Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, lovingly written, 3 Jan 2013
This review is from: Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future (Hardcover)
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. The acknowledgment section reads like the who-is-who of Italy, with the one notable exception of Silvio Berlusconi, who apparently has two lawsuits pending against the author's previous employers at the Economist.

The story that wants to come out of here is that we all know what the problems are and people on the ground are doing amazing things despite them, with many of them actually doing good work to stop the rot. With that said, the book also contains a stern warning. The time to act is now. Italy cannot afford another botched reform like the one that was undertaken ca. 1992. This time it has to stick.

Fingers crossed, then!
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