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Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future [Hardcover]

Bill Emmott
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Jun 2012
Once Italy was Europe's own emerging economy, a society that blended dynamism and super-fast growth with a lifestyle that was the envy of all. Now it is a major threat to the future of the Euro, and of the European Union as a whole, as a political system shorn of credibility struggles to deal with huge public debts and anaemic levels of economic growth. Young people are leaving the country in droves, frustrated at the lack of opportunity. Older people cling on to their rights and privileges, fearful of what the future might hold. In this lively, up-to-the-minute book, former Economist editor Bill Emmott explains how Italy got to this point, what Italians feel about it, and what can be done to bring the country into better times. With the aid of numerous personal interviews, Emmott analyses 'bad Italy' - the land of Silvio Berlusconi, an inadequate justice system, an economy dominated by special interests and continuing corruption - but also 'good Italy', the home of countless enthusiastic entrepreneurs and of young people determined to open up Italy to the outside world and end mafia domination for good.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Tra edition (8 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300186304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300186307
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Bill Emmott was editor-in-chief of 'The Economist' in 1993-2006, and is now a freelance commentator on international affairs. He is a regular columnist for 'The Times' in London and 'La Stampa' in Italy, chairman of the trustees of the London Library and a trustee of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of several books, including 'The Sun Also Sets: The Limits to Japan's Economic Power' (1989), '20:21 Vision: 20th-Century Lessons for the 21st Century' (2003), and 'Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India and Japan will Shape our Next Decade' (2008).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, lovingly written 3 Jan 2013
By Athan
I bought the book expecting it to read like one of those pull-outs from the middle of the Economist.

It doesn't.

This is a series of profiles of thriving Italian companies, institutions and initiatives. Large multinationals like Luxottica who sell every pair of premium sunglasses you've ever owned, less well-known successes such as Planeta wines who are transforming agriculture in Sicily, anti-mafia initiatives such as Addio Pizzo who are standing up to entrenched interests and the Egyptian museum in Turin that show us Italian institutions need not remain ossified. There are tens of institutions profiled here.

The twist is that the profiles are there with a purpose: to prove that there is hope for a country that has been in political, social and economic decline. The author spends a good hundred pages going through what's wrong in Italy today. Not just the stuff we all read about in the papers such as the high debt, the corrupt politics or the mafia and the black economy, but more fundamental issues: a justice system that was designed to provide innocent people a fair hearing but gets twisted into allowing crooks to avoid punishment; an electoral system that was designed and re-designed to provide strong leadership but has only brought chaos; labor laws that were designed and re-designed to guarantee good working conditions but have limited the size of corporations and kept the young out of work in the past decade.

It is within this context that all the companies are looked at, and it is all extremely convincing and lovingly written. Also, the author seems to have interviewed pretty much every Italian citizen who matters.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Italians are very sensitive when foreigners write about them. The country today, living in the severest economic crisis since the 1930s, is facing a cocktail of difficulties made worst by domestic issues. Love him or loathe him, Silvio Berlusconi always features in the foray, and as editor of the Economist - represented by Silvio's boys as the E-Communist, Bill Emmott, will instantly acquire a group of favoured readers.

The book looks back from a date ten years hence, say 2020, on the past decade. The current Premier, Mario Monti, and his team of "technocrats" or non-politicians, have been called to pass legislation first to make deep fiscal cuts across the entire state; then bring in new labour laws to allow local companies to expand and contract naturally at will in the market; laws that do not discourage foreign investment; as well as acts that speed up a legal system which at present resembles that of a Third world state. Despite appearances, Italy is internationally ranked 156th of 180 countries, below Guinea and Gabon in the length of civil legal proceedings with a backlog of cases going back 15-25 years.

All Italians point at the usual culprits: the South, the Mafia, the central government in Rome, Berlusconi's total disregard to pass painful long-term measures since for the benefit of the country rather than short-term personal gains for himself and his courtiers, the Left and the trades unions. As an outsider he holds nothing back, so he can not but irritate his potential supporters.

He shows that the North is not a heaven, and its inhabitants are far from being angels. He taunts the opposition for failing to oppose strongly and compromising themselves with Berlusconi and his methods; he even blames mother Catholic Church.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read 8 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great book providing us with an insight into the world of business and politics in Italy. Benefits /drawbacks to different business models are explained, giving us an understanding into current world of commerce .The historical reasons behind Italy's economic position in world trade today set the scene and are juxtaposed with examples of where the old mould is being broken to great effect
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I was given this book as a gift by an Italian lady friend who said it would help me understand Italy's current dilemmas (she is a regular reader of the Economist magazine to which the author Bill Emmott contributed for many years). The lady has lived and worked in the UK for a long time and like many other Italian expatriates still loves Italy and visits there regularly but has despaired over recent decades with no current desire to ever permanently live there again.

So what does the book tell a UK reader? Firstly, while it is timely in terms of Berlusconi's recent resignation and the entry into power for a short period of the more technocratic and competent government of Monti to help address Italy's deep economic problems, many of the issues faced are older and largely post WWII in manifestation. One other reviewer has expounded these at length but the key message is that Italy despite its criminal economy image (especially in the South) was until the 1970s a real contender to match and overtake the UK economy. However the entrapments of an inefficient legal and political system; the self interests of labour and political cronyism; the failings of a higher eductaional system and poor investment in reserarch and development, have all conflated to deny the flexibility to make necessary changes and improvements versus other EU states and newer global competitors. The book has many examples and provides much data on the reasons but the history of Fiat mentioned throughout the book probably best typifies the main issue.

The poor government policies exercised at different points by Berlusconi in recent years have manifested into the disastrous scenario Italy now faces.
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