Happy 150th Birthday Italy? Institutions and Economic Performance Since 1861
In the last twenty years the Italian economy showed claer signs of structural crisis. Using a variety of secondary literature, this paper claims that the recent decline must be seen as part of a long-term trend of sub-optimal performance driven by the inability of the country to remain congruent with the tecnological frontier. This problem, in turn, is the result of week and/or poorely-enforced rules that regulate economic activity. Specifically, legal institutions in areas such as firms’ governance (bankruptcy law; balance sheets regulation, use of inefficient forms of governance), banking supervision, education, and tax compliance, favoured “extractive” behaviour from firms’ owners, discouraged businesses to reach a size compatible with innovation in advanced sectors, and frustrated investment in education, research, and innovation. The paper also analyses the origin of this institutional failure and uses the example of football to show the persistency of inefficient rules. The picture that emerges is that institutional failure finds its origin in the feature of the process of State formation and, later, in the post WWII political equilibrium. Distorted institutions serve the interests of a constantly-changing minority, big enough to protect the status quo
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