- Published: Tuesday, 15 October 2019 07:34
The triple vacancies of #Italian #politics within a #relationship-based #economy
Not too long ago, while sipping an iced tea in a pub in Turin, I was sharing with a friend some considerations of few usual themes.
One of the themes was obviously how our élites are now chronically reinterpreting what is the “common good” short-term, i.e. whenever funding is needed, but otherwise...
...thinking long-term seems to be elusive for all the parties within the Italian society, when it comes to investments and their lifecycle.
Anyway, I wrote about that extensively in 2018, within an article Per una politica industriale che veda oltre le prossime elezioni #industry40 #GDPR #cybersecurity / For an industrial policy that survives election cycles #industry40 #GDPR #cybersecurity, as well as a short book Just another book on innovation (in Italy) (vol. 4 of "Connecting the Dots") ISBN 978-1723163937 (the book can be read for free online as a "flipbook", but is also available on Amazon).
And we have another couple of related issues: as I keep writing often, Italy is a "tribal" country, and this often has impacts on two levels, operational and strategic, to use old concepts.
Tactical? Well, if the base of the pyramid is "liquid" (actually, by "bubbles" of more or less compact "tribes" and their chain of connections), anything above that has to be "flexible".
And in order to obtain that flexibility, while still retaining a kind of coherence and direction, we... routinely look for a "leader" that will save us from ourselves.
I will not repeat what I wrote e.g. in January 2017 in Italian, Il paese dei leader, then, few months ago, in English Il paese dei leader / The leaders' country takes a page from Vichy.
As it is the case for most of my online posts since 2008, and my 2003-2005 online e-zine on cultural and organizational change, BusinessFitnessMagazine / BFM, this post too is part of my "continuous drafting" exercises, while preparing for new initiaties and new books (see https://robertolofaro.com/published for those published between 2012 and 2019).
Therefore, I will develop the ideas later.
Let's just say that, whenever I have to compare my birthplace with other countries where I lived, worked, or routinely visited in the 1990s, I always think to an article I read in the early 1990s within an Italian weekly magazine, comparing UK, Germany, Italy.
I should be more precise: comparing cross-ownership in banking.
Paraphrasing a book that I am re-reading now...
...Germany (back then): three-dimensional
...Italy: a multiverse.
In the 1990s and 2000s, this created "some" issues in banking, and even in the 2010s we had few scandals with industrialists and others using banks as if they were their personal wallet- but the number of banks in Italy in the 1990s was sensibly higher than it is now.
Anyway, this "maze" isn't a novelty: in the late XIX century, we had the scandalo della Banca Romana, while in the late XX century we had the "furbetti del quartierino".
I wonder what would be the late XXI century banking scandal...
Extend that to other industries, and you understand why, despite having adopted with gusto the typical Anglo-American "watchdog" approach (we are prodigious generators of oversight entities), it seems that we are converging with what my British colleagues in the 1990s called the "pussycat" or "lapdog" oversight.
Or: add more watchdogs, and at most they can deliver slaps on the wrist focused on past market-distorting behavior when it becomes blatant, but preventing nothing, even when it is there to see- a different regulatory approach, that now covers many industries, and routinely generates new counterbalancing, social rage control entities in the form of "consumer associations".
And this is why, even recently, while writing about the future of Industry 4.0 and digital transformation, I felt compelled to complete with "quis custodiet ipsos custodes": the oversight of overseers is no joke.
Anyway, many political careers have been built on top of perceived inability of the current regulatory framework to solve issues.
As our Italian solution is to pile on top of a disfunctional market economy watchdogs, and then on top of watchdogs a Commission within the Parliament.
As an example, we had investigative commissions on organized crime and mafias since the XIX century- and as I reported to my contacts abroad since decades, we turned that, writing, and expressing public outrage at their expansion into an industry, adding also a war of attrition, while moving from expansion to gentrification of organized crime.
Now, if you overlap the framework listed above to mutual social obligations, it is even more complex.
Luckily, few days ago a connection on Facebook posted a 3D representation .
