[ExI] Italy's Social Capital

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Sun Jun 3 10:38:50 UTC 2007

>Is there nothing constructive the Fascists could have done?"

Well, they did some things. They drained the swamps and started regular
insecticide sprays to eliminate the malaria-carrying mosquitos. There
are still aggressive tiger mosquitos in the summer, but they are no
longer carrying malaria...

Oh.. but you mean _social investing_.


Sorry, I just came back from Estonia (and Latvia). I remember very well
the Soviet times. In FIFTEEN YEARS Estonia has transformed their country
into an efficient, bouyant, flexible living and working environment that
I think, with the exception of the nonexistence of a country-wide train
system, beats any in the EU and most in the U.S. Fifteen years *starting
from a Soviet-level infrastructure*! In the 4.5 years I have lived in
Italy, I have seen no improvement (but one : last week I gained web
access to my bank account, yay!) in any functioning of services, but
instead more "degradation", more bureaucracy, more permissions,
documents, papers, more time, more queues..

It was not a miracle in Estonia. It was simply the collective will of
about 1.5 million people (the population) who wanted changes. That
doesn't exist where I live in Italy; they do no want to change, or else,
why haven't they done it?

>Amara writes
>  > To have any productivity in this particular country where the
>>  infrastructure is broken, one _must_ have also the social and
>>  familial network (to get help from someone who knows
>>  someone who knows someone who knows someone who
>>  knows someone ...) Italy does not not run by merit
>>  (i.e. skills, experience, competence), it runs by who you know.
>In the book "Trust" Fukuyama listed among his examples
>northern Italy (where trust is high) as opposed to southern Italy
>where it isn't.

Giulio Prisco told me that he thinks that where I live (Rome area)
is probably the most broken in Italy, and he posits that even Sicily is
better. I am skeptical, but he could be right. I've had Italian friends
from northern Italy visit me and be continually be surprised at how poorly
things function where I live.

>I cannot help but wonder what long term solutions might be
>available to Italians who love their country.

That's your mistake. Italians do _not_ love their country. They love
their: 1) family, 2) town, 3) local region, and that's it. Patriotism
doesn't exist (except in soccer).

(I think that is a good thing, btw.)

>  My particular,
>my focus now is on the Fascist era, and I'm reading a quite
>thick but so far quite enjoyable book "Mussolini's Italy".
>Even in the movie "Captain Corelli's Mandolin", one
>strongly senses that the Fascists were trying as best they
>knew how to solve this problem and make the average
>Italian develop Fukuyama's "trust" in other Italians, and
>develop their social capital (amid the corruption, etc.).

They could have done better with education. Something happened between
Mussolini's era and the 1950s. When the country was 'rebuilt' after the
war, they focused on the classics and downplayed the technology and
physical sciences and it has steadily decreased to what we have today.

The young people learn very little science in grade school through high
school. The Italian Space Agency and others put almost nothing (.3%)
into their budgets for Education and Public Outreach to improve the
situation. If any scientist holds the rare press conference on their
work results, there is a high probability that the journalists will get
it completely wrong and the Italian scientist won't correct them. The
top managers at aerospace companies think that the PhD is a total waste
of time. This year, out of 75,000 entering students for the Rama
Sapienza University (the largest in Italy), only about 100 are science
majors (most of the the rest were "media": journalism, television, etc.)

Without _any_ technical skill, there is no base to build something
better, and with pressure from the culture telling one how worthless is
technology and science (as what exists today), there is no motivation
and no money, either.  This generation is lost.

>Of course, it hardless needs to be said that the Fascists
>were a brutal, repressive, and abominable regime. This
>book "Mussolini's Italy" spares nothing here, and was
>even described by one reviewer as "unsympathetic".
>Still---given the nearly absolute power the Fascists wielded
>for about three decades---wasn't there anything that they
>could have done?  That is, instead of trying to foment
>patriotism by attempted military victories in Ethiopia
>and Libya (a 19th century colony of theirs), wouldn't it have
>been somehow possible to divert their resources to more
>effectively "homogenizing" Italy in some other way?

This is very funny... sorry! :-)
You have to experience Italy  for yourself.

>(I must say that as a libertarian, I'd much prefer that everyone
>---especially including a small minimal government---mind their
>own business.  Here, I'm just considering a theoretical
>question concerning how groups might reaquire their asabiya
>and their social capital.)

Unless there is a way to strengthen the bonds between the tiny
clusters (families, towns), I don't see how. The solution required
here would be more of a social one, but technology could help.

>I have two ideas, only one of which is outrageous. But the first
>one is to have universal millitary service for all young people
>between ages 14 and 25. By mixing them thoroughly with
>Italians from every province, couldn't trust evolve, and in
>such a way that the extreme parochialism of the countryside
>could be reduced?  The 25-year-olds could return with
>a better attitude to "outsiders" (e.g. other Italians), and
>with a much stronger sense of "being Italian" as opposed to
>being Calabrian, or just being the member of some clan.

Hmm.. The libertarian in me hates the above.

>(My outrageous idea is that instead of trying to subdue
>Ethiopia, what if Sicily and other areas of the south could
>have been "subdued" instead?

Or what if all of that crude oil that Sicily is sitting on was
extracted and refined ...?  A little bit of wealth could help.

>Stalin managed to force the
>relocation of huge numbers of people, so couldn't
>Mussolini have done the same?

Gads!  My father lost his country for 50 years. This idea
of yours definitely leaves  a sour taste in my mouth.

>Ah, but alas, the history of "social engineering" and "social
>planning" doesn't have a very good track record, now,
>does it?

For good reason.....  !

The Italians have implicitly solved the situation for themselves,
you know. Those who don't have strong familial duties keeping
them in Italy, simply leave.



Amara Graps, PhD      www.amara.com
INAF Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario (IFSI), Roma, ITALIA
Associate Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute (PSI), Tucson

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