The right path is difficult

Comments - Three fragility and too much indecisions

The right path is difficult

by Luigino Bruni

published on Avvenire on 06/09/2011

logo_avvenireAs Italians and Europeans we must have the courage to come to terms with the reality. Behind the stock market crisis and markets around the world there is a triple fragility of financial capitalism (too much debt), the European policy, and Italy. For two or three decades this season of globalized capitalism has generated growth through private and public debt and a highly risky creative finance (for the system, not the actors), is coming to an end. Too bad that markets are still not able to choose and take a new path. And that same operation does not succeed, despite the increasingly explicit appeals to the Quirinal, leaders and key sectors of our politics, our union and significant parts of the civil society.

The call that made us turn is eloquent and strong, but unfortunately it is not systematically listened to, not understood and even misrepresented. Uncertainty and mistrust reigns as supreme, and after a few puffs of oxygen it goes back underwater again, waiting for the next storm.

It has now been two months that the crisis is acute and we have not yet seen a G20 summit, only semi-private phone calls, meetings in two, statements that would be reassuring (which often produce perverse effects). The politics is showing itself incapable of governing the first serious crisis of globalization. The economy and the world have changed, but the categories in which the political, national and global read and act on it (or not act) is outdated and therefore ineffective. There is, of course, a specific Europe crisis, which is experiencing the first great age of the euro fibrillation: market operators are no longer sure that the Eurozone is capable of the future. The empty and useless statements on the Tobin Tax, the proposal to postpone the sender of Eurobonds (which are not realistic because behind the Euro lacks a strong unified European policy), the repeated uncertainties of the European Central Bank, much is said and always more confused and inadequate ideas.

But it is enough to look, at these times, the titles of major newspapers and international websites just to be convinced, if there is still a need that in this European and worldwide crisis of stock exchanges there is a big and heavy question mark on Italy. The uncertainty and constant change of the contents of a maneuver are increasing the negative expectations of the financial operators, who after a couple of weeks of waiting they begin to manifest devastatingly their serious doubts that our country really has the resources, first moral then economic, to do for itself what is necessary. It is really sad to see the hesitancy of our ruling class to immediately start and share those few reforms, perhaps unpopular, but essential, that would give confidence to markets and honest citizens. It is unthinkable to clean up the huge debt without putting real effort on pensions (primarily the question of intra and inter-generational equity), without asking a fair and well-modulated extraordinary contribution to those who can give it because of the possibility and convenience (instead of imagining the alternative that of taxing the remittances of care takers and domestic workers: it is a stroke of genius to ask sacrifices for our debt to those who did not create it and, with their work, make life better for millions of our elderly and children), without a drastic cost reduction, not so much of "politics" (politics is something high and serious), but of political bureaucracies. Not to mention the tax issue, for the family and against evasion, of which so much has been said here already.

We are very late, perhaps too much, and the signals for necessary things to be done are few and weak. But it is in hard times that everyone must demonstrate the ability to act within the limits of power and responsibility one has. Among these uncertain actors there are also of the European institutions, our closest relatives: if Italy is really too big a country to declare default, then some slap on the back and some consoling words at the bedside is not enough. But, as in any good family, relatives are not involved in a concrete way if the one in need does not first demonstrate seriousness and commitment to solve their problems. "Only you can make it, but you cannot go it alone,” recites a nice variation of the subsidiarity principle, one of the pillars of ethical and political Europe.

We need Europe more, but - first - we need Italy more, more government, more political, more civil and economic society, beginning with those who have most at heart the common good. But there is also a need of greater power of ideas: we cannot live this time of crisis waiting for it to pass. Also because it will not pass, unless we indicate and even cry out the need for a “new economy,” to save the civilization  called “market” that it may be able to articulate itself in a just and supportive manner, beyond this capitalism.

All of Luigino Bruni's comments on Avvenire can be found under Avvenire Editorial.

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