by Daniele Scalea

A libertarian Right in Italy

Two hundred years ago, Manzoni decided to "rinse the laundry in Arno" of the Italian language. With his Per una nuova Destra ("For a new Right"), Daniele Capezzone wants to rinse the cloths of our political area in the Thames and in the Potomac (or perhaps it would be more appropriate to indicate the Texan Brazos). In the 250 pages produced by the leading signature of "La Verità" newspapers, every example given and every recommended reading comes from the "Anglosphere", from which Capezzone draws numerous lessons applicable to our country. In nuce, this book proposes to launch also in Italy an American-style libertarian Right: "anti-tax, pro-freedom, pro-market", to use the words recurrent in the work.

I will be frank: the libertarianism advocated by Capezzone is fascinating but does not correspond completely to the ideal Right of the writer of this review. It would be inelegant and unfair to a book of undoubted value to put my opinions before its synthesis. Postponing, therefore, the more personal considerations to the end of the article, let's begin by summarizing why this book is precious and what valuable ideas it offers us, regardless of the agreement with Capezzone's ideal.

A complement to conservatism and sovereignism

A first very appreciable element in the text is that the libertarian Right is not antagonistically opposed to the conservative or "national-populist". The author is obviously convinced that the one he proposes is the best version of the Right (it would be unusual if it were not so), but thinks in a perspective of "wide field" or, to use the Anglo-Saxon terminology, "big tent". The objective is not to trash the others, but to add "a piece of the right". And this libertarian piece, if it is to the detriment of someone, is to the detriment of the "moderates", who Capezzone rightly brands as electorally irrelevant and always ready to give in to the Left.

Why we miss this piece of the Right

The cover

That a libertarian Right, which looks - as Capezzone indicates in his book - to Clint Eastwood, Gregor Norqvist or Ronald Reagan, is preferable to the "moderates" who look to Renzi and Calenda, is not much merit for the former. What instead constitutes real merit is that the author advocates a Right that has freedom as its fundamental reference value, and not protection (like the conservative Right) or rights (like the Left). The last two years of pandemic authoritarian involution has revealed this need: the Right has responded to Conte's Chinese methods by invoking even more rigor, and then distinguished itself (especially with Forza Italia ministers) for authoritarianism under Draghi.

The unknowns for the future are many and distressing. Capezzone notes that the pandemic has had the socio-political effect of a war: that is, it opens up a range of possibilities that were previously unimaginable. Among them there is the concrete danger of a "new socialism": the answer to the double sanitary and economic crisis could lead to a State that controls everything. Above all, because the pandemic, explains the author, has zeroed out society's propensity to take risks: today the prevailing mirage is that of "zero risk", relying on the father-master of Palazzo Chigi. Thus, if the Left tries to make everyone dependent on the State (either because they are public employees or because they are subsidized), the Right, on the contrary, should work to emancipate as many people as possible, making itself the champion of the private sector.

Discovering the "social base"

Capezzone writes that the Right must find its class dimension, as a party not of the rich but of workers and entrepreneurs, of those who want to get rich and not depend on the State. He also uses, provocatively, the phrase "class struggle" (not new even in non-Marxist circles: think of a book of a few years ago by Michael Lind).

Perhaps we could discuss on the exact contours of this "social base", but it is already a merit just to have put the issue to the attention of our political representatives, who too often do not seem to realize that they take votes from one side and then use them to the advantage of others (who vote for the Democratic Party...). The interclass social coalition of small entrepreneurs, self-employed and private employees (including workers), vague by Capezzone, can already be an excellent "reminder" for these leaders, when called to make choices on policies to support or oppose.

How to keep everyone together

Obviously Capezzone poses himself the problem of keeping together such different components as libertarians, conservatives, sovereignists and populists. And he does it with a courageous proposal: that of the great unitary party.

