Italy’s Malaise

The NY Times has an insightful article describing Italians’ current unhappiness with themselves and their country.  They see Italy declining, but they don’t see any way to stop the decline.

In the 1990s Italians had an opportunity to go in a different direction.  There were a number of ballot measures (“referendums”) that would have given a serious jolt to Italy’s political, economic, and judicial institutions.  Unfortunately, Italy has a terribly undemocratic rule:  if fewer than 50% of eligible voters vote on a ballot measure, the measure is deemed invalid.  So what happened?  Italians debated whether to vote or not, and enough of them decided to sabotage the measures by not voting.  Although around 90% of those who voted voted for change, they were  fewer than 50% of the eligible voters.  As a result, the measures did not pass, and everything stayed the same.

Having spent considerable time collecting signatures to help put the measures of the ballot, I was sorely disappointed.  I thought:  “If so many Italians are unwilling to seek change, there is no way that anything is going to improve any time soon.  Italy is going to decline for years to come.  I had better get out of here.”  That’s a big reason why I left and never considered going back.

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