[ExI] Italy's Social Capital

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Jun 3 17:05:35 UTC 2007

Oops, I missed Amara's post.

> > 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...

I would like to know if this took place in northern or southern Italy,
or both.  And if it did take place in the south, it seems you agree
that it never would have occurred except at the instigation of the
northern conquerors (e.g., the Italian nation, or in this case the

> Oh.. but you mean _social investing_.
> Nope.
> 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*!

Very interesting.

> 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?

My guess would be that those like Fukuyama (trust) and those like
Peter Turchin (asabiya) and those who write about social capital
address this issue, and explain why whatever-it-is is somehow missing.
There *must*  be cultural and historical reasons.

> 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 don't understand at all.  That is, why in the world would Rome
be worse than southern Italy or Calabria (for example)?  Peter
Turchin explains in "War and Peace and War" that the northern
Italians found themselves on a meta-ethnic frontier for many,
many hundreds of years, and that this instilled asabiya (defined
to be "the capacity for concerted collective social action). But
I always though that southern Italy was even worse off.

> [Lee wrote]
> > 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.)

Didn't the Fascists like Mussolini "love their country"?  Surely
there must be quite a few Italians who are as patriotic as, say,
Russians or Japanese?

>>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.

Amazing.  Thanks for that.

> 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.)

The most modern economists seem to agree with your. Investment
in education now appears in their models to pay good dividendes.
Still, this has to be only part of the story.  The East Europeans (e.g.
Romanians) and the Soviets plowed enormous expense into creating
the world's best educated populaces, but, without the other key
factors---rule of law and legislated and enforces respect for private
property---it *was* basically a waste.

> 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.

I had no idea that it was this bad.  Perhaps---ignoring all the evil they
did---had the Fascists stayed out of wars and aaattempted colonization,
they could have understood and addressed this problem in the 1940s
and 1950s?   (Still, at some point, a high regard as described above
for private property---which would have in all likelihood entailed an
overthrow of the Fascists---would also have been necessary in the
1960s.)  Otherwise, what are we to make of this?  That some
countries/people just "have what it takes" and others don't?  Seems
like an incomplete and unsatisfactory understanding.

>>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.

Yes  :-)  I guess so.  But again, it seems incredible that such
invincible pessimism is unjustified. Let's use our imaginations
(just because it is entertaining).  What if new drugs raised
the average Italian IQ of 102 (one of Europe's highest) to
130?   What if northern Italian companies do to the south
what northern American companies have done and are
doing to the south and to the sunbelt states, namely move
in and begin training the populations to be more productive?
And ...?

>>(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.

Could you elaborate?   Or is it just too speculative and too

>>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.

Yes, me too.  Especially since we're rather close to radical
world-wide technological changes, and there isn't time. 
But it looks like I'll be haunted by what the Fascists *could*
have done (assuming that they didn't know that in the long
run it really wasn't necessary for individual Italian's true

> 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.

And that's just what happened to America's black ghettos.
The black people living there who had exactly the qualities
necessary to revitalize neighborhoods all picked up and left,
once it was permitted.


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