Mark the time: as I wrote in previous articles, in my parent's cellar I have books on both the evolution of the Italian economy and organized crime, and I still have one stating that mafias in the 1990s had a turnover of 50,000 bln Italian Liras, i.e. approximately 25bln EUR.
Not too long ago, it was assessed at over 100bln EUR: how many Italian businesses did grow that way?
If you consider that statistics that I shared yesterday on Facebook reports that, in Italy, the whole #AI and #robotics industries have a turnover of 60bln EUR, with 104k companies occupying 429k employees, you can have a reference element on what could be impacts.
I already wrote in the past on how Italians seems to be enthusiastic creators of virtual currencies, ICOs, etc: certainly the money laundering costs are lower, and there is no better storage of value where you can actually increase the output while washing, by "influencing" prices, and leaving no physical trace behind.
Economic crises help to expand the grip on the economy of those who are swimming in cash, and organized crime has been using all the potential venues to reinvest cash: gentrification in one location helps in building up a legit springboard to then invest in other jurisdictions.
Well, all the above was just an introduction, specifically a socio-economic-political introduction (read details at the articles listed above).
The main theme is actually the one represented within the title.
As I wrote above, routinely we Italians overcome the maze of mutual obligations by looking for a "leader" that will save us from ourselves (and our tribal habits).
But since the 1980s, gradually the post-WWII generation and its "stability" of sort were phased out, and over the latest couple of decades the round-robin of "leaders" (or wannabees) has been accelerating pace.
Another element that we lost (frankly, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall) was our traditional political parties that were more or less providing both structure and territorial/class control, along with a kind of "teleological" perspective.
People of my age range, i.e. in their 50s, or above, who were actively involved in Italian politics before the end of the Cold War, routinely say that back then in Italy we actually had two "churches"- the Roman Catholic (represented by the Christian Democrats) and the Communist party (the largest in what was back then called Western Europe).
So, I think that now you can understand what are the three vacancies in Italian politics: we lack a long-term purpose, we lack political parties that are contributing toward that end also through their presence within territories, and... we lack leaders that are credible enough to build a following on the previous two elements.
Or, in business terms: we lack a mission, an organization, and those leading the organization.
When I hear in public libraries students who either aspire to become an influencer or to be elected in Parliament, but in both cases have no clue about "why", I think that what I saw in the early 1980s within the youth organizations of political parties was a golden age, also if it was my prime motivation to focus instead on delivering change via business, as politics was already too corrupt and career-oriented back then in many of those "buddying professional politicians".
What we get then? The incumbents try to "carpet bag" whatever they can, and procrastinate any change, confident in their inability to cope with change, as we lost most of those who took risks toward a goal (that you share or not their goal, is here irrelevant), and expanded the roll of those cocooning or trying to cocoon.
Even funnier when that cocooning is wrapped into the flag of "change".
Since 2013 we are just accelerating the use of the idea that political parties without a leader find plenty of candidates for leadership, but eventually, in our supposedly post-idealistic (some would say opportunistic) times, they fail as soon as their followers have doubts, or, quite simply, the new "leaders" forget that leading a mob is a short-term affair, while leading an organization could be longer-term, but require a completely different mindset.
A mob-leader is a darling of the crowds, ofter riding the wave, more than setting the pace.
An organization (business, political) leader has sometimes to displease followers while keeping then still willing to follow.
It is not just a matter of quid-pro-quo (you follow, you get benefits, I get leadership): in doubt, you support ("follow" is probably too much to ask for) as it is better than the alternatives (or so you believe).
Instead, we Italians look often for saints, and then complain when the supposed saint is just... as Italian as we are.
Former President of the Council of Ministers Matteo Renzi (many say Prime Minister, but that is yet another "cultural import" from other countries, not even supported by current local laws) took over the leadership of the Partito Democratico from other incumbents, brought the "followers" up to 40%+ of the vote for the European Parliament a legislature ago, and then lost it out of hubris, assuming that he was personally that "teleological" missing element.
