Sunday, December 04, 2016

Italians Inside And Outside Italy Are voting Today On PM Renzi’s Proposed Reforms.

Posted by Peter Quennell


Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/04/16 at 10:00 AM in Justice systemsItalian systemThe wider contextsItalian context


Lack of a compelling forward looking vision by any party to which most can buy in, and especially a good toolbox of change-management tools, seems to make this yes/no referendum a real shot in the dark. Do I have to watch?!

For some depth Machiavelli recommends this article on how things got to where they are now. He notes that the Italian judiciary is popular and key here because it is straight, and independent, and effective, and fearless in facing down corruption, despite the “best” efforts of the mafias and supporters of Sollecito and Knox.

Machiavelli takes exception to a factually wrong comment at the end by Edward Luttwak. Luttwak is very misleading in that mafia-type claim and has had a murky role many Italians suspect in advising the Italian leadership in the past several years.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/04/16 at 10:10 AM | #

How not to run a referendum and win. Mr Renzi’s promise or threat to resign if the outcome is “no” has had this effect.

Since Renzi announced he would resign if the outcome of the vote is a “no”, all the opposition parties aligned against his proposal. And not only the opposition but also a consistent minority in his own party.

He was popular back then, but now the polls are looking bleak: his approval declined dramatically, and the latest opinion polls show a consistent advantage for the “no” position.

Two years ago Renzi was, well, a triumphant reformist like Trump. But little happened. So he has chosen the toughest of many ways forward, and now…

Theres a para here which shows why the Trump/Renzi mindset is never associated with genuine growth, which can only be achieved by many people with their own visions, from the bottom up. Not an all-powerful PM (or President).

In addition to his personalised style, many voters are also worried about his populist rhetoric and what I would call “monopoly of dreams”: That is, he excludes a priori even the possibility of different ideas of political projects, constitutional reforms, wishes or proposals.

All countries south of Europe also need help to grow - and so stop sending 1000 desperate refugees to Italy ever day.


<blockquote class=“twitter-tweet” data-lang=“en”>Italy, constitutional referendum, IPR exit poll:

Yes: 40.9%
No: 59.1%

40% counted— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 4, 2016</blockquote>


<blockquote class=“twitter-tweet” data-lang=“en”>Italy, Constitutional Referendum:

Lead for..

Yes: Three Regions
No: 17 Regions#ExitPoll #Referendum #italyreferendum— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 4, 2016</blockquote>


<blockquote class=“twitter-tweet” data-lang=“en”>Italy: #Referendum might trigger snap poll. This might bring absolute majority for UKIP ally M5S in decisive 2nd round. #Brexit #ExitPoll— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 4, 2016</blockquote>

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/04/16 at 11:02 AM | #

There was also a referendum in Austria today which Europe was watching almost as closely as it could have been the forebear to more EC exits.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/04/16 at 05:09 PM | #

So Renzi lost and has confirmed that he will resign. Good.

The Austrian far right candidate lost out but not by an enormous margin. Looks like being 53% to 47%. Unthinkable a few short years ago that such a candidate would achieve double figures never mind a fairly narrow defeat.

The worm is trying to turn in Europe against the anti democratic EU monolith. The EU is fighting back but I believe it is merely a matter of time before the whole rotten edifice crumbles. It can’t come soon enough.

There is a quote attributed to Mikael Gorbachev which sums the EU up perfectly:

“The most puzzling development in politics in the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to recreate the Soviet Union in Western Europe”

Posted by davidmulhern on 12/04/16 at 07:23 PM | #

Hi davidmulhern

That Gorbachev quote made me laugh.

Actually no designers set out to create the structure that way. Insofar as the EC and also the UN and also globalization have a philosophy it was functionalism:

(1) get away from almost constant war or the threat of;

(2) by building functional ties so that workers and businesses are not hampered by borders and are tied more together and dont want wars;

(3) so that political leaders would be disempowered and have their hands tied when it comes to calamitous moves (this was “baked into the cake”);

(4) and every economy and all peoples would thus move up to the next rungs of the ladder; each national pie would grow.

(5) and Britain, Italy, the UK, etc, would spend trillions on aid in the developing regions, the point of which was to get those economies to the south moving and the closer ties begun.

