Monday, June 25, 2012

The Euro and more nonsense.


This is the second article by Antonio Martino which I have translated into English.
If you'd like to know who Antonio Martino is, please check out the first post:
The following article is a critique of an editorial which Angelo Panebianco, an important Italian editorialist and a professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna, published on the Corriere della Sera, the most widely read Italian newspaper.








Angelo Panebianco



Martino's critique is important because it points out the main flaw that unfortunately, I think, mars the thinking of many European and especially Italian intellectuals. That is, the contradictory idea that overarching super-national structures are needed to guarantee democracy and that the self-determination, the freedom and the well being of the European people depend on transnational organization which are nearly unaccountable to voters..
It is symptomatic of a certain attitude and distrust for democracy, which is found among too many Italian intellectuals. Since the end of the second world war, argues Panebianco, international frameworks have saved us from ourselves. The Europeans cannot really be trusted to vote for whatever and whomever they like. (Especially the Italians). Italy, he says, would be just a raft in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, if it weren't for the anchors that the framework of  international agreements provide. We need these councils of (unelected) sages, who don't need the approval of the people, to tell us what's best for us.
The Euro, in this confuse vision, has become sort of the symbol of that European integration to which too many people, like Panebianco, are willing to sacrifice too much.
The cartoon is mine. It's not very good, but I have to start somewhere.
Your comments will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.  


That's Italy in the Eurozone. Hint: she doesn't like it!

The Euro and more nonsense.
(by Antonio Martino. Translated and adapted by Leonardo Pavese)

A most estimable friend of mine, Angelo Panebianco, whom I consider one of the best, if not the best among Italian editorialists, every once in a while ventures into a mine field which is outside his province.
I’m not saying he’s talking without knowing what he’s talking about; just that he’d better not use the hatchet and that he should be less drastic in his judgments, when he’s talking about economics instead of political science.
This is not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The legacy of Benedetto Croce consists in that too: making people believe that economics are not a science, rather an optional field of study; a matter that concerns only domestic help, (as my greatly loved philosophy professor used to say).
I believe that in many cases domestic help is much more useful than economists are, but I don’t think house cleaners amuse themselves with this “dismal science”, as Carlyle used to call it.  

Panebianco says:

“Very estimable people, from Paolo Savona to Antonio Martino (me), think it and they’re not afraid to say it: Italy would be better off reverting to the Lira.

“Nevertheless, it is not farfetched to suppose that if the Euro collapsed, even disregarding the consequences for the world economy and therefore for us, the political aftershocks of such an event would be very violent for our country.”   

Now, I’d like to point out to my friend Angelo (Panebianco), that a return of Italy to the Lira wouldn’t necessarily mean the collapse of the Euro. It could, maybe, induce other countries to do the same, but that is not a given either.
The title that the editors plastered on Panebianco’s editorial is, to say the least, peculiar: “A Single and Democratic Currency”.
It’s not really up to Panebianco, but it is certainly the job of the editor of the best selling newspaper in Italy to explain to us, kindly, in what way the Euro is democratic, being a framework which is controlled by people whom nobody elected.  
Mario Draghi is not at the head of the ECB (European Central Bank) by the will of the sovereign people of Europe, but rather because of a political agreement among countries which regard themselves as more important than others.
The head of the ECB, being above any check and evaluation, answers only to God and he’s totally unaccountable to us.  
The states that use the Euro did not delegate their sovereignty in matters of monetary policy to a super-national democratically elected authority, but rather to a “technician,” who was chosen with methods which were not very transparent and surely not democratic.
Panebianco’s thesis, which is correctly summed up in the subtitle, is the following: “Without the external bind of the Euro”, the Italian democracy and the very unity of the country would be on a “slippery slope.”




The fact that democracy in Italy is not very healthy is true; as it is true that the “southern problem” remains completely unresolved but, in the name of God, what has the Euro got to do with the solution of these problems which, granted, it’s still far to come?
Luigi Spaventa, when he was a member of Parliament of the far left, in a memorable speech against the unified currency, expressed his fear that the Euro would have mainly damaged Italy and especially its southern regions. I don’t know if he’s still of the same opinion, but there’s no doubt that the events are proving him right.
Panebianco, instead, is talking like once the Euro is saved, then Europe, Italy and the world economy will also be saved.  
Here I’m sorry I’m not English, because if that were the case I’d say: “I’m afraid I can’t share your opinion”. Being proudly Italian I’m forced to say: “Angelo, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”



The Euro is a misconstructed framework which is running the risk to precipitate Europe and the world into a crisis which will make the Great Depression look like a trifle, a bagatelle, a pinzillàcchera, like Totò used to say.
The mad German diktat to balance the budget, at these current levels of public expenditure, is driving all the countries of the Eurozone to raise taxes, in the (vain) effort to catch up with their expenses.
Does Panebianco really believes that to raise the tax pressure to 52% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) would be good for the Italian economy? Is he convinced that it would make our country more united and democratic?
Angelo, please do me a favor, concern yourself with something else. I will always read what you write with pleasure; and I will phone to you my admiration after every reading!
Martin Feldstein, an esteemed economist, notwithstanding the fact that he teaches at Harvard, one of the most left-wing institutions in America, recently argued:
“The fiscal compact seems to me wishful thinking. The transfer, on a permanent basis, of the budget policies of every country - meaning taxes, expenses and debt management - to a central European entity, would be a revolution of enormous magnitude: we’re talking about the core of political sovereignty.”
Do Monti, Panebianco, and all the others who argue the inexorability of maintaining the Euro afloat, think that to delegate national political sovereignty to a shady and anti-democratic interstate agreement rather than to the United States of Europe would be better for Italy, Europe and the world?    

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