issue’s excerpts from classic pages of liberalism are taken from two of Italy’s best known liberals’ least known texts: a 1851 parliamentary speech by Camillo Benso di Cavour, the first premier of united Italy, and a 1947 interview with the Neapolitan philosopher Benedetto Croce. Cavour’s speech addresses the problem of the just and efficient taxation of the liberal professions and crafts. Croce’s interview deals with the role of the middle classes in Italy and their relationship with the political liberalism represented by the party of which he himself was chairman, the PLI or Italian Liberal Party. Although the first is almost 150 years old and the second 50, both texts are still of topical interest. This goes to show that the question of the political role of the middle classes (which has many points of contact with another problem – that of "just" taxation) is still one of the crucial, unravelled knots of politics and society in Italy.

 

Biblioteca della libertà, XXXI (1996), May-June, n. 135
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000

 

ù Beretta, Silvio. Europe, Development and Social Guarantees
• pp. 3-17

The first part of the essay reconstructs the main features, stages and problems of the European integration process, the logic of which has always been functionalist as opposed to constitutionalist. The second considers Italy’s position vis-à-vis the forthcoming European deadlines in a scenario characterised by "constitutional precariousness", the globalisation of money markets and the Germany’s function as continental leader. The third section, finally, analyses the issues of labour, development and social guarantees within the perspective defined by third-generation capitalism, marked by liberty and solidarity with the principle of responsibility as its ethical-political cornerstone and self-government as its fundamental institutional tool. To achieve a set-up of this kind, Italy can and must see Community deadlines as a great opportunity and external driving force.

ù Pejovich, Svetozar. Privatising the Process of Institutional Change in Eastern Europe • pp. 19-30

This essay tries to answer two important questions: why do we note differences among Eastern European countries in terms of institutional changes and what are the implications of those changes for efficiency? The author begins by analysing the effects of the various institutional changes on incentives and transaction costs. He goes on to argue that the privatisation of the process of institutional change might be justified on the grounds of economic efficiency. Although the essay is neither a study of the transition process in Russia nor an assessment of the role of organised crime in that country, present conditions there do provide a useful background for analysis of the effects of privatising the process of institutional change.

ù Contributions. We Liberals / 1 • pp. 31-78

After World War II, save for members of the small Italian Liberal Party, very few Italians were prepared to describe themselves as liberals. Over the last three or four years, though, there was suddenly something of a surfeit of liberals. Now the fashion has faded, liberals are few and far between again. So who is liberal in Italy today? Over the last 30 years and more, we at Biblioteca della libertà and the Centro Einaudi have had the chance to collaborate with the vast majority of intellectuals who declare or declared themselves liberals. In an attempt to trace the principles underpinning the identity of liberals in Italy today, we thought it might be interesting to ask some of our contributors to explain the reasons for their liberalism. For some autobiographical motives prevailed, while others were inspired by more recent factual reflections and considerations. We believe that the wealth and diversity of the positions which emerge from these contributions (by Francesco Barone, Riccardo Chiaberge, Giuseppe Floridia, Piero Gastaldo, Fulvio Gianaria, Giancarlo Lunati, Antonio Martino, Nicola Matteucci, Mario Montorzi, Giuseppe Pera, Orazio M. Petracca, Sergio Ricossa, Franco Romani, Enrico Salza, Massimo Teodori, Valerio Zanone; more will follow in the next number) constitute one of liberalism’s outstanding strengths. Liberalism itself, in fact, would only be weakened and impoverished by a reductio ad unum.

 

Biblioteca della libertà, XXXI (1996), September-October, n. 136
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000

 

ù Boudon, Raymond. Relativism and Modernity: Under the Sign of Nietzsche • pp. 3-23

Relativism has become the common world view of our time. It is not without social consequences, providing fertile ground for the development of sects and hampering the education of citizens. The causes of relativism’s success are manifold and their exploration raises a key problem of sociology of knowledge. Tocqueville’s brief analysis of the question is extremely important and worthwhile developing. In certain respects, the social sciences help to legitimate relativism by giving the philosophy a scientific sanction, if not a base, through the "hyperculturalist model" widespread not only in anthropology, but also in sociology. Today a reaction is taking place against this dominant world view: it attempts to counter widespread culturalism with a naturalist vision. But isn’t this like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?

