Biblioteca della Libertà

Anno XXXI, n. 134, marzo-aprile 1996

150 Years in Vain? The Middle Classes, Politics and Taxes

150 Years in Vain? The Middle Classes, Politics and Taxes

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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.
Abstract

New Communitarians or Old Authoritarians?

New Communitarians or Old Authoritarians?

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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.
Abstract

Redistribution, Wealth and Freedom

Redistribution, Wealth and Freedom

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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.
Abstract

The Rules of Competitive Federalism

The Rules of Competitive Federalism

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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.
Abstract

Italy and Its Provinces: Quality of Life and Political Demand

Italy and Its Provinces: Quality of Life and Political Demand

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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.
Abstract

A Memo for the Government

A Memo for the Government

Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
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).
Abstract

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