Well. Unfortunately (5) worked well for quite a few though not all while (4) hardly worked at all (for reasons we often discuss) and so (3) has become a millstone around politicians necks.

Not surprisingly as the pies largely stopped growing. and moving up the ladder came to a halt, the whole world seems to be moving into a top-down, cost-cutting mode.

The best way forward is really the opposite. Grow more value instead of cutting costs (very little new value is being grown now) and set about it in small groups bottom up.

And help those economies further south who are sending too many to the hard-pressed north.

I really thought Renzi as an ex-mayor might be the right guy for this; but he became infamous for arrogance and talking-down. Better that he is gone.

We in the UN saw this coming a long time ago. Now maybe things have got bad enough that they will bottom out and make everyone primed for a better way forward.

Populism has no history of good answers and it rarely lasts.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/05/16 at 09:19 AM | #

A very good summation Pete, I don’t disagree with a word.

Additionally though, I do believe that the creation of the EU is specifically the accommodation of Germany and her needs and desires, without, as you rightly say, the constant threat of war. Laudable intentions indeed.

The enforced integration of communities and countries on a macro level is, to my mind, extremely anti human nature. Survival of the fittest and all that. I think we’re now seeing the inevitable outcome. And it’s only the start.

I do agree with your final sentence but these populist upsurges are, I think, a natural reaction to what has been imposed on people from a lofty height.

My old grandmother used to say, much to my horror as a young fellow at the time, that sometimes we need a war to thin out the herd as it were. She was a peaceable sort and not a warmonger by any means but she lived through WW1 and WW2 so had seen quite a lot.

I’ve come to a settled view that war, domination, empire building etc is very much hard wired into the human psyche on a very deep level. It is too prevalent and has been going on since humans fist appeared in Africa.

I don’t see it ceasing any more than I see male lions taking over the hunting duties from the females in the pride on the Serengeti!

Interesting times ahead in Europe, it is going to get much, much worse before it gets any better. We’ll all be speaking Chinese in 40 years or so anyway!!

Posted by davidmulhern on 12/05/16 at 01:55 PM | #

Soooooooo much is going on in world news. The pace of life seems to be speeding up. Do others feel that?

Posted by Hopeful on 12/05/16 at 04:51 PM | #

Hi davidmulhern

Functionalism grew directly out of WWI (the League of Nations was the first big attempt, but it lacked the building of systems for economic ties - and left out a ticked-off Germany - and Keynesian tools to end great recessions so it failed back then). The UN and EC are really Functionalism 2.0

So SURE it was a direct response to the notion that left to our own devices life is nasty brutish and short! At core it has the underlying impulse to get everybody everywhere into non-zero-sum games, so that we all do prosper and so survive.

I’d add that its because the former “developing” nations still use functionalist tools like 5 year plans (try googling “national five year plan” you may be surprised at who has one) and system upgrade or replacement that they have been catching up.

Why it is failing in the EC is that like the US it has become WAY too top down, while foolishly it has left local levels to their own devices - in effect to flounder - rather than joining together to move up the ladder to the next rung

So. Onward to Functionalism 3.0

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/06/16 at 04:53 AM | #

Hi Hopeful

Well yes there is a gleeful joy in breaking things! They were not in good shape. Creative destruction at work. All real growth happens only when there are deliberate efforts to let go.

Trump, though, really represents the wrong model going forward. He’s in industries where there is very little innovation or teamwork and very few bright minds want to work.

Keep an eye out for the increasingly many articles that say the answer to his top-down authoritarianism and lack of knowhow is to make things work better locally.

I mentioned before that where you live could be a real node for this kind of growth. Book a hall!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/06/16 at 05:06 AM | #

I agree once again Pete, I’m making a habit of this now!

The problem with top down in anything is that almost always those at the top imposing their vision have had little or no experience of being at the bottom and thus little understanding of what will actually work.

I do think the people involved in such goings on are , for the most part, well intentioned. I’ve done a fair amount of it myself in fairness although I like to think I was less of a blunt instrument than some of my peers as I almost always sought consultation from below before imposing anything. I also encouraged innovation from below and ensured that proper recognition was given to anyone who improved growth or generally made things better.

Functionalism 3.0 as you say. Might be a while before we know what that looks like but it will be interesting to see it unfold. 2017 will be another seminal year I think.