Ditto for Matteo Salvini, who in the first Conte Government (2018-2019) was a Minister of the Interior (Home Secretary) who routinely went around with a wristband evoking his own potential next role as... Premier, as Salvini too got an existing party (Northern League) and converted it into a personal vehicle.
Anyway, unable to find a reason to exist beside stating "we are different, we will change" both what is left of traditional parties and "new" are doing the other way around.
The only political party that currently has a territorial presence is the League (still iffy outside its original area, Northern Italy), formerly known as Northern League.
The "new kid on the block" M5S is experimenting merging with Partito Democratico to potentially try another route: first find a "raison to exist", while components might create a presence around the country built around a common ground.
The forerunner of Partito Democratico, the Communist Party, used to have a strong presence around the country, but then that became a nuisance when the Partito Democratico absorbed a large chunk of the former Christian Democrats and other centrist parties, i.e. when the "top" of the pyramid started playing a different tune from the "bottom".
It was quite funny when a self-appointed potential leader joined the Partito Democratico, and in one of his first meeting uttered "call me comrade"- as he was from a completely different tradition from either the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats, probably he had lost touch with the reality of the Partito Democratico... but he didn't last long, before moving on to found a new party, assuming that the votes he obtained courtesy of Partito Democratico were his followers.
The current issue for both M5S and Partito Democratico is mainly a "disposal problem", as existing cadres and managers at the local level have their own diverging interests, and would be in many cases marginalized if the merger were to go ahead.
They would be as out of touch as that recent wannabe leader.
As for other political parties: both on the centre-right and centre-left there are wannabe leaders who had strong hope to takeover either Forza Italia (centre-right) or Partito Democratico (centre-left), and have been left hanging to dry from both Matteo Salvini's de facto takeover of the centre-right and the internecine wars within the Partito Democratico.
Internecine wars that include the creation of the new "splinter cell" created by Matteo Renzi, a new party that is absorbing methods (somebody would say even the name) from left, centre, right, including from M5S, while being both within the second Conte Government and preparing its own alternative "offer".
But, as I wrote above, this is just a bit of a draft for something else that I will write later on this year.
For the time being, as only a major crisis might shatter the "tribal maze" visualized above (and that is simpler than a representation that I have in mind- more about this in future publications), probably we are still stuck with the three vacancies, and various attempts at creating a "mix" that will, at least for a while, fill all the three elements and aggregate consensus.
Until somebody else offers a different mix.
In both business and politics, unless the maze of mutual obligations is considered second fiddle toward making the optimal choices to build a sustainable society (not just in economic terms), the usual "way forward" is to create new vehicles using the assets of those organizations that you considered, à la Sartre, impossible to escort into the new era.
As I wrote in my early comment on the new Government, published a month ago, there are still way too many politicians that turned into self-styled patricians and behave as if they were those WWII lone soldiers left behind on small islands.
So, but this applies also to Italian businesses, not just Italian political entities, instead of phasing out (with all the associated social changes), we take a shortcut: create something new that acts as a "safety boat" for selected few, using the resources of the existing vessel, and then sink the old vessel.
Other countries have been re-inventing themselves using the 2008 crisis as an opportunity (some would say excuse) to restructure, we in Italy instead looked as collectively we were a deer seeing a car approach at night: freezing, standing still, and now... trying to build up a pair of wings à la Icarus to fly away.
We like miracles- but, as I wrote before, in 1999, when my foreign colleagues were worried about Italy going berserk on January 1st 2000 as apparently nobody was ready for the famous "Y2K" bug (even the IMF etc issued warnings), I replied that our apparent inability to act was just a surface thing, as, in reality, we had plenty of "preparation" long before, as I had worked on a project that included preparing for Y2K in... 1987.
Only: in Italy, the maze of mutual obligations implies that even those that understand what is going to happen avoid stating that publicly, as the "shooting the messenger" hunting season in Italy is never closed, and anybody who dares to state the obvious is impacting on mutual obligations.
How many? Well... I would say, with Pirandello, "uno, nessuno, centomila".
Have a nice day, and stay tuned!