Courtesy Reuters

On the Italian Crisis

A tiresome element of drama enters most appraisals of Italian affairs. It is common enough to hear well-wishers say with an apologetic sigh that the Italians are too inclined to dramatize their problems. They have this inclination, certainly. But there is another side to their posturing, and that is that the reactions elsewhere to what Italians do are also frequently exaggerated. I believe it was Ugo La Malfa who said a dozen years ago (at a time when he was Minister of the Budget), in answer to a rather irate question as to why the Italian economy was faltering after a long period of expansion, that it had not been the Italians who had imposed the term "miracle" on Italy's expansion, or given an Oscar to the lira. In plain words, outside observers who insisted on exaggerating achievement must expect to be disappointed when miracles were quite quickly spent. And there was also an implied confirmation in what he said of the fragility of the Italian economy, which was hidden during the years of expansion. Much more recently, Enrico Berlinguer, leader of the Communist Party, a man who visibly weighs his words, commented that the international press had regularly written of the better times in Italy as marvelous and the less good times as catastrophic, usually with a coup imminent.

This is not to say that the Italians are less interesting than they are supposed to be; the exact opposite is true. But the point is that, if at times they seem theatrical and bewildering, they have a notably strong sense of practical reality. Sometimes it is less obvious than it should be because of the higher degree of tension in Italian relationships in general. But it is there and explains why the normally staid Anglo-Saxon emerges, on balance, as more theatrical in dealing with Italy's affairs than does the Italian. Moreover, this outside interest in Italy is spasmodic. The bursts of dramatic judgments of the Italian scene come, again in

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