Clearly, in Italy, such a scheme raises more than one perplexity. These concerns are of a purely practical nature: in a country where the voting system tends towards proportionality, and is known for its ability to divide itself into a sea of factions and sub-factions, the proliferation of "identity" parties appears to pay off in electoral terms. Other perplexities are dictated by experience: the Democratic Party (PD), which was to federate the Left, has had a troubled history; the People of Freedom (PdL), which was to federate the Right, has survived a few years.

That others have failed does not mean that the underlying philosophy is wrong. The PD has not been able to modernize and readily include new souls of "progressivism" that were emerging, leaving room for M5S; then Renzi with his "master" attitude has done the rest. The PdL, on the other hand, lacked internal democracy, the indispensable mechanism for keeping more souls together.

The primaries

Capezzone proposes to the Right an American-style internal democracy, with open primaries at every level, for a successful and united project. The author believes that we can already start the experiment with a primary election to designate the head of the coalition in view of the next political elections: and this would undoubtedly be better than the fratricidal competition that starts one minute after the closing of the polling stations and ends with their reopening five years later. I would like to remind you that the writer of this article, a few months ago, proposed primary elections also to identify mayoral candidates.

An open primary system would be at its best in a more structured context, that of a unitary party. Allowing souls and currents to challenge each other and compete, bringing out the instances and people who really correspond to the real country: "[the primaries] would also serve as a healthy blood transfusion, to allow not only a physiological change of leaders and ruling classes (in itself wearable and worn in a fatally short time in this era of "hypermediatized turbopolitics") but also injections of new content". And once the phase of internal competition is over, we would then go - all united - to the external one against the real adversary.

Perhaps it is utopian to think that it can be realized in Italy, but Capezzone's proposal must be strenuously supported.

Presidentialism and federalism

Another proposal from the pen of "La Verità" is that of modifying the Constitution in a presidential and federal sense. Besides having the merit (not secondary) of being able to put in agreement both the centralist soul and the localist soul of the Right, it could satisfy at the same time the need for greater decision-making and better management of inhomogeneity, two flaws of Italian public affairs.

Criticism of the EU

Finally, the criticism that the author addresses to the European Union is particularly appreciable. This is because he dismantles it from a "liberal and liberalist" point of view, which is the (presumed) one of many of its ardent supporters. Capezzone describes the EU as governed by vested interests that defend the status quo: bureaucracy, media-academic establishment, civil society that lives on subsidies. This EU wants to regulate everything and has thus induced economic stagnation.

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The EU should be reimagined as a kind of "platform of services" that each state chooses whether and how to use. This can be done by renegotiating the treaties to create a multi-tiered EU.

Also worth mentioning is the criticism of green taxes: as Capezzone sharply notes, taxes have always been the payment for a service provided by the State. With the new "green" taxes, they become instead a punitive instrument or an instrument of re-education of the citizen.

Political Communication

Capezzone is a great expert in political communication: his previous work, Likecrazia, was from this point of view a real gem. However, we can also find some pearls in his latest book. Among the reflections I would like to highlight is this: in the era of the predominance of chatter on social networks and talk shows, in order for the political leaders of our area to adopt a political position, we must make it "fashionable". By now, trends have supplanted ideology. This also requires that we pit our own influencers against those of progressives.

Still on the subject of the current (low) level of political debate, Capezzone explains: since we are no longer trained to argue, we develop an "inferiority complex" that closes the door to dialogue. Therefore, the debate regresses to instantaneous and superficial messages and all this translates into a religious war without the possibility of synthesis and mediation.

Free-trade and monopolies

We have reached the point where I must, in a constructive and friendly spirit, mark some differences with Capezzone's vision.

Let's start with the tax issue. The author's proposal is that of a tax shock (obviously downwards) for everyone. Nothing to object to, but something to add: that is, the pendant of the problem of tax avoidance by large multinationals. The current tax system is terribly unfair, with workers, self-employed and small-medium entrepreneurs massacred by taxes, and large companies that exploit tax competition between States to pay little or nothing. With the result of having an Ancien Regime taxation: rich "feudal lords" exempt and the poor forced to bear the whole burden.

