3. The first period of non-profit organizations (1865-1948).
During the first period, the non-profit organizations had no history at all, as they where stifled under the Napoleonic model of authoritative government, characterized by a strong mistrust in private groups as intermediaries between government and individuals. Consequently, non-profit organizations dealt only with the provision of welfare, a secondary activity in a country turning into an industrial society.
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4. The second period (1948-1984): institutional pluralism and art. 2 of the Italian Constitution
At the time when the Constitution was approved, the situation described above changed completely: formal support for the intermediate groups was given by art. 2.
Therefore, institutional pluralism promotes decentralization and encourages the spontaneous growth of social groups. The influence of catholicism is clear, at this point: recalling the idea of an intermediary society, the family community and trade organizations which progressively lead to trade unions and political parties .
From this point of view, it is interesting to compare the great differences between the Italian and the American constitutional systems, as well as the level of impact that constitutional principles have had on private law.
In fact, while the Italian idea of pluralism has favored typical groups of intermediate communities, the American constitution does not devote one single article to pluralism. And yet, as already mentioned, American society is certainly based on the efficient role of the non--proflt sector, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in some of the most beautiful pages of his famous essay: "Democratie en Arnerique".
As a result of the analysis of the two different systems, we can state that third sector growth does not depend on constitutional privileges. Notwithstanding the declamations of our constitution, for thirty years, the third sector in Italy was mainly restricted to trade unions and political parties (as well as family), new expressions of political freedom, since they were once both banned from public life by the fascist government.
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5. The third period (1984-1995) of non-profit corporations: the growth of new non-profit organizations, the boom of private associations and the discovery of the legal form of foundations.
Most important to the growth of the third sector in Italy has also been the Parliament by means of statutes. They have both expanded the legal powers of private associations and have created new kinds of non--profit groups. Law n. 52, 1985, has recognized full legal power to unincorporated organisms. In fact, the above-mentioned law has modified some rules of the Italian civil code dealing with the transcription of real property. Therefore, now, unincorporated organizations are allowed to become owners of real property, without asking for government authorization .
The third sector has recently been greatly encouraged by law n. 364, October lG, 1989, which implemented the Hague Convention on trusts and their recognition , and by law n. 266, August 11, 1991 on volunteerism , followed by detailed and rich regional legislation.
But the most promising areas for non-profit development are those sectors concerning public interests, such as environment, hunting and consumer protection . Last but not least, there is also law n. 381, 1991, on social co-operatives.
Recently, a government bill was proposed regarding the establishment of "social associations", that is, organisms mainly devoted to accomplishing social aims . There is also a change in the policy of our legislation: until the seventies, the main line chosen was to create non-profit business corporations (like sports companies), thus altering the very nature of business corporations as resulting from our civil code. Now, there is a reversal of direction: non-profit associations are preferred to business corporations in running enterprises (this is the case for bank foundations, social security services, art and opera).
More recently, the Minister of Finance, Fantozzi, appointed a Commission whose goal is to sketch a new fiscal discipline. The main line of this new discipline is to recognize different fiscal treatment according to the organisms' aims .
In conclusion: the debate on non-profit organizations has been greatly enriched by the introduction of many new statutes, the growth of the non-profit world and the analysis of the North-American system. The starting point of the third era of the non-profit world certainly come from those scholars who have adopted the microeconomic method. That is why we can now affirm that Law and Economics has led to great achievements.
On the other hand, there are some failures that can be blamed on this intellectual movement; also because this method has been applied over the past ten years, while the debate on non-profit organisms started nearly 35 years ago. It has not been verified yet whether the fiduciary function placed on non-profit organizations, as the answer to the disfunction of market rules, has really been accomplished. In other words, the problem lies in checking the effectiveness of the social asset of the "social services" rendered by the non-profit sector. The fiscal privileges enjoyed by these organisms should offer remarkable utility to the community. In the United States, this kind of research has been conducted on hospitals run as non-profit organizations. And they are necessary in Italy as well: "performance evaluation" is an efficient instrument both to avoid the existence of organizations whose assets are insufficient to reach their target, and to comply with the principles of a rational fiscal policy.
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