Planning, Protectionism, and Politics in Liberal Italy: Economics and Politics in the Giolittian Age

By Frank J. Coppa | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
THE ROLE OF INDUSTRIAL ITALY WITHIN THE GIOLITTIAN FRAMEWORK

Largely because the Socialist Party failed to provide Giolitti with its support, he was induced to temper a good part of his reform program. In the absence of the solid backing of those groups that had most to gain from his "new deal" the statesman from Piedmont was often in the embarrassing position of having to rely for support upon those very groups whose interests his program attacked. In such a situation he had naturally to tread slowly. Consequently, if Giolitti left much of the conservative structure of the State unchanged, this was at least partly due to the fact that he did not have sufficient support to alter it. Giolitti found it most difficult to reform the tax structure of the nation which favored the well-to-do classes at the expense of the poorer classes, for in fiscal questions a good part of the middle class, widely represented in the Chamber, made common cause with the industrialists in opposing his attempts to achieve fiscal justice. Understandably the reforms attained by Giolitti in this area were at best modest.

Giolitti's inability to achieve broader revision in this matter is not proof that he was insensitive to the need for such reform. Quite the contrary, for long before his first ministry he had seen the need to lighten the array of taxes upon the poorer classes. In fact, even prior to his entrance into politics he had outlined a reform proposal that would have increased the tax on personal property, thus permitting the government to reduce the burdensome series of taxes that weighed upon the less well-off classes.1 In 1892, when he presided over the cabinet for the first time, he attempted to actualize this program.

Giolitti's determination to effect this tax revision provoked hostility in the established classes. In response to their outcry that a decrease in the tax burden of the less well-off would create a gap in the budget, he responded that the wealthier classes would have to make up the difference. He was convinced that the moment had

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1
Manuscript of Giolitti's project for an increase in the tax upon mobile wealth, June 24,1878, Archivio Giolitti, A.C.S., B. 9, F. 121.

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