by Massimiliano Carta

Is it possible to define as out-of-role a politician who is incapable of making unpopular but necessary decisions, sacrificing electoral consensus for a greater purpose? Sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, tackling the topic of "elites" with a firm hand, sagaciously stated that in a condition of stable socio-economic equilibrium, the individuals who were part of the group of the elected ruling aristocracy appeared in the eyes of the remainder of the population subject to it as having qualities that would guarantee them the exercise and preservation of power. But these elites were destined to be short-lived since all of them, sooner or later, would be struck by a more or less rapid decline. They would survive only with the expulsion from their ranks of the less efficient elements and the co-opting of new and quality elements, possibly from the bottom of the social pyramid, from the subordinate classes. There must therefore be between ruling elites and subject classes a continuous circulation especially on a qualitative basis: if this circulation is not there or proves too slow, the hypothesis of a rupture in the social equilibrium that could result, in the worst case scenario, into a revolution would not be peregrine.

Hand clapping politics

It is not an uncommon thing nowadays to hear biting comments on the cultural decay of a good portion of the current Italian political class. Often vitriolic critics deem it necessary to make due comparisons with the leaders of the buried First Republic, born from the ashes of the last conflict, if only on matters concerning the level of dialectics and intellectual qualities. Needless to say, such comparison leads to deplorable results against the current leadership. A crisis, the one of the parties, which deflagrated with the advent of Tangentopoli, which was followed for at least two decades by "Berlusconism," or rather an "emulsion of anti-political populism and liberalism," according to the definition given by political scientist and historian Giovanni Orsina, to culminate in an ominous requiem in honor of the current political class born from those historical seasons.

Among the many factors that have contributed to this decay, pride of place goes especially to the mass media (social networks, TV), which have inevitably made substantial changes in the method of selecting the ruling class and in the modus operandi of political groups or individuals. We have gone from party sections, with the presence of political training schools (e.g., school of the Frattocchie, in the sphere of Italian Communism) and progressive ascent to the top of the party itself and public offices along the lines of the cursus honorum of the Roman era, to performances in info-entertainment media circuses, where on the contrary stage presence, caustic jokes, virality, embarrassing simplifications, and the ability to solicit low emotional instincts are required. Add to all this the disintegration of the mass parties of the 1900s, with all their ideological corollary; the disintegration of intermediate bodies; the increasingly reduced role of culture and school education ("with culture you can't eat"), something that for Gaetano Salvemini constituted an organic necessity for the formation of the future ruling classes and a necessary precondition for the development of a healthy democracy; selfish individualism combined with extreme consumerism; absence of a long-term vision and/or a healthy will to power. All of these are concomitant causes that on the one hand have helped produce a social-television forefront politics with increasingly short-lived cycles, and on the other an increasingly intrusive techno-bureaucracy, which not infrequently takes over by force in the management of power to keep the status quo intact after yet another collapse of majority governments. It should come as no surprise, therefore, if the quality of public debate around declining birth rates borders on almost absolute zero (although recently, and with culpable delay, some timid dialogue on the subject has been initiated, albeit freighted with all those ideological reservations).

Unhappy degrowth, but only in the West

"There are too many of us on this planet, the environment cannot bear too much of our burden," the argument most often used in certain contexts to justify the most contradictory Malthusian policies of population reduction. Reasoning that, as we shall see below, presents embarrassing minimizations as well as real logical and argumentative flaws:

  • it will definitely not be the collapse of the Peninsula's population that will halt global population growth, which according to recent studies will reach 10 billion souls by 2050 ("in the long run we are all dead," cit. Increase that will mainly touch individual nations such as China and India or national and multi-ethnic agglomerations of the entire African continent;
  • dealing with the topic of environment and sustainability more than the number of citizens should be considered the figure inherent in the number of consumers and the amount of consumption per capita. A European or American's lifestyle is clearly more polluting and of greater impact on the environment in comparison with that of any inhabitant of sub-Saharan Africa. With billions of people living in Nations undergoing massive industrialization also out of a desire to reach Western consumption levels it becomes evident that the Italian decline will not compensate for the increase in consumption globally, let alone reduce the environmental impact of human beings on the world ecosystem;
  • the inevitable increase in the Boot's elderly population, without a corresponding generational turnover, will produce a not-so-small shift in public spending toward the pension system, taking away resources needed for domestic industrial and commercial development. Which could produce not insignificant distorting effects due to the propensity of certain segments of the population to save at the expense of productive investment, which would inevitably lead to a blockage of the GDP growth curve. Needless to say, the demand for greater investment in government health care would spurt to the highest levels due to the aging population, taking away much-needed funds for all those youth employment policies;
Poor Italy! The projections that condemn us to decline
Immigration and destabilization

Of course, there is no shortage of outcries of pain from those who would like the borders to be opened to every migrant of working age, with all the problems of integration and security that such a phenomenon brings with it. Problems that can lead to consequential and natural native ideological extremism or real struggles for survival among second- or third-generation immigrant allogens, in full French banlieue style. All things for which the coexistence of different cultures might inevitably be challenged (clash of civilizations?). Horizontal socio-cultural conflict that could become more exacerbated in cases of increasing inequality and blockage of domestic economic growth (with a related decrease in competitiveness on the international chessboard, a real obsession of modern mercantilist-driven states), as in the case of Italy. The pitfalls are not few, as can be inferred.

Of the same opinion is Andrea Gaspardo, author of the article "Italy's demographic collapse," which appeared in the columns of the journal Here is a passage from it:

In fact, demographic phenomena are key components of what is called "human capital" in economics... On closer inspection, the importance of demography in economics was effectively described by the British economist John Maynard Keynes in a 1937 speech to the Eugenics Society: "An increasing population has a very important influence on the demand for capital. Not only does the demand for capital — apart from technical changes and an improved standard of life — increase more or less in proportion to population. But, business expectations being based much more on present than prospective demand, an era of increasing population tends to promote optimism, since demand will in general tend to exceed, rather than fall short of, what was hoped for. Moreover a mistake, resulting in a particular type of capital being in temporary over-supply, is in such conditions rapidly corrected. But in an era of declining population the opposite is true. Demand tends to be below what was expected, and a state of over-supply is less easily corrected. Thus a pessimistic atmosphere may ensue; and, although at long last pessimism may tend to correct itself through its effect on supply, the first result to prosperity of a change-over from an increasing to a declining population may be very disastrous."

Given the continuing situation of uncertainty and without clear prospects for the future, it is far more likely that the aforementioned individuals will opt instead to increase the level of personal savings with the consequence of plunging the economy into the so-called "Paradox of thrift" (i.e. decrease in consumption by households and individuals resulting in the diversion of resources from the economy at large which, after a series of intermediate steps, has as its ultimate effect a further decline in incomes) with the final result that such a scenario would end up further exacerbating the deflationary spiral into which our economy has already plunged for at least 4 years. Things already said and widely predicted in the good old days.

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Graduated in Digital Media at the University of Roma Tre, he is the author of several writings of historical and cultural nature for various magazines.