I was looking for some background reading on contemporary Italy before my visit there later this year, and former The Economist editor Bill Emmott's Good Italy Bad Italy (2012) fit the bill. It is organized into eight chapters, and the first three deal mainly with problems in Italy: 1) "Italy's second chance" 2) "L'inferno political" and 3) "Il puratroio econmico." So I learned that between 2001 and 2010 Italy's average growth was only 0.25 percent a year and that the only countries that did worse were Haiti and Zimbabwe! Other weaknesses cited by Emmott were the lack of world-class universities, or of collaboration between businesses and universities as well as the low level of research and development spending along with outdated physical and communications infrastructure. And that the reason that Italy has a smaller car industry than Great Britain is because foreign investors find Italy's labor laws too byzantine and its justice system too slow and dangerous, and its visa rules and procedures for foreigners off putting. The court system is also in great need of reform: according to the World Bank's annual survey, Italy ranks 156th out of 181 countries in terms of average length of legal proceedings just below Gabon and Guinea. This deters foreign businesses from investing and is unfair to their citizens who must wait years for things like securing property rights.
Here Emmott sums up one of Italy's major and distinct cultural problems:
Italy is not typically a country that likes to be shocked, however, and certainly not by the new. Moreover, many inclinations and arrangements in business and in public organizations discourage innovation: the emphasis on loyalty rather than performance or merit, the strength of family, of patronage, and the widespread distaste for competition. So a search for innovation in such a country was always likely to test even my eternal optimism.
But he found them in the chapters: 4) "Inspirations from Turin" and 5) "Hope in the South." Emmott looks at positive attributes of which he mention there are many (no country is all bad or all good-his thesis of Italy)-for example Italy is the world's fifth largest manufacturer after Germany, which I found surprising. Turin, in particular, is singled out for reforms like fast justice, the base for the Slow Food movement, and civic projects like the new soccer stadium. All in all, a fascinating look at a country at a real cross roads.