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The War Against the Young: Italian Edition

The blue social model’s war against the young is one of the dominant — and little reported — characteristics of our time.   Those curious about the long-term effects of blue social policy would do well to look to Southern Europe, where an entire generation of young people is facing the prospect of entering mid-adulthood without the experience of gainful employment. The situation in Italy is a case in point — an article in the Wall Street Journal describes a situation in which social protections originally designed to protect all workers end up strangling the country’s growth and creating a two tier society with devastating consequences for people under 30:

Among the raft of overhauls that Italy’s government aims to rush through Parliament by September is a measure that would allow companies and unions to agree to opt out of labor regulations that have deterred the hiring of young workers.

But the proposals have drawn heated opposition from Italy’s powerful unions. “This would damage the rights of all workers in order to help the young,” says Vincenzo Scudiere, head of industrial relations for CGIL, Italy’s largest union. The union argues the government should levy a wealth tax, with the proceeds going to fund incentives for companies to hire entry-level workers.

Under current rules, workers laid off by their employers can appeal in court and judges can force companies to rehire them if the layoff was “without just cause.” In practice, that has prevented companies from reducing their staffs in lean times. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire new workers even in good times. That means many young workers can find only short-term, poorly paid work contracts that don’t have such protections.

Partly as a result of these policies, youth unemployment in Italy stands at thirty percent, and young people can find no way into good jobs.

In America, too, blue social policy is gradually turning into an all out war against the young.  Colleges build larger and more complex administrative-bureaucratic structures — and bill the kids through student loans.  Unions sacrifice the wages and retirement benefits of new workers to protect the status of the old.  At every level of government around the country, services are being slashed as government struggles with unfunded pensions.  Medicare is a colossal inter-generational Ponzi scheme; there is simply no way that younger people will get the kind of Medicare that their tax dollars now provide to the elderly of today.

Youth is typically generous and openhearted and young people helped bring blue politicians to power in 2006 and 2008.  It may be time for a rethink; at some point every generation needs to stand up for itself.  Unfortunately, in a world dominated by the decline of the blue social model, if youth doesn’t act for itself, its elders are mostly unwilling to help.

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  • Luke Lea

    “at some point every generation needs to stand up for itself”

    Right. How about this for a bumper sticker: GIVE US OUR COUNTRY BACK!

  • Jim.

    This is all part and parcel of the fact that this world is getting more equal — the average worker in East Asia (China in particular) is gaining in share of total world consumption, with the countries of Europe losing the most (relative) ground, although up until recently their governments had been going into debt to keep up appearances.

    We’ve reached the end of that line.

    Europeans are going to have to face the fact that their standard of living is likely to degrade, no matter what government policies are, unless those government policies involve expanding the scope of production and raw materials consumption.

    As an aside — Blue policies could be sustainable, if you abandon Green policies.

    It always amazes me that these young people don’t start hustling for themselves, if some overarching organization isn’t snapping them up. We can probably chalk that up to the initiative-destroying Blue system, with a generous helping of Red tape thrown in.

  • peter38a

    Luke Lea… that’s not how we phrased it to the Brits in 1776.

  • John from Iowa

    I agree with all your points, Mr. Mead. Thank you for being a voice of reason in our hyper-political and cynical age.

    Somewhat evening out the pain ratio between old and young is the Fed’s ridiculous Zero interest rates forever policy plus endless rounds of quantitative easing.

    Of course, this only hurts seniors who have responsibly saved for retirement to bail out the big banks and the profligate. Which problems were created by the Fed’s previous super easy money in the 2000’s before the crash.

    So the reality is that the young are being [hit] the worst, followed by the responsible among the retired. All to give free money to traders and speculators and reward the reckless on Wall Street for their malfeasance and misfeasance. Bailing out the feckless with the funds of the virtuous, in order to avoid nationalizing the banks. In so doing they have destroyed faith in the system by combining the worst of capitalism and socialism — privatizing profits and socializing losses.

    You are right to be intensely focused on the flaws of the blue social model. However, both parties are guilty of selling out the common citizen and taxpayer to benefit the ruling elite of both parties. This flaw seems reminiscent of France in the 1700’s. If one can draw a causal line from the Mississippi Scheme to the French Revolution. This is worthy of your focus as well, in my humble opinion.

  • George

    Readers of this blog entry should know that Italian taxpayers pay between 3-4 Billion Euro a year to the Roman Catholic Church for restoration of properties, salaries, “charity work”. This does not include the hundreds of millions lost per year in tax revenue in Rome alone, where the church owns nearly 40% of the city center and does not pay taxes on these properties because they are for “religious” purposes. This includes a burgeoning number of convents and similar properties converted into high end hotels which have a small chapel in some corner to satisfy the requirements of the law. Nor does the annual transferral include the fact that the Church owns upwards to 25% of all Italian real estate, and does not pay property tax or income tax on those holdings.
    The current political economic situation is the same one since WW2, when the Constitution was written to favor the treaties written by Mussolini.
    The Ancien Regime is alive and well in Italy, and the younger generation which desires to leave behind a medieval culture is paying an enormous price. Thousands are leaving every month for countries where research is not blocked continually by the clergy, and where the political class is not beholden to clerics. Those who are skeptical of the veracity of these comments can ask any Italian to verify them.

  • Joe Ynot

    Well, this is a new one. Now the Catholic Church is being blamed for underpopulation.

    Whatever money the Catholics receive from the state is made up many times over by all the tourist dollars handed over to see the sites maintained by the Catholic Church.

    Italian GDP (purchasing power parity, 2010): $1.77 trillion. Source:

    At current conversion rates, that would make the $5B the church receives equal to about 7.3B Euros, or about .0025 of Italian GDP.

    I don’t think that’s quite the reason for Italy’s problems.

    Oh, and FREE AMANDA KNOX! That would help Italy’s GDP too. I, for one, would start buying Italian again. My daughter is pretty sure there’s a Fiat 500 with her name on it, but unless Amanda Knox’s names is on it, too, she’ll have to make do with a used Mini.

  • Bonfire of the Idiocies

    Government needs to acquire people who are able to think in other than simplistic terms. Legislatures are apparently full of people who think “If we triple the toll on the bridge, we’ll make 3 times as much money” and are utterly nonplussed when it doesn’t happen. Unintended consequences have been resulting from government policies ever since forever, when are they going to get with the program and start trying to see the actual effects of what they impose instead of just pretending there won’t be any impact?

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