Posted by davidmulhern on 12/06/16 at 08:03 AM | #

Hi davidmulhern

Yeah I’ve always sensed that the model was a natural for you. We could try drafting an article if you want, to be published there. You know about this, right?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/06/16 at 08:36 AM | #

Back at the end of the trial in 2009 the great Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini elegantly warned Americans not to get so over-heated, the trial and prior process had been careful and fair.

In today’s New York Times he is again elegantly trying to tamp down American concerns, this time about Italy as a whole.

Milan — The Italian republic is 70 years old, like the Vegas Strip and Donald J. Trump — and just as unpredictable.

In 1946 the Italians, in a passionate referendum, got rid of the monarchy. In 2016, again after a record turnout — 69 percent — their children and grandchildren fired Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, 41, and his government, the 63rd in those 70 years. Almost 60 percent of voters rejected the radical changes Mr. Renzi had proposed to the Constitution, which were largely aimed at streamlining the Italian government to make way for deep economic reforms.

Italy’s youngest-ever prime minister spoke just after midnight, his wife, Agnese, at his side. “I didn’t think they hated me so much,” he said tearfully.

Mr. Renzi burst onto the European stage three years ago, heralded as a new kind of Italian leader. But now his usual Tuscan braggadocio was gone; he seemed, all a sudden, like a grown-up Boy Scout who had done his best, and failed.

His mistake? Pledging, so early in the campaign, to resign if the reforms were rejected. Immediately it became a referendum on him. His opponents — the protest Five Star party, the anti-immigrant Northern League, Silvio Berlusconi and his old cronies on the center right, the überpopulist Fratelli d’Italia and the left flank of his own Democratic Party — all loved the drama of it. And so did the public: one against the rest! But politics is not an action movie. In real life the one generally loses. And he lost. Big time.

Here and abroad, columnists are dashing off dark warnings about the impending collapse of the euro, and maybe the European Union. After Brexit, Rexit! crow his opponents.

Not true. David Cameron didn’t have to call a referendum. But Mr. Renzi had no choice; in Italy, constitutional reforms must gain final approval from the people. This wasn’t an extraordinary event. In any other moment, it would have passed almost unremarked, as the demise of one more Italian government in a long string of them.

Moreover, in Britain, broadly speaking, older voters chose to leave the European Union, while the young voted to stay. In Italy, it’s the other way around. The young turned their backs on Mr. Renzi. It was not, as in Britain, a nostalgic vote; young Italians don’t want to return to a past they’ve never had.

They are angry about enormous youth unemployment. They hate begging for poorly paid temporary jobs — with an average monthly salary of 1,200 euros, or $1,300 — not enough to let them plan for the future. It’s no coincidence that affluent Milan is among the few large cities that voted “yes” (so did Bologna and Florence, Mr. Renzi’s hometown). All the others — from Rome to Turin, from Naples to Palermo, from Genoa to Bari — voted “no.” For all his talk about moving Italy into gear, Mr. Renzi forgot the key Clintonian lesson: “It’s the economy, stupid.” If the referendum had a larger meaning, it was a vote on Mr. Renzi’s place in Italian politics, not on Italy’s place in Europe.

Will the next government fix all this? Most unlikely. Youth unemployment and the chronically bad economic conditions of Southern Italy — which voted overwhelmingly against Mr. Renzi — need stronger leadership. The next government, most likely a caretaker until the next elections, will not provide that.

And who will lead that government? President Sergio Mattarella will appoint someone soon, but what will he or she do? Pass the budget; welcome European dignitaries in March for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which instituted the European Union in the first place; host the Group of 7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, in June. Who will support such a government? Probably only the ruling Democratic Party and, most likely, Silvio Berlusconi. Both know that, in the event of a snap election, they’d be wiped out by the populists.

Is Mr. Renzi’s tearful demise another bump after Mr. Trump, then? Not really. Mr. Trump’s victory was unexpected; Mr. Renzi’s defeat was entirely predictable. And Italy is not showing signs of post-traumatic stress, like America. The next prime minister will not be Beppe Grillo, the maverick populist (and admirer of Mr. Trump), nor as colorful, nor as lively. After the tumultuous 1,000 days of Mr. Renzi — who proposed a lot, accomplished a little and left few stones unturned — Italy wants to be quiet for a while.