In this, the divergence from Capezzone's vision is clear, since he praises as virtuous that dynamic of fiscal (but one could also say "constitutional") competition between nations to guarantee the best possible conditions for Big Business. The advantage given by economies of scale, new technologies (which require investments more and more out of reach for the "small" ones), rents of dominant position, tax avoidance and privileges granted by the States is such that, even decreasing the fiscal gap with a shock tax cut as the one suggested by Capezzone, it would be difficult for the small shopkeeper to withstand the competition of "Amazon".

Fewer taxes for all is a recipe which, if not accompanied by adjustments to these large multinationals, risks accelerating or at least not modifying the trend towards large monopolies. And a market characterized by monopolies or oligopolies is, of course, negative and dysfunctional in the eyes of a liberal (from Adam Smith, who wrote of it in The Wealth of Nations, onwards).

Night-watchman state

The second point concerns the role of the State. Capezzone is in favor of reducing it to its minimum. While agreeing on the need for its downsizing, the State maintains, in my opinion, at least two fundamental functions in addition to that of guaranteeing public order and private property. The first is to guarantee the national interest vis-à-vis the rest of the world. The second is to play a "balancing" role in society: if in the economic sphere the "big" can prevail and crush the "small", in the political sphere - where the vote of each citizen is worth equally - this is more difficult to happen. For this reason, politics must preserve its own sphere of action (or, if we want, "sovereignty") within the social body.

Politics, culture and conscience

Consistent with the libertarian approach, Capezzone proposes to stay as far as possible out of the "conscience" issues. On the one hand, to focus on the economic core of the message (less taxes, less rules), leaving aside more "divisive" issues. On the other, because he believes that the liberal electorate in economics tends to be liberal on morals as well.

The first argument clashes, in some way, with the excellent pages of the book dedicated to the fundamental dimension of ideas: Capezzone admonishes how politics needs deep sowing, so that practical proposals can always be traced back to basic ideas. A very shareable and topical warning, in the era of instantaneousness and "social" superficiality. The author is absolutely right when he denounces the "cultural weakness" of the Right, unable to organize civil battles or dictate the agenda. It seems difficult, however, to the writer, to imagine a cultural dimension of politics that never enters the level of customs: while remaining free from regulatory intentions, can not (indeed, must) the Right indicate its own model of "good life" to those who follow it?

On the second topic, it is possible that Capezzone is right and that indeed entrepreneurs, self-employed and private employees want maximum freedom of customs. However, the picture could be more complex. Let's refer, for example, to the social quadripartition proposed by Thibault Muzergues in a book reviewed on these same pages. According to the French author, there are two different classes which share a relatively "liberal" view of economics: the "creative" class and what remains of the middle class. However, while the former is in the vanguard of the construction of "new rights", the latter is the most socially conservative of all.

Conclusions

Beyond these themes, on which my vision differs to a certain extent from that of Daniele Capezzone, there are no doubts that Per una nuova destra is a book to be read, meditated upon and debated.

First, because the author's notoriety and experience have made it a commercial success and, therefore, an influential work.

Secondly, because there are proposals - such as that of the unitary party of the Right with a system of internal primaries - that deserve maximum support.

Finally, because a libertarian component would not only be useful to collect votes that, today as today, would not go to the current Center-Right, but especially because it is needed as bread, water and air someone who picks up the banner of liberty, knocked down by the pandemic emergency, and waving it in the face of today's "public health committees" that have nothing to envy to the Jacobin precursors.

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Founder and President of Centro Studi Machiavelli. Graduated in Historical Sciences (University of Milan) and PhD in Political Studies (Sapienza University), he is professor of "History and doctrine of jihadism" and "Geopolitics of the Middle East" at Cusano University. From 2018 to 2019 he was Special Advisor on Immigration and Terrorism to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Guglielmo Picchi. His latest book (as editor) is Topicality of sovereignism. Between pandemic and war.