ù Ronca, Giovanni. Executive Justice, an Empirical Investigation
• pp. 25-52

The Italian regulative machinery is desperately trying to keep up with the evolution of the market, often adapting belatedly to the system’s needs. This article deals with the problem of debt recovery (with the exception of bankruptcy proceedings) and the Italian executive justice system’s inability to meet the needs of an economic system which, as it goes global in the wake of the rest of Europe and North America, is tending increasingly to adopt new types of trade relations. The judicial instruments envisaged for debt recovery (from distraint to forced sale) are now so ineffective they seriously hamper the working of the credit market. The article is split into three parts. In the early paragraphs, the author seeks to evidence the main flaws in the course of executive justice, as well as their economic and social consequences for the creditor, for the debtor and for the community as a whole. He then demonstrates how the market compensates for the inefficiency of public institutions and concludes with a microeconomic modelling of the relationship between the productivity of the public sector and that of the private sector. In the appendix, finally, he outlines an exemplary case.

ù Contributions. We Liberals / 2 • pp. 53-95

After World War II, save for members of the small Italian Liberal Party, very few Italians were prepared to describe themselves as liberals. Over the last three or four years, though, there was suddenly something of a surfeit of liberals. Now the fashion has faded, liberals are few and far between again. So who is liberal in Italy today? Over the last 30 years and more, we at Biblioteca della libertà and the Centro Einaudi have had the chance to collaborate with the vast majority of intellectuals who declare or declared themselves liberals. In an attempt to trace the principles underpinning the identity of liberals in Italy today, we thought it might be interesting to ask some of our contributors to explain the reasons for their liberalism. For some autobiographical motives prevailed, while others were inspired by more recent factual reflections and considerations. We believe that the wealth and diversity of the positions which emerge from these contributions – the first set of which was published in the last issue – constitute one of liberalism’s outstanding strengths. Liberalism itself, in fact, would only be weakened and impoverished by a reductio ad unum.

ù Leoni, Bruno. Luigi Einaudi and the Science of Government
• pp. 97-113

Bruno Leoni (1913-1967) was one of the most important figures in twentieth century Italian liberalism. A social scientist of wide interests, it was as a legal philosopher that he made fundamental contributions to the theory of liberalism. His most important work, Freedom and the Law – first published directly in English by Van Nostrand of Princeton in 1961, and translated into Italian as La libertà e la legge in 1995 – has been a constant point of reference for the liberal intellectual tradition. When a group of Turin liberals decided to found the Centro Einaudi, Leoni supported the initiative and contributed regularly to our review in the first years of its life. The piece which we reprint here is a speech Leoni made to the Critics’ Circle in the Aula Magna of Turin University’s Faculty of Economics and Commerce in commemoration of Luigi Einaudi two years after his death. In it he masterfully reconstructs the guidelines of Einaudi’s teaching which, for true liberals, are as valid today as they were then.

 

Biblioteca della libertà, XXXI (1996), November-December, n. 137
pp. 112, Lit. 20,000

 

ù Lepage, Henri. Economics in a World without Inflation • pp. 3-22

The industrial world is currently experiencing a phase of disinflation which is still anything but over. The phenomenon is the result of a process formed by a complex chain of "disinflationary" mechanisms, and it is by no means impossible that it will eventually lead to the enduring reappearance of negative price trends. In the long term, disinflation does not necessarily impede growth, as events in the course of the nineteenth century demonstrated. However, disinflation does aggravate the risk of "depressive" drifts and lengthy depressions in the countries in which structural rigidities are greatest. Moreover, in the present situation, conjunctural monetary or budget policies are substantially incapable of relaunching economic activity, so the only possible action is to reintroduce maximum flexibility. The author illustrates his thesis with special reference to the French case.

