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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.