We trust it is now an established fact that celebrating the anniversary of a statesman makes sense only if, instead of describing what he did while alive, we try to apply his principles in today’s reality.
We liberals intend to do it with Einaudi, who died at the end of October 1961 at the age of 87 and a half, he was a man of the highest importance in various fields, economic studies, institutional positions, information. With a single thread: that the fulcrum of the life of a state is the freedom of the citizen, mainly as an active independence in operating.
Convinced of this method, we recall what Einaudi did before being elected President of the Republic. The essence of his economic line is derived from the text he prepared for the fourth paragraph of art. 81 of the Constitution: “Any other law that imposes new or greater expenses must indicate the means to meet them”.
With these few words he expressed the typical liberal concept that economic questions require rigor in carrying out dynamic acts, which pertain to the future. And they are words and concepts opposed to those of the balanced budget reform introduced in 2012, at the time of the Monti government, in compliance with the rigid austerity policy that is ineffective and dangerous for democracy.
When he soon became Minister of the Budget, Einaudi was consistent and applied his own experimental conviction according to which the function of institutions cannot be carried out through protectionism, because it does not activate the widespread free individual initiative in economic relations.
In the previous months, in order to restore the market, he had liberalized the use in Italy of the currency obtained by exporters with sales abroad. And in September 1947 (when he had been Vice President of the Council, Minister of the Budget for just over three months) he immediately applied his conviction in a series of acts of intervention by the public hand of the state to stop the inflation that had become runaway.
These choices started in a few months the necessary reorganization to put the market in a position to use the aid of the Marshall Plan. In practice it was the free supply by the US (400 billion lire at the time) of wheat, coal, liquid fuels and those other necessary raw materials that Italy was unable to pay with its exports. In this way, Einaudi and the government chose two precise lines. The line of confirming adherence to the Western model of life that promotes citizens’ freedom to express themselves, to consume, to access goods. And the other line of setting the economy in motion, modernizing it.
In an interview Einaudi said that the use of the contributions will decide “the Italian people, but it must necessarily be used for reconstruction works, restoration of railways, ports, continuation of road reclamation, upgrading and renovation of industrial plants”.
Einaudi thus carried out a typical non-liberal public intervention, based on an institutional framework suitable for using the entrepreneurial spirits of free citizens in compliance with the representative Parliament. From ’47 to ’53 the growth of national income was 58%, or 9.6 per year. Such growth, spread over the individual years and with low inflation, is a record that still exists and not only for Italy.
Nowadays, in other historical conditions, a similar method for managing the Recovery Plan activated by the EU should be followed in Rome and Brussels. In Rome, however, every day it is clearer that, beyond the method of rigor combined with the open policy practiced by the Prime Minister, the country’s bureaucratic structure does not have a dynamic mentality capable of carrying out its tasks with professionalism in the objective of arousing citizens’ undertaking.
The culture is that of distributing assistance and confusing the purpose of the rules (coexistence between different people) with imposing lifestyles on citizens and favoring public employment even when there is no reason for it. Hence the lack of capacity and delays in dealing with the exceptional conditions in which Covid-19 has gripped Italy for an abundant year.
In general, the problem is being reluctant to accept the need to adapt daily life to the indications of the data collected by science in the pandemic trend. Or not knowing how to distinguish the role of autonomies (essential in ordinary times) from recognizing the indispensable role of the national government in directing the general issues of health and health of Italians, in an era of pandemic, and in setting minimum levels of efficiency of the public health with which to treat the citizen.
Or the inability to accept that the gatherings do not lie in teaching in presence in the elementary classrooms, but in the complex of acts necessary to get the students to the classrooms (but the Local Authorities and the Regions, to protect their usual networks, do not they wanted to make full use of the means of tourist transport unused by private individuals). Or, the inability to abandon the rhythms of ordinary work and therefore not understand how, in the fight against Covid-19, it was unavoidable to urgently prepare the National Health Plan that is not yet there today.
This is in Rome: on the whole, the liberal culture of Einaud is missing, which must be rapidly rediscovered. On the other hand, Brussels is not much better off. More precisely, the year of Covid-19 highlighted two very contradictory aspects. The first was very positive in the field of building the EU. Abandoning the principle of austerity – which could not and did not work, as it neglects the taking of citizens – the EU has taken up the criterion of the origin of focusing on the daily life of Europeans, thus deciding to create a very consistent to tackle the health pandemic by making adequate financial amounts available to each member (the Recovery Plan).
It was, in an Einaudian spirit, a clear step forward in the process of building the EU, which by nature takes time. This decision was not taken for granted and was a success of President Von der Leyen, wanted in the summer of 1919 by popular, socialists, liberals and moreover by the 14 decisive votes of the M5S group. Moreover, a decision that has actually embarked on the path of proceeding with the issuance of euro bonds guaranteed directly by Europe.
The second aspect, on the other hand, is there for all to see and proves that in the EU there are treatments to be done quickly. Let’s talk about the story of delays and errors in vaccine supplies. It is true that health does not fall within the competence of the EU Treaties. But it is clear that, having decided on the Recovery Plan from an economic point of view, the chapter of the Commission’s competence on health was opened (moreover, it was expressly accepted by the Member States in recent months).
In this context, it should therefore be noted that the mistakes in the negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies, especially AstraZeneca, are not a mere error of legal technique, but express a serious lack of political and cultural perspective. In other words, the EU structures, re-immersing themselves in the logic of austerity, have focused only on obtaining the lowest possible price for vaccine supplies (moreover without placing specific orders and therefore exposing themselves to being blown up by others, for example Chile); and, faced with the rampant Covid-19, they did not pose the much more essential problem, that of making investments so as not to depend on India (which produces key ingredients for vaccines and blocks them at will) and of innovating to have a entirely European vaccine.
This is possible given the size of the EU pharmaceutical industries, in which however the EU has not invested (as Britain no longer the EU and the big three China, USA and Russia did). After all, it is no coincidence that there is no EU company among the top eighteen technology companies by turnover. In short, the EU structure needs time to mature. But the pandemic has made the pace of events much faster.
And therefore today the EU and its citizens must increasingly refer to Einaudi’s teaching by working fast to modernize economic activity by collaborating in the name of research and the diversity of their cultures. Denying reality and the continuous change it induces must remain a nationalistic typology foreign to the EU world.