ù Ostellino, Piero. We Liberals / A Conclusion • pp. 23-31

This article by the first editor of "Biblioteca della libertà" concludes the series of interventions which began in issue 135 and continued in issue 136. In the author's view, however sound it may be in terms of the philosophy of values and ends, modern liberalism is weak in terms of the "culture" of means. Liberal realism does not impose fatalistic resignation in the face of the natural laws of the market as it stands – neither ideologically or empirically. On the contrary, a drive to discipline the dynamics of the market comes from an element intrinsic in liberal thinking: namely, its pessimism about human nature, and the consequent need to prevent man from becoming his own executioner. Liberalism is opposed to the ethical state, but is neither indifferent nor neutral vis-à-vis the need to confer an ethical character on collective choices. The point is whether it is up to us – that is, to politics, to the peaceful, liberal, democratic handling of conflict – to decide our present and future, or whether it is up to Chance, the invisible hand of the market, actually the extremely visible hand of the men who hold political-economic power. Or whether liberalism has anything to say on the matter or not.

ù Bouckaert, Boudewijn. Corruption & politics / Institution and Morality • pp. 33-55

Corruption as a crime is a very imprecise notion, and defining it presupposes answering a number of complex questions of political philosophy. This is why this essay focuses attention not so much on specific profiles of everything we usually label as corruption as, above all, on 1) the institutional origins of practices labelled as corrupt; 2) the notion of civic culture and its origins. The first topic indicates that the causes of corrupt practices are to be sought not so much in the congenital evil of individuals devoid of the right public spirit as in the very nature of public duties and, specifically, in the bureaucratisation of contemporary society and the different types of public intervention on the market and civil society. The second topic is interesting in so far as it allows us to uncover the merely ideological functions of so-called civic culture and the place it occupies in classic liberal thinking.

ù Cáceres, Carlos F. Corruption & politics / The Rules of the Economics • pp. 57-76

It is wrong to classify one type of conduct or another as corrupt in "legalistic" terms: after all, an unjust law may be a cause for corruption. Corruption is rooted in lack of freedom, that is in monopolistic authority and regulation of the state. Every time a government allocates rights discretionally and modifies them irrespective of the democratic nature of the means deployed, corruption is fostered. Furthermore, wherever there is no property right, there are no incentives to control corruption. Although, in the final analysis, corruption descends from an absence of moral virtue, institutions do play a key role. The subsidiarity principle is crucial, if the state's role is defined with a negative connotation; if that is, it is entrusted only with the activities which the private sector cannot and will not perform. If the good safeguarded is the autonomy of individuals and organisations, the result is a social order founded on freedom which, in turn, is one of the most efficient, morally acceptable means for fighting corruption.

ù Massarenti, Armando. Corruption & politics / Breaking Collusion
• pp. 77-84

Game theory casts an ethically neutral light on political corruption. But it is helpful for anyone who wishes to solve such a serious problem pragmatically. In a situation of widespread corruption such as the Italian one in the wake of the "Clean Hands" operation, a series of perverse, self-perpetuating norms comes into being, creating a set-up from which some at least would like to escape, but inside which they are instead forced to remain. That is, an implicit norm emerges from which no one has interest in deviating. Game theory says that to escape the legislator can choose between two strategies. The first involves introducing external and coercive norms designed to change the system of incentives and to induce individuals into non-counterproductive conduct. The second consists of creating – through market mechanisms, privatisations, rules for political and administrative turnovers – a social and economic environment in which non-written norms conducive to corruption are much less likely to appear.

ù Ferrera, Maurizio.Welfare Reform, a Positive Sum Game • pp. 85-90

The debate on welfare reform in Italy has to abandon the logic of service cuts – perceived as a negative sum game on account of reciprocal vetoes – in favour of forms of a collective reflection on how to refound social citizenship. Four courses have to be explored: social security – finding ways of restoring the balance of compulsory social insurance schemes and redesigning the security system for the most needy; health – reviewing old rights restrictively and defining new ones; employment – identifying forms of support for unemployed young people, today devoid of protection, and redesigning the training system; family – returning the problems of (young) couples with children to a central role in the distributive and regulatory structure, rethinking family allowances, fiscal incentives and services. The strength of this kind of argument is that it would relate the sacrifices of today to the opportunities of tomorrow, encouraging political parties and trade unions alike to adopt co-operative, constructive strategies.