The Banca d'Italia and the
Politics of Institutional Change
Modern Italy, as it emerged from World War II, has often been called the "available state." 1. Here, "available" describes the unusually accommodating nature of an Italian state that seems to stand ready to satisfy almost any social demand made on it. For in the Italy that we know today, beset by a series of deep cleavages—geographical (as between north and south), political (as between right and left), and social (as between traditional groups and the more modern industrial sectors)—one government after another has demonstrated an inability to say no. Accommodation has become the way of Italian political life; a weak executive, an inefficient bureaucracy, and the influence of multiple parties that pervade almost every aspect of national activity— all have worked to paralyze the ordinary machinery of the state. 2.
Even in this environment, however, at least one institution has stood largely apart: the Banca d'Italia. Unlike most other institutions, it remains unavailable, an exception to the Italian rule. The central bank's freedom from direct political control, combined with its virtual monopoly of technical expertise, has enabled it to play an unusually____________________