Thursday, March 1, 2012
The Tea Party in Italy
Pointed toward the face book page for the Italian Tea Party, I must admit I was surprised to see so many American flags on display. I was downright stunned to see a Confederate flag on display (causing me to question whether Italians are aware of the connotations it has on this side of the pond) but in all honesty I could not help but feel a slight surge of pride to see the Texas flag displayed as well. Okay, admittedly, when it comes to Texas and Texans our pride surges fairly easily but they didn’t choose the Massachusetts flag, the South Carolina flag or the Idaho flag did they? Nope, it was the Lone Star of Texas and so that may have made me a bit partial even at first glance. In all seriousness though, I was in fact a bit troubled by how lonely the Italian tricolor looked amongst this rather American-dominated vexillogical display. I was also struck by how plain and empty the solitary Italian tricolor looked without the Savoy royal crest in the center. Surely an Italian Tea Party would be supporters of the old Kingdom of Italy and their former Royal Family?
Usually, in my experience, this often involves the Italian participation in World War I which was around the time that Italian political leaders first began to toss around the phrase “sacred egotism” or ‘sacred self-interest’. The self-righteous attitude adopted by many toward the Kingdom of Italy in this regard, frankly always stunk of rank hypocrisy to me. After all, how many nations involved in World War I were not motivated by self-interest? Belgium was not certainly but who else? Perhaps Russia, certainly as concerns the Russian Empire it did not turn out to be in the interests of Russia to charge into war on behalf of Serbia. But Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, Great Britain, Ottoman Turkey, Japan etc all had self-interested reasons for getting involved. And, again, I am not criticizing them for that in and of itself. Do we not expect governments to act in the best interests of their people? Perhaps the Italians were simply a little more honest about it. I never understood why the Kingdom of Italy was so often criticized for her territorial demands by countries who gained far, far more vast territorial concessions out of the conflict. It does not seem dastardly to me for a country that makes the supreme sacrifice of war to expect to have something to show for it when it is over. Great Britain and France added greatly to their colonial empires by the war and the Royal Houses of Serbia and Romania each gained far more territory from the conflict than Italy did despite the fact that each were conquered by the Central Powers during the course of it.
There was also a time when the Savoy monarchy was criticized in the same way for being champions of free trade, something else prized by most libertarians, doing business with countries others thought should be off-limits. The first minister of the first King of Italy was well known for his acceptance of the profit motive and his pragmatic saying that, “Free institutions tend to make people richer” and that his efforts were not about destroying the old order at all. Cavour tried to reassure the class that had, over great periods of time, risen to the top by saying, “You will see gentlemen, how reforms carried out in time, instead of weakening authority, reinforce it; instead of precipitating revolution, they prevent it.” Indeed, one could look back all the way to Renaissance Italy and see in the incredible success of the city-states such as Genoa and Venice a clear example of the profit motive at work. How else could one perpetually flooded city founded by refugees rise to become the dominant economic and naval power of the eastern Mediterranean? What else made Genoa the economic center of western Europe? Italian Tea Party members of all people should recognize that profit is not a dirty word nor is acting in your own self-interest inherently wicked. They probably already do but they should apply those principles to the republic vs. monarchy debate as well.
When a King does what is in his own best interests the country naturally tends to do better. When a collection of politicians, all claiming to represent the interests of the people, naturally do what is in their own best interest instead, all of their interests conflicting with each other, you get disaster. Or, you get the state of the Italian republic as it is today. Given the state Italy (and many others) is in today, I think some libertarianism, in any amount, would probably do them some good as far as their economy goes. For basically at least the last 90 years Italy has had a socialistic, state-run economy. Today we are witnessing the result of that so a little competition and respect for private property might be something they would want to at least consider.