Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: mario monti

Il festival dell’economia

Every time I talk with people abroad I have the feeling they really do not know the place where I come from. Trento is famous only because the Council of Trento, one of the most important events in the modern history of Europe. But not many people know the modern history of Europe well, so they have no reason to know Trento. Of course, Trento has beautiful lakes and mountains, but we probably prefer to keep them hidden to avoid massive tourism.

Now Trento is trying to become famous through a Festival. Il Festival dell’Economia was created in 2006 and this year it features its 8th edition. Economists, politicians and academics from the most varied disciplines will discuss the question of “Sovereignty in Conflict” from 30 May to 2 June. The Festival opens and closes with two Nobel Economics Prize-winners: Michael Spence returns for the inauguration on 30 May to discuss “Government of the global manufacturing chain”, while in the closing session on 2 June James Mirrlees will consider the viability of abandoning the Euro. Other notable speakers are George Papaconstantinou, former Greek Minister of Finance, Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, Nemat Shafik, Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund, Michael Sandel, Colin Crouch, Roberto Escobar, Sylvie Goulard,Eric Jozsef, Andrew Moravcsik, Mario Monti, Piero Giarda, Giuliano Amato, Lucia Annunziata, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Laura Boldrini, Stefano Rodotà, Chiara Saraceno, and of course Sergio Fabbrini, my former professor,

These are great names. But think about the contents too. In fact, the main strength of the Festival lies in the capacity of the organizers to identify fascinating topics and to stimulate discussions by creating the right atmosphere. I love the fact that most of the talks are held in the most fascinating places of the city in a very relaxed and informal setting, during what I consider to be the best period of the year.

Let us be clear: I am very sorry I will not be able to attend the festival this year, as I am in Brussels. I will follow the event through the twitter hashtag #FestivalEconomia. You might consider doing the same and attending the Festival next year. I will be happy to provide you a place to sleep.

Italian elections 2013

The next weekend there is going to be a long awaited political election in Italy. With six days to voting day, here’s what I think will happen.

The centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani’s Partito Democratico will win a majority in both the chambers of the house, probably with a larger margin in the lower house. The centre-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi’s Freedom’s People Party will get between 20 and 25% of the votes. Giuseppe Grillo will get more than 15% of the votes, perhaps even 20%. Mario Monti will get about 15%, probably less. The other parties and coalitions seriously risk not hitting the 4% threshold required to enter parliament.

Three traditionally right-wing regions are crucial for the final victory: they are Veneto, Sicily and Lombardia. I expect the centre-left to win in two of these three regions, although by a very narrow margin.

However, there will very little to celebrate. Due to the extreme fragmentation of the political system and to a terrible voting system, the centre-left victory will be extremely fragile. To be allowed to govern, sooner or later the left-wing will have to rely on Monti’s support. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Personally, I hope that Monti could bring a very positive contribution to limit the contractual power of the most radical part of the centre-left coalition, that is represented by old-school communists as Nicola Vendola and Stefano Fassina. These are great politicians when it comes to the rhetoric, but terrible leaders when it comes to public policy-making.

I am also extremely worried by Giuseppe Grillo and his supporters. This movement is riding a violent, populistic and antagonistic campaign and it is very hard to imagine how it can bring a positive contribution to the next parliament.

Finally, I have grown indifferent to the people that will vote – once again – for Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition. I have come to the conclusion that these voters are either ignorant (they are not informed on the actual facts and figures), stupid (they get fascinated by false and misleading narratives), or selfish (they believe in heavy tax cuts, which by the way were promised by Berlusconi in 1994, 2001, 2008, and never delivered). Even more likely, they are a combination of the three.