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In this essay, the authors analyse the relationship between the Italian institutional arrangement and policies of liberalisation and simplification. The criterion they adopt to assess the performance of institutions is the latter’s promptness in producing responses to new social problems without increasing the rate of coercion and without distributing its favourable and negative consequences randomly. In general terms, the authors define the processes of liberalisation as changes in the institutional constraints that permit a reduction of the social interaction costs resulting from the presence and action of the state – that is, a reduction of the individual and social time needed to maintain the public structure and its functions. The picture drawn by the indicators used in this analysis is to some extent contradictory. In the course of the last few years, the Italian political system has sought, not without difficulty, to liberalise some areas of social interaction, in particular in the field of relations between citizens and public administration, but for the moment the process is struggling to produce appreciable results.