Candido: or, A Dream Dreamed in Sicily
Since the Second World War, Italy has managed, with characteristic artistry, to create a society that combines a number of the least appealing aspects of socialism with practically all the vices of capitalism. This was not the work of a day. A wide range of political parties has contributed to the invention of modern Italy, a state whose vast metastasizing bureaucracy is the last living legacy anywhere on earth of the house of Bourbon (Spanish branch). In fact, the allegedly defunct Kingdom of the Two Sicilies has now so entirely engulfed the rest of the peninsula that the separation between Italian state and Italian people is nearly perfect.
Although the Italian treasury loves the personal income tax quite as much as other treasuries, any attempt to collect tax money is thwarted not only by the rich (who resemble their counterparts in the land of the free and the home of the tax accountant), but by nearly everyone else. Only those unfortunate enough to live on fixed incomes (e.g., industrial workers, school-teachers) are trapped by the withholding tax, Zio Sam’s sly invention. Since many Italians are either not on a payroll or, if they are, have a second job, they pay little or no personal tax to a state which is then obliged to raise money through a series of value added and sales taxes. Needless to say, the treasury is often in deficit, thanks not only to the relative freedom from taxation enjoyed by its numerous entrepreneurs (capitalist Italy) but also to the constant drain on the treasury of the large state-owned money-losing industrial consortia (socialist Italy).
Last year one fourth of the national deficit went to bail out state-controlled industries. As a result, the Communist Party of Italy is perhaps the only Communist Party anywhere on earth that has proposed, somewhat shyly, the return of certain industries to the private sector of the economy. As the former governor of the Bank of Italy, Guido Carli, put it: “The progressive introduction of socialistic elements into our society has not made us a socialist society. Rather, it has whittled down the space in which propulsive economic forces can operate.”
The Italians have made the following trade-off with a nation-state which none of them has ever much liked: if the state will not interfere too much in the lives of its citizens (that is, take most of their money in personal taxes), the people are willing to live without a proper postal service, police force, medical care—all the usual amenities of a European industrialized society. But, lately, the trade-off has broken down. Italy suffers from high inflation, growing unemployment, a deficit of some $50 billion. As a result, there are many Italians who do not in the least resemble Ms. Wert-muller’s joyous, life-enhancing, singing waiters. Millions of men and women have come to hate the house of Bourbon in whose stifling rooms they…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.