That’s the problem, though. In restless times, relaxing is not an option. Italy is a G-7 country, as well as a founding member and one of the three remaining pillars of the European Union. Europe is shaking and the world is racing — though no one knows exactly where to. And if one wishes to help steer, one needs to sit in the front.

“Buona fortuna a noi tutti” — “Good luck to us all,” Mr. Renzi said at the end of his final news conference. But Italy will need a great deal more than luck this time.

Beppe Severgnini is a columnist for Corriere della Sera, the author of “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind” and a contributing opinion writer.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/06/16 at 08:43 AM | #

No party including Five Star is campaigning to leave the EC. Its the Euro that Five Star dont like.

If Italy ever returns to the Lira I’d suggest 2 Liras, one for the north, and one for the south.

My guess is that the northern Lira would rise above the Euro and Dollar as it is one of the most value adding locations on Earth.

The southern Lira would sink, and create a bonanza of jobs and exports down there.

The same argument applies to the US: a separate dollar for all the areas that voted for Trump would create a bonanza of jobs and exports there too.

(Remember Trump you read it here first!)

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/06/16 at 08:53 AM | #

There’s some interim news on the political situation in Italy summarized thus in our box at the top:

Headsup: PM Renzi informs President Mattarella of resignation but he stays on while President looks for a successor or a new coalition. If not? Probable snap election. Renzi sounding newly bullish in reports here and <a href=“”>here.

Machiavelli emails to again point to the in-depth article by Prof Anderson for good background:

Here is more from Machiavelli’s email:


Should we be reassured? The accurate answer is: no; meaning not more, and not less, than before.

Yesterday the Milan stock exchange gained 4.5% (and some banking titles such as Unicredit gained 12%). This means investors are not worried on the day after - why should we worry in their place?...

Italy remains an issue of huge concern, but this was independent from the referendum. The vote was not going to solve it no matter the result, and the “no” outcome is not going to make things worse, nor to change anything in the immediacy.

The Italy political situation is headed the same way, and would remain so no matter what the referendum result. There is no turmoil, no instability; rather a certification that officially tells that the situation is not going in the direction the people want.

As Prof. Anderson says in his essay Italy is a concentration of Europe, and the political evolvement of Italy usually anticipates wider phenomenons - in a degree often milder and more sophisticated - of something on a larger scale in Europe.

Looking forward to seeing what that might be. I cant see everybody getting what they hope for without (1) Italy reverting to the Lira - above I suggested two Liras; and (2) countries to the south of Europe (and the US) getting on more of a fast track and so slowing migration.

So much wealth in the hands of so few who invest so badly if at all is strangling all of us. Dont look to plutocrats for answers as Italy hopefully post-Berlusconi hopefully knows well.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/07/16 at 07:57 PM | #

Re Oscars. The 15 documentaries on the Oscar “long list” to be reduced by voting to five does not include Netflix’s “Amanda Knox”.

Not that this highly dishonest report deserves to be on any list of good works but we had been rather hoping that the Oscar people would be duped to get more attention to our coming media wars.

The two I’ve seen, in bold below, are just terrific. Zero Days about the super-virus that messed with Iran’s nuclear program is the best on computer warfare I have seen.  It has been on cable TV.

The Eagle Huntress is about what it says! It has been on in 2 theaters in NYC. On the 16th it will get much wider distribution in the US. DONT MISS!!

While I loved everything about the eagle, and the life on the Mongolian steppes, the clothes and how they live, it was the totally fearless way the 13-year-old girl rode her horse that stuck most with me.

“Cameraperson,” Big Mouth Productions

“Command and Control,” American Experience Films/PBS

“The Eagle Huntress,” Stacey Reiss Productions, Kissiki Films and 19340 Productions

“Fire at Sea,” Stemal Entertainment

“Gleason,” Dear Rivers Productions, Exhibit A and IMG Films

“Hooligan Sparrow,” Little Horse Crossing the River

“I Am Not Your Negro,” Velvet Film

“The Ivory Game,” Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Productions

“Life, Animated,” Motto Pictures and A&E IndieFilms

“O.J.: Made in America,” Laylow Films and ESPN Films

“13th,” Forward Movement

“Tower,” Go-Valley

“Weiner,” Edgeline Films

“The Witness,” The Witnesses Film

“Zero Days,” Jigsaw Productions

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/08/16 at 11:33 AM | #

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